Saturday, October 31, 2015

Welcome to Trash City, Laurie: Halloween II (2010)

Halloween II (2010) (AKA "H2")
rating: ***
starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell

*note: This review covers the Unrated version of the film*

This is what happens when you force a man to do something he doesn’t want to.

Despite the sort-of success of his gritty 2007 re-imagining of John Carpenter’s Halloween, featuring a detailed look into The Shape as a mentally disturbed child growing up into an unstoppable hulk, rock star/director Rob Zombie never wanted to do anything with the franchise again but the big heads at Lionsgate demanded it and probably pushed him to the point he simply said “fuck it” and decided to take revenge on them by doing this rather more personal take on the Halloween mythology.

Continuing from where the last film left off, we see Laurie Strode, Annie Brackett, and Doctor Loomis at the aftermath of an attack from the infamous slasher Michael Myers. They all survived the slaughter and Michael’s thought-to-be-dead body was to be shipped to the state morgue when, as the drivers were distracted by their discussion concerning necrophilia (?!), the he was at ambulance crashes through a cow.(?!?!) 

We then see Michael get back up and brutally decapitate the surviving driver before following a vision of his mother, his younger self, and a white horse which somehow lead him to Laurie’s clinic. There, he easily murdered most of the staff while chasing Laurie out of the clinic. And just where it looked like she’s done for...

It was all just dream.

Or was it?

Well, we never get to know but here are what the movie established for us instead: Laurie is now living with the Bracketts and the night Michael came home messed her up so bad that she is now suffering through post-traumatic depression, forcing her to become an emo-punk, undergo psychiatric help to help fend off her mood swings, and somehow enabled her to see creepy visions of a woman in white, a young Michael, and the white horse. (Coincidence?)

We also see Loomis milking the hell out of the infamous night as he sells-out to the public and promotes his new book based on the event, unknown to him that Michael is indeed still alive (and now resembles a hobo) and is making his way back to Haddonfield to finish off what he started.  The nearer Michael gets back to town, the more people fall victim to his violence, the more Laurie began to see frightening visions, and the more Loomis become an obnoxious asshole who cares about nothing but his fame. 

It all sums up in the end as Hobo-Michael slashes through some of redneck Haddonfield’s residents, kidnaps his sister, and finally faces Loomis for the last time, which may or may not mean a final curtain to this remake franchise.

As far as I can tell, H2 did a few things that we rarely get to see from a slasher movie as the story focuses more on Laurie’s descent into depression (and eventually madness), while keeping Michael’s bodycounting an entirely separate set-piece until the climax. This pointed out, H2 have a more psychological taste and would have worked better if it was an entirely separate movie from the Halloween franchise; the whole grounding-Michael Myers-into-reality act was already scary to begin with as seen in the remake, but H2 took this further and showcased a frightening look to what might happen to slasher victims after the attack and how they too can become monsters from the trauma. (a socially dysfunctional brat for Laurie, a megalomaniac for Loomis)

Unfortunately, this might deter hardcore fans of the franchise, and too some people who prefer their characters to be more approachable; some might feel for Laurie and understand what she is going through but her sudden change from a decent girl to a loud prude brat can be off-putting for others, which is same can be said for Loomis’ transformation from a concerned selfless psychiatrist to a selfish moron. Strangely even the depiction of the town of Haddonfield, Illinois changes as it is somehow trashier, sleazier and more prig than the last film, with its residents devolved into drunken hicks and troublesome teenagers who I can’t wait to see die off violently. 

Interestingly, Michael also changed, not so much on his brutality (although he seems stronger here) or figure (though, again, the Hobo look) but more on his depiction; if the first film portrayed him as a maniac who kills out of random, Michael here was shown to have a form of understanding through ghostly hallucinations of his mother, his younger self, and an artistic depiction of rage as a white horse (if you buy that). We get to see how he operates, following orders from these three apparitions which somehow also begins to appear to Laurie as well in some sort of psychic link. (I believe this is where Rob discarded his own rule of not including any form of the supernatural. Good to know you’re loosening up, Mr. Zombie)

With all of this changes for the messier and grittier kind, it’s not hard to understand why H2 was approached with mixed reactions despite looking professionally made; the kills are gory (and for one scene, heart-breaking) for a slasher, the pacing is steady enough to give both the story and the killings their fair share of time, visuals are noticeably more on the whimsical side with all the dreams and hallucinations, and the climax is one of the most intense and haunting I’ve seen from this sub-genre, just to name a few that I believe made this film watchable. But for some, these elements (the increasing brutality and sleaze) just doesn’t work quite right or fit into the realism H2 is trying to depict (or with the franchise itself) and can be seen as a desperate attempt to hype up the story.

Individually, H2 is a fair film, both as a sequel and as a slasher of its own caliber; it’s nowhere as grand as the 2007 remake, as legendary as the original Halloween, or as fun as Halloween 666: Curse of Michael Myers (a personal favorite), but it tried to go to places the franchise never ventured to and made it worked at a level. It’s not the Shape, final girl, and Ahab we all grew and loved but it is an interesting take and a worthwhile one for a time. Worth seeing once.

1 male killed in car collision
1 male decapitated with metal shard
1 female knifed to death (dream)
1 female found with missing eyes (dream)
1 male axed on the back (dream)
1 male pushed and impaled to deer antlers
1 male knifed to death
1 female knifed to death
1 male had his face stomped to a pulp
1 male had an arm broken, beaten against the wall
1 female beaten to death against mirror
1 male knifed on the back
1 female strangled to death
1 male had his neck snapped
1 female beaten to death
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male thrown through car windshield
1 male knifed on the gut
1 male shot to death
1 female shot
total: 20

Manic Mansion of the Terrible Kind: Hollow Gate (1988)

Hollow Gate (1988)
Rating: **
Starring: Addison Randall, Katrina Alexy, Richard Dry

Since when can shit be polished into gold? I would say never in our entire existence but some idiots out there are trying and I can imagine Hollow Gate was aiming for those kind of people as its intended audience.

As a child, Mark was physically abused by his father for (get this) failing to grab an apple from a Bobbing Apple game one Halloween night ago. This traumatized the kid and surely enough he grew up into a cackling madman who gets his first taste of murder by blowing up a car while its occupants are still in it, and got sent to the nuthouse after attacking a girl who doesn't like ice cream and movies.

Fast forward to the present, Mark is now confined to his grandmum's estate called Hollow Gate after being released from the nuthouse. Halloween is right around the corner as well so his grandmum thought she can help her grandson get in touch with society again by allowing him to attend her upcoming costume party. Excited about this, Mark thanks his dear grandma the only way he can: sticking a pair of scissors to her eye.

Some time later, four extremely random teenagers in need of costumes for a Halloween rave decided to help out a local costume shop make some deliveries, in exchange for some wigs. One delivery was for the Hollow Gate estate and Mark decided to trap them inside so he can have some fun killing them, as one costumed persona at a time.

Hollow Gate is obviously terrible for a good lot of reasons from beginning to end; the acting is as terrifying as the lack of logic and solidity of the plot itself, the kills are hilariously bad even for a C-grade slasher, and the madman's supposed gimmick is anything but praise-worthy memorable. It also slugs its way into the slasher portions so the wait can be unbearable seeing we have to sit through terrible writing and acting.

But, perhaps for those who loves a cheesy bad movie, all of this can be a good thing; again, the film seems to be aiming for a specific kind of audience as we all can honestly tell that it's not going to cater for everybody' taste. I find myself liking it a bit for all the unintentional(?) laughs I got watching this and I guess for those who possesses an iron gut for bad cheese and laughably terrible production can join me.

For everybody? Not! But bad-movie enthusiasts are welcome to try Hollow Gate! Just try to outrun the murderous combine...

1 male and 1 female immolated in car explosion
1 elderly female stabbed on the eye with scissors
1 maled knifes on the gut, thrown hatchet to the head
1 female shot, ran over with a tractor plow
1 male mauled by dogs
Total: 6

A Long Halloween Night: The Pumpkin Karver (2006)

The Pumpkin Karver (2006)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Michael Zara, Amy Weber, Brian Kary

How hard is it to make a slasher movie? Apparently hard enough to confuse and frustrate the production team behind this blood-soaked turd, The Pumpkin Karver.

One Halloween ago, teenager Jonathan was minding his own business, carving jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins, when his sister's idiotic boyfriend showed up, suited and masked, and began attacking her. Out of defense, he kills the moronic boytoy, much to his and his sister's horror and became so traumatized that he and his family had to move out to another town.

A year later and it is Halloween again; Jonathan and his sister were driving to a party in the middle of rural nowhere as a way to ease away Jonathan's guilt of what had happened. However, bullying exes, raving pumpkin carvers, and weird visions of homicidal masked men aside, there is a pumpkin-masked killer on the loose, lazily slashing up some of the casts whenever they felt like doing so.

As a whole, Pumpkin Karver is a dull dreck that hardly did anything of interest despite ticking away all the cliches you will normally see in a dead teenager flick. It seems to be doing this "is the main guy a killer or not" shtick similar to that from Friday the 13th Part 5, only here it took too long to do anything with its cavalcade of extremely idiotic teens and, whenever it bothers to do so, the murders weren't in any way memorable. If anything, the film's sheer focus on the teenagers and their hapless shenanigans made the film look like a teen comedy of the cheap kind but, given the sort-of serious tone and the fact that these kids are dying at the hands of a pumpkin-masked killer, that should not be the case!

With zero sense of dread and intrigue put to this mess, The Pumpkin Karver was rather disappointing seeing how good some of the production looked, which is the main reason why I gave this movie a chance. Yes, some of the CG visuals were laughable but the quality appeared to be going someplace. But as the old saying goes, "never judge a slasher film by its DVD and/or poster artwork as there is a chance that the film you'll be seeing will go someplace, except that someplace might (or is) out of some guy's butte."

It all comes to a rather silly twist that pretty much came out of nowhere (though there was one scene that pretty much gave it away) and it ends rather good despite how much of a mxied bag the rest of the film was. Hardly the worse Halloween slasher I've seen but The Pumpkin Karver was pretty close on that turf. Hardcore slasher fans and completists may give it a whirl but, again, don't expect a lot from this.

1 male knifed to death
1 female had her face carved with a carving knife, killed
1 male pushed to a drill, impaled and disemboweled
1 male beheaded with a sickle
1 male stabbed with a carving knife, disemboweled
1 female stabbed with a carving knife, face flayed off
1 male stabbed to death with a carving knife
1 female stabbed with a carving knife
Total: 8

Brat, Prank, Treat, Repeat: Trick or Treats (1982)

Trick or Treats (1982)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Jacqueline Giroux, Peter Jason, Chris Grave

Wait, so this isn't a spoof?


Some time ago, a wife got her husband unwillingly institutionalized so she can...stuff... things...money.

"Several years later" (Movie's words. Not mine), the same wife and her new hubby calls a local babysitter, Linda, to look after their bratty little boy while they attend a Halloween masquerade. The story is pretty much a routine of Linda handing out treats to trick'r treaters after talking to a phone, only for her to get pranked by the kid, scold him, and do whatever business she'll be doing.

All the while, we also have the unrightfully nuthoused former-husband escaping (dressed as a nurse) and huffing his way back to the house, with murder in mind. This would have worked if only the film has the moron reach the house around, let say, 30 minutes or 40 into the film? Or maybe have him kill a few random victims along the way. But no, we have him comically working his way back to his old house for 70 minutes, with only one murdered victim done away by accident.

That's him reaching his house 70 minutes into a 90 minute movie. With only one lousy murder. What the fu-

By then, we got the usual shtick of the deranged hubby chasing Linda across the house which was anything but fun; lighting is noticeably absent, there's hardly a drop of blood or a sizable bodycount, and we get treated with the most random twist ending I've seen.

With cheese overcooked, no likable characters, and the story being shit as nothing really happened, I...don't know what to say about this. I can't call Trick or Treats horrible because it is beyond that and I don't want this film to taint the word "horrible". "Horrible" is too good of a word to be used on this disaster.

I would say that if perhaps this was edited into a short film, it might have worked better, but the damage is already done and this is the most pointless "slasher" I've seen. I think it is best that you guys and girls just take my word for it and avoid it like a mentally-challenged idiot waving a turd-on-a-stick at you...

1 female knifed
1 male hacked on the neck with a mini-guillotine
1 female knifed offscreen
Total: 3

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Unwanted Guests: Housebound (2014)

Housebound (New Zealand, 2014)
Rating: ****
Starring:  Morgana O'Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru

Kylie Bucknell is a teenage troublemaker with an anger issue to match; her latest scheme was to steal a heavily protected ATM machine, which she didn’t count on to be shatterproof and idiot-proof. She's eventually caught red-handed but instead of being thrown into jail, she is given a chance to have a calmer sentence by being placed in house-arrest. The problem with this? She’ll be staying with her mum, Miriam, and she’s not overly fond her parent.

Still, Kylie (begrudgingly) agrees and Miriam tries her best to make the girl’s stay comfortable despite being treated like garbage in return. With little to do (not with an ankle bracelet limiting her move) and barely anybody to talk to, Kylie decided to put some of her attention to her mum, or more precisely something she caught her mum doing: talking to a ghost she believe's haunting her home.

Not buying her claims at first, Kylie soon begins to experience the supposed hauntings (machines going haywire, weird noises in the basement, random teddy bear attacks, etc) and unwittingly becomes entangled on an old mystery concerning a dead girl, a local misfit, and a possible murder. Could it all be in Kylie's head though? Or is there really an angry ghost pissed by the new living arrangements?

Housebound starts out as your typical haunting story with an added bonus of teen angst; what makes this more tolerable compared to any anxiety-filled horror movies out there is that the tone is kept at a semi-comical swing thanks to its workable dry humor and characters who are more likable with their quirky personalities. Morgana O'Reilly’s character Kylie might be a slight exception to this as her personality did make it hard for us to warm up to her immediately but thankfully, once she begins to get involved with the mystery, she opens up more and we do get to see her sensitive side and her concerns for her family, all the while still showing us that no-nonsense attitude.

Interestingly, as the plot continues, the mystery starts to swerve to into territories nobody may have expected, which in turn impressed me; the twists were hidden well from us with enough false leads and witty dialogue to distract, slowly revealing itself with every red herring and clues uncovered thus putting the easy to follow, hilarious and complex direction into good use. It’s not so often we get a mystery this workably complicated and unique while being funny and warm at the same time so this is a personally welcome approach.

The last act is where it catered to the slasher fans as our leads play cat-and-mouse with the villain with much effectiveness with that of your typical slasher climax. The villain is terrifying as they came out unexpectedly and their keenness to silence anybody who got in the way contrasts their initial persona. It also became incredibly bloody around this part so bloodhounds have something to look out for if you like your mysteries with a little more red.

In the end, Housebound is a cute little gem of a horror movie with a great mystery, direction, characters, and comedy. New Zealand has done it again with this perfect treat for rainy nights, date nights, Halloween nights, or any nights you feel like seeing this! Highly recommended!

1 female seen murdered (photograph)
1 male found dead with a cork screw stabbed on his back
1 male stabbed underneath his chin with a rigged fork, head baked into exploding
Total: 3

Forgotten Like Mines: Trapped (1988)

Trapped (1988) (AKA "Forever Mine")
Rating: **
Starring:  Jay Leggett, Cameron Mitchell, Sullivan Hester

Delivering very little of the bloody stuff and titled so simple that it can either be easily confused with something else or forgotten altogether, it’s no surprise this rare notch of a slasher movie is so obscure.

A pair of wealthy ladies drove home from a Christmas party only to be taken hostage by a trio of escaped convicts from a nearby prison. They drove higher up to the snowy mountains as the convicts plan their next step, but ends up crashing their car into the mines and find themselves trapped inside.

All the while, a no-nonsense cop somehow trailed the missing car and decided to climb down into the  same mines with hopes of capturing the criminals himself. His path crosses with the group and it seems everything was going to be okay until they realize that something else is inside with them. Something awfully hungry.

Plotwise, Trapped can be considered as a forerunner to other crime-gone-wrong slasher movies like Malevolence, Botched, The Cottage or even Trackman, where criminals on the run find themselves holding hostages only to be siding with them in the end where an even more dangerous threat starts to thin down their numbers. The story of Trapped is precisely this, only with cheap sets and hammy acting littered through this forgotten B-flick, which wasn’t all that bad if the payoff was anywhere as enjoyable.

The first half played more like a straight hostage thriller only taking place inside an obviously fake cavernous mine and with a cast of bland one-to-two dimensional characters. Most of this act centered on one criminal taking advantage over the girls in the most nonthreatening manner, while one of his cohorts looks for a way to get out and the other rotting dead from the crash. This isn’t all that bad considering the overacting and weird direction can be entertaining for some but it's hard to make out thanks to the film's awful lighting and took too much time that once the horror bits happen, it felt like the flame already died out. And, to make it even harder to appreciate, it never felt all that intense thanks to its hammy nature.

Sadly, Trapped went further downhill once the slasher finally showed his deformed rear; looking like Madman Marz from Madman (1982) and having the same man-eating origins that of Harry Warden of My Bloody Valentines (1981), the killer here uses a claw-hoist to murder his victims given that they weren’t dead to begin with. Unfortunately, with so little characters alive to pick off, this spree was slim in number and it wasn’t too excited as he spent most of his time literally looking down on them from the upper mines. Adding further insult, this man-monster was get killed off rather easily about five to ten minutes before the ending credits came, giving way to one overly long monologue from an obvious accomplice concerning the killer’s origins.

It all ends with a bittersweet finale that’s sappy all through with one very confusing ending shot that makes very little sense. Honestly, I really wanted to enjoy Trapped since the idea was simple enough that it holds a lot of potential as a claustrophobic slasher but with its high dose of cheddar and little to none horror action, it is just an underwhelming rarity that may deserves its obscurity.

1 male had his head crushed
1 male crashed through windshield, dies from wounds
1 male pierced through the chest with a claw-hoist, cannibalized
1 female shot on the head
1 male stabbed on the mouth with an improvised spear
1 male and 1 female killed in cave-in
Total: 7

Satellite Disruptions: Run...If you Can! (1987)

Run...If You Can! (1987)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Martin Landau, Yvette Nipar, Jerry Van Dyke

Kim Page is a college student who agreed to house-sit for a family friend who just so happens to be filthy rich and owns an expensive villa. Excited for the stay at first, things suddenly go for the strange and disturbing when the house's satellite TV picks up a broadcast of what seems to be a pornographic snuff film. There is already a string of unsolved murders around town and Kim begins to suspect that this broadcast's somehow connected. By the time the cops are called in and convinced, it might be too late for Kim as someone working on the films is plotting to silence her forever, and too anybody else who gets in the way.

Another rarity of a horror movie, Run is a direct-to-video affair that dabbled in Hitchcockian witness thrillers with a slasher-inspired final act. It's generally sleazy thanks to the softcore porn-esque nature of the plot (though nothing that graphic, may it be the sex or the actual killings), sharing it a semi-predictable mystery of who's behind the snuff operation and too if they will be caught for this.

This said, those looking to try this rarity should wary that this isn't your typical bodycounter as it resembles more of your old school 80s TV thrillers with an added bonus of boobies; the pacing is a real slow-burner and some cheese were slightly smothered over the plot and performances but, overall, it is entertaining in its simplicity, workable stalking scenes, intriguing whodunit, and some great B-grade material such as Martin Landau and Jerry Van Dyke as a pair of friendly-rivaling detectives who decided to look into Kim's case for a possible lead.

Nothing too great but Run is a fun watch for what it is, a simple horror thriller long overshadowed by bloodier and trashier titles of its time. If you do get the chance to see it, don't expect too much and you might just do okay with this obscurity.

1 female found murdered
1 female smothered with a pillow
1 female smothered with a pillow
1 female smothered with a pillow
1 female smothered with a pillow
1 male hit by a car
1 female smothered with a pillow
1 male knifed to death
1 male shot to death
Total: 9

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Loving the 80s: The Final Girls (2015)

The Final Girls (2015)
Rating: ****
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Adam DeVine

A bit of warmth. A bit of horror. A whole lot of comedy.

Max Cartwright is the teenage daughter of a 80s Scream Queen Amanda Cartwright, who sadly ended up in a disastrous car crash three years ago. The events haunted dear Max into a sullen and very meek girl whose only comfort is her friends.

One day, her mum’s debut movie, a slasher titled Camp Bloodbath, is being played around town as a part of a double feature. Coaxed into joining her friends with the promise of free homework (and as her own means of facing the past), Max and her friends somehow end up transported into the movie while trying to escape a freak fire accident. There, they're acquainted with the movie's characters including one Nancy, a shy-type blonde who happens to be played by Max’s mother; seeing this as a way to bring her mother back to life, Max decided to do whatever it takes to keep Nancy safe and alive, even if it meant breaking her character’s supposed fate.

Unfortunately for her (and for everybody else), the movie’s mad slasher “Billy” is doing whatever it takes to do the opposite and he is picking off not only the characters, but also Max’s friends. Can Max's plan work in the end, or will she learn to move on and save what's left of the casts?

In this generation where you don’t have to be a horror expert to know what’ll happen to the girl who shouts “who’s there?”, The Final Girls decided to poke fun at the conventions of a slasher movie in a manner not tried since the commercial flop The Last Action Hero (1993). The jokes, in turn, mostly revolve around the clichés found in the sub-genre such as the sex=death rule, bad production quality, and the telling of legends concerning the killer, though done with the wittiness found in the first Wes Craven Scream and the generation clashing of Back to the Future (1985), flourishing the movie with plentiful of meta-highlights for showing how much these clichés become so predictable over time.

Fortunately, the movie itself wises up and have these trappings turned against itself to show that the sub-genre still has a few twists and funny surprises, implemented here through some bit of visual comedy such as transition cards being tangible enough to actually hurt the characters, quipping interactions among characters (80s dude says corny insults, modern geek pokes fun at corny insults) and even questioning the already questionable movie logic the sub-genre is known for. (Supposedly dead characters hobbling out alive only to die again. Or did they?)

And when it is not poking fun at slashers, The Final Girls also has something that very very few horror flicks out there have: warmth.

Now, I don’t want to go sappy, but the onscreen chemistry between Max and two of her mother’s incarnations is just strong; when Amanda was still alive, we only get to know her briefly but we can tell in those first few minutes that she’s the kind of mum who wanted to share as much time as she can with her kid to make up whatever's lost between them. By the time she dies, we can clearly see how devastated her daughter become despite her attempts to live a normal life, just showing how much the girl loves her mum and actually felt guilty about the loss. I never seen this much mellow family dynamics since the underrated indie Some Guy Who Kills People (2011) and The Final Girls not only did this approach through Max and her mum, but also with her friends.

Another thing I came to like about his movie is that it has more likable characters than unlikable ones. In fact, all the major characters the movie focuses on (even the supposed mean girl!) have their own quirks, faults and redeeming factors that somehow made them root-worthy and their deaths tragic, shocking, and (for some) maybe a little funny.

Production-wise, this movie boasts quality from the awesome synthesizer score (and a rocking soundtrack! Watch out for the Warrant's Cherry Pie scene!) to the stylish cinematography, camerawork, and editing. It did slow down a bit once in a while and it's not as gratuitous as most of the 80s slashers it's supposed to be paying tribute to (no strong gore and no tits) but if this was for the sake of character development, I don't mind much. I guess the only gripe I can pick on from this movie was that the killer isn’t all that memorable and he is simply just there; he is supposed to be this Jason Voorhees-clone (even sporting Mr. Voorhees’ “ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma” calling card) but he lacks the bulk and his mask just looked too ridiculous (perhaps shrink it down a bit?) Thankfully, the scenes he was limited to were quite awesome, including a climactic attack where he is lured into a trap-rigged cabin and the hilariously gravity-defying last battle where he goes full slasher.

This is definitely cult material for us horror fans and I highly recommend this hilarious masterpiece; The Final Girls has heart, brains, and a whole lot of funny bones to entertain us with! This all said, waste no opportunity on seeing this! Laughs and tears guaranteed!

1 male head found in a freezer (trailer)
1 male found with throat cut (trailer)
1 female killed in car crash
1 male had his neck snapped
1 female had her neck crushed
8 males hacked with a machete (flashback)
1 male smashes through a windshield, back broken
1 female immolated in car explosion
1 female trips and lands face-first to a bear-trap
1 male had his gut sliced with a machete
1 female stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 male decapitated with a machete
Total: 19

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Deranged Head-Humpers: Headless (2015)

Headless (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Shane Beasley, Kelsey Carlisle, Ellie Church

If necrophilia offends you, then Headless is going to be no cake walk.

Shot and marketed as a supposedly lost slasher from 1978, the film features a nameless skull-masked killer who, under the guidance of a skull-headed and possibly imaginary boy, hunts and murders women before decapitating them and violating their freshly chopped heads.

Unknowingly caught in this is Jess, a girl who spends most of her time working at a disco roller rink in order to support herself and her weed-smoking slacker boyfriend. When the killer sets his preying eyes on Jess, he takes his time to stalk her and murders anybody that got in the way, all the while treating us to some trippy visions and flashbacks revealing the events that turned him into the insane monster we see right now.

Originally a faux-trailer and movie featured within director Scott Schirmer's debut 2012 thriller Found, Headless became a reality after a successful crowd-sourcing and, truth be told, it is shockingly grittier than most of the slashers being released nowadays in a manner that it stays true to its supposed grindhouse origin.

Taking cues from early slashers like Driller Killer (1979), Maniac (1980), and Don't Go In The House (1980), Headless focuses more on the exploits of the killer rather than his victims and it can be a bit unnerving to sit through seeing the film made it clear through the man's screams and brutality that he is one unwell individual.

With a good chunk of the movie concentrating on the murder spree through the killer's perspective, Headless resembles no more than a feature-length stalking scene, only with multiple hardcore murders, disturbing display of necrophilia and some bits of flashbacks revealing that the killer was raised by an abusive mother and an incestuous older sister. (As most masked maniacs are) This being said, the film was close to having no story and, honestly, it almost felt like that as while our supposed main girl Jess goes through her own subplot, it barely made any direct connection to the killer's murders until the last act where one of her friends gets killed and Jess finds herself kidnapped and tortured along with her boyfriend. This was a rather workable way to keep the viewers from being overly bombarded by Headless' unrelenting horrors, though I wouldn't say Jess' situation is anywhere less distressing (unless you find poverty and rocky relationships enlightening) and, in the end, her story's nothing more than a tricky ploy for those who're looking forward to see someone stop our maniac.

So is Headless a good movie? On a technical sense, it is. This movie can flaunt its gritty direction with pride as it boasts a pacing that works despite some sluggish moments, the talents involved are just okay seeing we only get to focus on three characters, and there is an overall impressive visual work despite one scene looking too crisp to be in a supposed "lost 70s slasher". So yes, I can definitely say this is one movie to try but be warned: showered with top-notch practical gore effects and a distraught portrayal of a lead killer, Headless is undoubtedly a slasher that will divide an audience. There will certainly be nay-sayers who will disregard it as disturbing trash, but some will appreciate its blood-red artsy attempt to recapture raw 70s exploitation.

It's disturbing all through, bound to upset stomachs, and will emotionally drain anybody who isn't prepared for its brand of madness. Heed this warning and you may find a little gem underneath the bottomless pit of bodies and blood that is Headless!

1 female head seen
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 male disemboweled with a machete
1 female stabbed with a machete, decapitated
1 female seen murdered (flashback)
1 male castrated, knifed to death
1 female hacked with a machete, dismembered (flashback)
1 female nearly beheaded with a machete
Total: 10
Director Scott Schirmer's future project?

Your Party Cannot Be Reached: Party Line (1988)

Party Line (1988)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Richard Hatch, Shawn Weatherly, Leif Garrett

A pair of siblings, Seth and Angelina are targeting unfaithful husbands (and anybody who got in the way) through a popular dating hotline, luring them out with murder on their mind. On their trail is one Lt. Dan Bridges, a detective who likes to talk with his fists, a method that made him great at his job but not so much when it comes to earning the governor's respect. Paired with him is D.A. Stacey Sloan, a by-the-book assistant of Dan's police captain friend. Together, they try to figure out whether these killings have a connection and race against time before the deranged siblings strike again.

Plot-wise, Party Line is everything you can expect from a late 80s slasher-thriller, which is stylized on the outside and cheddar in the inside; it tries to tell a serious story of cops and killers but the over-the-top nature of the premise and the villain themselves make it otherwise.

In fact, if it wasn't for the killer's craziness, the film would have been a rather dull thriller; while I do like the fact how our main leads are two-dimensional cliches of a good cop/bad cop duo and they kept a straight partner relationship, the killer siblings share enough focus on the plot as these cops did and whenever they're on screen, the film wastes no time showing how messed up they are.

To put it simply, the brother and sister once belonged to a wealthy family where Seth was a favored child prodigy and Angelina was the down-beaten reject; Seth was in love (and still is) with Angelina and he decided to prove this to her by murdering their father (who molested Angelina) and their mum (who blamed Angelina for seducing her own father). Problem was (and still is), Angelina hates Seth with a passion for being the favored child but decides to manipulate him through his one-sided infatuation and use him to rid the world of terrible fathers. All of this revealed through us in maddened ramblings as the movie goes forth with the murders and a few other extra oddities such as Seth dressing up in his mum's dress and Angelina teasing it up in front of Seth.

Some sub-plots revolving around the party line were also added for additional thrills such as one concerning a nymphomaniac looking for people to hook up, a babysitter who is just messing around the hotline, and a married father who takes any opportunity to frisk up with the aforementioned babysitter. Most of these people ends up as no more than kill count, but it is not to say some of them did help with the investigation.

As a slasher, Party Line isn't all that; the kills are okay but low on the splatter and bodycount. The story itself is really no more than us waiting for the leads to figure out the connections of the killings while working a way around their own set of personal problems, and a pair of deranged siblings crazying it up and killing whenever they feel the need for it. It's rather forgettable but, then again with characters like these, you can always overlook the hammy plotting in favor of the bizarre,

Thus, in my opinion, Party Line is far from the worse cop-out slasher I've seen and the cheesiness was well worth our attention, at least as a single rental. A little dated but still a fun viewing if not taken too seriously, this is one rarity worth checking out and probably forgotten after a day or two.

1 male killed with a razor
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 male had his throat slashed with a razor
1 female had her throat cut with a razor
1 male and 1 female found with throat cuts
1 female strangled
1 male shot to death
Total: 8

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Blood For Baby: Hellions (2015)

Hellions (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland

Back from terrifying us with zombies that spread their infection through the English language in 2008's Pontypool, director Bruce McDonald returns this year with a trippy little Halloween movie that is a cauldron pot of killer kids, demonic horror, home invasion, and a lot of surrealism.

Dora is a 17 year old girl who just discovered she's pregnant with her boyfriend's child and is unsure how to feel about this. This being Halloween night, she decided to stay behind while her mum and kid brother go trick-or-treating, thinking up ways on how she will approach her unplanned pregnancy. This was until a group of trick-or-treaters began pestering her repeatedly, which soon turned out to be a horrifying fact when they returned with the freshly decapitated head of her boyfriend.

Genuinely frightened, Dora was soon plunged into a world where the children rule the red night and any help that will come to her is a play thing for them to manipulate or destroy. Can Dora survive her ordeal or will she succumb to the children's demand of "blood for baby"?

Hellions is a film that dwells on nightmare logic, all the while showcasing some solid horror sequences and even some hint of symbolism. On its outer core, the movie resembles a supernatural siege/home invasion horror movie with some decent slasher-inspired villains and killings.

While the count is rather low and all of it occurs offcamera, it was rarely boring and entertaining at a modest level. I did enjoy the concept of the villains being demonic children that appears whenever there is an unwanted and unborn child on Halloween, where the line between the dead and the living blurs. They're hellbent with a bloody mission to get this child in order to increase their number and, as movie monsters, they worked pretty well in the creep factor thanks to their genuinely statures and get-ups, as well as being dangerously homicidal and manipulative in their attacks.

It remained like this for the good chunk of the first half but once the children seems to be getting the upper hand, the movie flips into a dreamlike state where continuities are questioned, body horror is ever present, and haunting imagery is everywhere. I may go as far as saying that this sudden change to the surreal is what divided this movie's audience and I completely understands this as it left too much questions unanswered, leaving the movie too open for interpretation.

Some may say that these killer kiddies symbolizes Dora's fear of accepting her child and the responsibilities around it and, seeing how much the entire film has this surreal feel to it, it may not be far from being true. Perhaps they were all in her head and the entire attack was just a fever dream but in the end, we will never know whether people actually died and if the supernatural was afoot.

Hellions is a horror movie made to visually frighten us and though the final act may not be as sensible or thought-provoking as the producers wanted it to be, it does made it worthwhile with its thrilling demon attacks and some chilling themes. Maybe next time Bruce McDonald can have these terrible tykes appear in a solid slasher movie cuz, damn, we need more creepy killer kids like these in our hack-a-thon and they have potential!

1 male head found
1 male murdered with a hatchet and an electric knife, decapitated
1 female seen slaughtered (flashback)
1 male murdered, method unknown
Total: 4