Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Warehouse of Dead Geeks: Dead Hunt (2007)

Dead Hunt (2007)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Dennis Hill, Sara Cole, John Patrick Barry

It was supposed to be a simple gathering between forum writers and reviewers, some meeting in real life for the first time. A few small talk and bitching happened, boozes were drank, and some were even thinking of scoring some sweet bedroom action later that night, for this small group of amateur critics, things were going just fine until they soon find themselves trapped inside a rigged warehouse and a balaclava-wearing killer began going through them with the sharp end of a knife.

Why are they being snuffed out is the killer's little riddle for them and it apparently had something to do with their profession as critics; with this in mind, Dead Hunt could have been a film poking fun at devoted horror flick reviewers (such as myself and maybe even you, dear reader) but it instead took an easier route and gave us your standard bodycounter.

The story did start off with the characters being geeks and them some, talking about movies and/or simply hanging around; once the bodycount starts, most of these people were easily reduced to typical slasher victims, doing some really cliched decisions that inevitably sealed their fate with the killer's knife. I guess I was hoping for a more tongue-in-cheek approach on the characters seeing they're horror fans in a horror flick but with Wes Craven's Scream films already tackling that not once but at three times as of Dead Hunt's release, maybe a stroll back to simpler roots wasn't that bad of an idea.

If anything, it's the film's killer who dwelled in the meta-concept, taunting and monologuing their nitpicks on each victim before finishing them off. It's a little silly but it kinda paid off once their identity and their motive were revealed, as it involved something pretty reasonable if it wasn't for the extreme measure.

While not exactly the most impressive in terms of onscreen talent, as well as guilty of having some terrible audio and early age computer effects, the story is easy to follow especially once the killer starts to blabber about their criticisms. Right then and there you can pick up the pieces and solve the puzzle with ease. Some gore and make-up effects were pretty good though the best kills happened offcamera, which is a tad disappointing but otherwise okay on my book, especially if the killer committing them sports an awesomely simple maniac get-up. (Red faced balaclava and trench coats never looked so sleek)

It isn't much but Dead Hunt is an okay movie, forgettable but watchable nonetheless. It has some neat ideas and good production despite a few flaws and budget issues, so I guess this is a passable effort even if it lacks any originality, fairer acting, and/or an imaginative killcount. I say give this one a go if you're feeling for something really simple for your cinematic bloodlust.

1 male found disemboweled
1 female electrocuted on a rigged door
1 male had his throat slit with a knife
1 male found slaughtered
1 male slashed with a knife, left for dead
1 female set ablaze
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 female hacked on the head with a machete
1 female stabbed
1 male shot
1 male shot
Total: 11

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Don't Go Dismembering Christmas: Slasher Studios Double Bill Review

Don’t Go to The Reunion (2013)
Rating: **
Starring: Kaleb Shorey, Marla Van Lanen, Johnathon Krautkramer

I always consider myself the supportive type when it comes to slasher fans doing their own slasher movie, especially when the film looks potential.

Horror review website and film workshop Slasher Studios first released an impressive short film titled Teddy, which is a basic run through everything we know and love about slashers. Their next two short film projects, Popularity Killer and Blood Brothers, were fair rides on their own run but not exactly as good (both story and production wise) as Teddy. After a while, we then get Don't Go To The Reunion, their first feature length slasher film that, much like Teddy, tries to cover a classic bodycounter scenario though with a few duds.

Don’t Go To The Reunion focuses on a group of highschoolers who decided to get their outcast classmate Scott Rantzen in trouble by planting a real sickle in his locker. When the principal and the local cops found the weapon, they were quick to believe that Scott was mentally unstable and ships him off to the loony bin where he supposedly remained.

Until now.

Ten years later, the now-adult high schoolers begin receiving Scott’s slasher drawings with a warning written for them. It seems Mr. Rantzen is no longer in captivity and now after their guilty arses one by one.

Clocking around 75 minutes, Don’t Go To The Reunion felt more like a film project than an actual movie but I can overlook this seeing it is an independent work. I can overlook the cheap effects, the amateurish acting, and how tame the sex scene was (I believe the film still could have worked without the latter), what I cannot overlook however is how predictable and pushy the story felt as a self-aware hack-a-thon, how uninspired the kills were, and how the ending felt too rushed. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve seen enough slashers to tell what direction a film of this caliber was going to and usually I can try to bypass this given the movie does something else worth our attention. (especially if the story itself was that near from being a Slaughter High (1986) reboot/reimagining) 

Unfortunately, the murders failed to impressed me as, seeing the killer is a slasher fanatic like us, they decided to tribute cult classic slashers in these killings thus making some of them a little uninspired. I guess the problem was that they were paying homages to murder scenes that were already “re-did” multiple times by other slashers before this, which kinda made the kills in Don’t Go look stale in comparison. One, for example, involves a car hood beheading which was a tribute to Madman (1982). I may have gotten a good laugh out of that if it was the only movie to do the same kill, but with the likes of Shadow Runs Black (1986) and a more humorous variation from Home Sweet Home (1981), the kill was just too plain to impress.

So the kills were, in a lack of better terms, “meh”, Don’t Go also features a mystery of sorts concerning whether Scott is back killing people or not, which would have done better if only they tried using different actors to hide the twist. If you’d seen it, you will know what I meant and though I am sure it was not their intention to insult our intelligence, it kinda looked that way.

And yet, with all of this, I can’t really diss on Don’t Go To The Reunion; it had potential and I can tell that they did try, but the final result was too underwhelming for me after all the hype people were making about this film. I am not going to say I am disappointed, but I will say good luck to Slasher Studios for their next project. Who know? Perhaps they can do better then!

1 female decapitated with a sickle
1 male beheaded with a car hood
1 female stabbed on the mouth with a fire poker
1 male and 1 female skewered with a fire poker
1 male knifed on the back
1 male killed offscreen
2 males skewered with a fire poker, beaten with a stand
Total: 9
Dismembering Christmas (2015)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Baker Chase Powell, Leah Wiseman, Nina Kova

…Wow. Just.


A group of friends spends Christmas Eve at another friend’s snowbound cabin in the mountains only to fall prey to a masked killer. Apparently this is the plot and perhaps Slasher Studios was aiming to do something simpler for their next project, all the while tackling the ever popular holiday horror trope.

Unfortunately, due to a rocky production, the resulting movie is a messy bore that’s littered with awful audio, incoherent scripting, zero thrills, lackluster kills, and a very lame villain with a standard murder motive. I never knew they will stoop down this low but I guess if you try to stretch a plot with useless fillers and a curious shot of some guy’s buttocks, the overall final product is going to be a tedious run through uninteresting characters being themselves and getting killed for it.

Any pros, though? I honestly can’t find any that would have saved the film but I will say that the hockey stick double-murder was a decent scene. Last decent hockey stick kills I ever saw were by the demon boys from the movie Dogma and Sub-Zero from the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-thriller The Running Man. We need more hockey stick murderers out there!

Ending with a boring quip and a brutal villain dispatch (are the guys at Slasher Studios trying to say something?), Dismembering Christmas is a film worth dismembering and I am starting to feel scared for the production team. Let’s all hope they don’t end up like the Polonia Brothers

1 male stabbed with a buck knife
1 male had his gut sliced with a sharpened hockey stick
1 female hacked with a sharpened hockey stick
1 female stabbed to death with sharpened poles
1 male slides through thin wire, decapitated
1 female bludgeoned with a porcelain tree
1 female decapitated with a razor-lined wreath
1 male hacked to death with a hatchet
1 male found murdered
1 female had her head crushed with an ice auger
Total: 10

Saturday, November 21, 2015

All Hail Borak: Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre (1977)

Hollywood Meat Cleaver Massacre (1977) (AKA "Meatcleaver Massacre, Revenge of The Dead")
Rating: ***
Starring: Christopher Lee, Larry Justin, J. Arthur Craig

Even if it opens and ends with gothic horror icon Christoher Lee doing a lengthy lesson on occultism from around the world, Meat Cleaver Massacre can't hide how shlocky it is but (and this is a subjective "but") it might as well since the film did offered something worthwhile as a cheesy and overly-simple exploitation trash.

Professor Cantrell teaches demonology with a passion at some university, much to the interest of his class except one Mason who would rather bully his way around campus to feel great about himself. Unfortunately to the kid, Cantrell deservingly humiliated him on that day and wounded his ego enough to plot a home invasion and murder the professor's family.

With the help of his three lackeys, Mason nearly succeed with his plan if it wasn't for Cantrell surviving the attack and slipping into a wide-eyed coma. Worse, thirsty of justice-slash-revenge, the professor managed to contact a demon in his state and had it execute Mason and his lackeys one by one.

A bit misleading as no meat cleavers were used but Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre is what it is and that is a cheesy supernatural proto-slasher guilty of being surreal and plodding in pace.

Boasting four screenwriters to tink around a rather interesting concept, the execution was unfortunately ever trashy and occasionally hammy that the film ended up feeling all over the place but, strangely enough, it still stood rather strong as an early entry to ghostly slashers as it featured (for its time) rather imaginative killings such as killer cacti and a post-Omen pre-Final Destination accident based deaths, as well as earning some notoriety as the home invasion sequence dreadfully resembles the infamous Mason family murders.

Much of Meatcleaver's charms hail from its strangeness as, despite simple the story is, the surreal nature of everything within and out of the horror is just too mind-boggling to ignore and enjoy as a 70s exploitation wreckage. It's nearly comical for its incoherence and messy production and I guess that's just the way we should be seeing this slasher.

It's not the finest example of a well-made supernatural slasher but Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre didn't shy away from being gutsy, bloody, and most importantly, crazy which should be enough for a true cheddar, exploitation and/or slasher fanatic. Try it out or be damned by killer cacti.

1 dog killed with kitchen knife
1 female strangled
1 female slaughtered with a kitchen knife
1 male strangled with chord
1 male attacked by possessed cacti, jabbed on the chest with thorns
1 male crushed to death with a car hood
1 male electrocuted and burnt
Total: 7

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Night We Will All Remember: Prom Night (1980)

Prom Night (Canada, 1980)
Rating: ****
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens

At 1974, young Robin Hammond was going home from school with her brother and sister when she saw a group of kids playing a tag-like game in an abandoned building. She leaves her siblings to join the children, only to be teased and chased to a loose window where she fell to her death by accident. Seeing what they have done, youngsters Wendy Richards, Jude Cunningham, Kelly Lynch, and Nick McBride decided to keep this among themselves and a known rapist was later blamed for Robin's death

Six years later, the four children managed to keep their pact and went on with their lives, some even befriending the remaining Hammond kids including Robin's sister Kim. And since it's prom night that evening, everybody is preoccupied in finding their perfect dates or scheming ways to humiliate rivals, unaware that the convicted rapist from long ago just recently escaped and may or may not be the obscene caller threatening the four then-youngsters of their past crime earlier that day.

As the night they should all remember becomes a night of terror, one by one they fall victim to a killer hellbent for a vengeful bloodbath.

Sided with a complementary amount of cheese, Prom Night runs a plot that took its time on building up to its premise, as well as characterize its casts before they are thrown into the carnage. Due to this, the film certainly slugs around for a good amount as we are treated to some soap drama and exploits, as well as a few mild scares and intrigues concerning possible suspects. It's a direction that works for some patient viewers, but may irk those who are eyeing for a trashy hack-a-thon with a fair mystery (these red herrings look too obvious), and too those expecting the soap drama to make a whole of sense. (Who in the right mind would befriend the siblings of the person they just killed?)

Needless to say, this is where Prom Night tends to get rocky and I understand why a lot of slasher fans stray away from this film because of this. Thankfully, once prom finally happens, the cheese becomes rather entertaining thanks to some outrageous disco dance numbers and curious set-ups, with the slasher portions finally living up the film as rules get broken (apparently virginity is not a safeguard for the killer), decent kills are delivered (the Carrie-esque prank-gone-wrong being the best), and one of the most memorable chase scene in a slasher makes it debut here. (Echoing empty hallways never looked so intense).

These scenes were pulled off in near-perfection as any cheesy 80s slasher would and I love how everything just unfolds into place straight to the climax where the killer makes a public execution against a fellow who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I love how this film borrows elements from other slasher classics such as Black Christmas (1976) and Halloween (1978), and I definitely love how simple yet menacing the villain is despite how weak their identity was hidden for the sake of a whodunit.

While not groundbreaking in anyway, Prom Night remains one of the best slashers I've seen and an awesome 80s time capsule. Cheesy yet thrilling, disco prom never looked this fun and macabre!

1 girl falls to her death off a building
1 female found murdered with glass shards
1 female gets her throat cut with a glass shard
1 female stabbed to death with a glass shard
1 male driven off a cliff, immolated in explosion
1 female axed to death
1 male beheaded with an axe
1 male hits on the head with an axe, bled to death
Total: 8

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Voorhees Uber-Massacre: Jason X (2001)

Jason X (2001)
Rating: ***
Starring: Kane Hodder, Lexa Doig, Jeff Geddis

As way to keep the franchise alive while Freddy vs Jason still wallowed around Development Hell, writer Todd Farmer pitched this idea/gimmick of having Jason rampage outside of Camp Crystal Lake, which was already attempted back at 1989 with the commercial flop Jason Takes Manhattan. However, unlike Take Manhattan, Jason made it to his destination AND wreck havoc there the right way.

Where is this location, you ask? Why none other than space!

In 2008, undead mass murderer Jason Voorhees was finally captured by the US government and spent two years as a guinea pig for those who were fascinated by his regenerative ability and apparent immortality after surviving multiple execution attempts since.

Seeing that the best option for now is to contain Jason until they can come up with a way to destroy him for good, scientist Rowan LaFontaine was about to put him in frozen stasis via cryogenics when the military types (including one played by body horror aficionado David Cronenberg) arrive and try to take the killer away in hopes of further researching his unique non-dying trait. 

Unfortunately for them, Jason escaped from his restraints and proceeds to nearly slaughter them all until Rowan successfully lured him into one of the cryogenic pods and trapped him inside, but not before the juggernaut ruptured it with his machete, in the process stabbing the scientist and freezing them both for 445 years.

Now in the future, Earth became too polluted to sustain life and a group of archaeology students is accompanied back to the now dead planet with their professor and gynoid for a field trip, eventually stumbling upon the preserved bodies of Rowan and Jason. Seeing one of them has a high chance of being revived by their technology while the other can be dissected for further studies, the students bring Rowan out of her cryogenic state and welcomes her to the future, blissfully unaware (but soon will realize in horror) that Jason has just woken up as well, ready to show his brand of mayhem to the the space age.

First of, I get it. I understand why many horror junkies are not as fond of this entry as I and a few others out there are and I believe it has something to do with the execution of the concept.

The idea of putting a horror franchise villain in space is mostly referenced as a joke concerning movie series and the fact that they'll just keep going to the point of desperation; this being said, Jason X often looks, sounds, and feels like a bad B-grade movie and, for all honesty, it is close to being one (complete with a nonsensical and hole-filled plot, average acting, and a trace of bad cheese that is everywhere considering how hard the movie was trying to sound hardcore and futuristic) if it wasn't for the considerate budget and production. If anything, this movie is the Friday the 13th franchise's shark-jumping and many horror fans can sense that.

But, seeing that we are being treated with Jason being in friggin space, perhaps that was the point; the series was never the same by the time they decided to bring Jason back to life ala Frankenstein's monster back at Part 6: Jason Lives and the films following it since were getting cheesier by the moment. This being said, yes it is nonsensical, but it has this comic book feel to the plotting and flow that its silliness can be entertaining and Jason X provides enough slasher theatrics and B-movie cheddar to keep a bodycounter happy.

The kills were barely CG assisted and they are plentiful here may it be on or off camera, this including a bunch of military men being mowed down at the beginning, an entire assault team being hunted down in a research ship, and even a space station being indirectly destroyed with Jason's massacre being the cause, all of them done in complete Voorhees fashion though it is kinda noticeable how stronger our slasher seems to be in this movie. (He sliced through metal more than once using nothing but a machete. A Machete!)

We are also treated with some fight sequences, most memorable being where Jason fights a grenade launching gynoid and momentarily loses to her after being blasted to bits. However, just like Jason Goes to Hell, losing a body isn't a big deal for him since he later comes back as a cyborg dubbed Uber-Jason after a rather convenient set-up. I have to say that while I'm not a big fan of his new mask in this form, the bulked-up and futuristic sleek look, along with his piercing red eyes, apparently doubled strength and durability makes this Jason menacing enough to strike more fear and awe, just a shame that this upgraded form is so overlooked and underrated among fans.

The rest of the characters are an odd bunch as they are a mix of your standard teenage victims and scifi action tropes such as the pompous authority, the ignored scientist, the badass militant, and even a death squad. Sadly, since the film is modeled after a standard slasher flick, they're as single-dimensional as they can with only a few standing out for better or worse, and their purpose are easily reduced to just futuristic lambs for the slaughter.

Paced with enough explosions, dodgy CG and a final shot that raises more fanboy questions, Jason X may fail as a horror film for the masses but it is what it is, and very underrated one at that. A space age slasher that's silly and bloody, made for the hardcore fans of its franchise and for B-flick enthusiasts, the only thing I recommend when viewing this is just switch down the brains and let the mindless campy spacey carnage take over!

1 male murdered, method unknown
1 male beaten with a machine gun
1 male thrown into friendly fire
1 male had his neck broken with chains
1 male bludgeoned with a noose pole
1 male impaled through a thrown pole
1 male repeatedly beaten against a metal door
1 female had her head frozen with liquid nitrogen, face destroyed against counter
1 male ran through with a surgical knife
1 male had his back broken against a wall
1 male had his head bashed against a wall
1 male had his neck snapped
1 male falls and skewered through a giant drill
1 female found with a throat cut
1 male sliced in half with a surgical knife
1 female found impaled through a crane hook
1 male dismembered offcamera
60 soldiers die in an exploding space station
2 males die in an exploding space station
A number of people dies in an exploding space station
1 male dismembered offscreen with a machete, head later seen
1 male beaten against a control panel, electrocuted
1 female immolated in a crashed ship
1 male caught in an exploding ship haul
1 female sucked into space through a metal grate
1 virtual reality female beaten to death
1 virtual reality female bashed to a tree
1 male scorched through atmospheric re-entry
Total: 87+

Monday, November 9, 2015

Welcome Back, After Dark! (4 of 4): Suspension (2015)

Five years since their last batch, 2015 marks the return of 8 Films to Die For, now with a new partnership with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment! 

And making this return more special for me is the fact we got half of the line-up packed with interesting slashers, so, for this 4-part review, we will be looking at these new masked terrors bodycounting their way through the festivities that is After Dark Horrorfest 2015!

So without further delay, let's get hacking! This is...

Suspension (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring: Ellen MacNevin, Sage Brocklebank, Kylee Bush

Being the daughter of a man who committed something unspeakable at her town, Emily finds herself constantly bullied at school and her only refuge from this world is a comic she is drawing chronicling the bloody escape and rampage of who appears to be a masked slasher.

This one night however, she and her younger brother are left home alone while their mother works an extra shift and her bullies (as well as a few friends) attend a rowdy party, seemingly unaware that the same slasher from Emily's comic has somehow made his way to reality and begins slaughtering anybody unfortunate enough to be in his way.

For most part, Suspension plays like your average slasher littered with surprises and delivering everything that a bodycounter should from the splashy red graphic novel-esque killings to the high-octane stalk-and-chase sequences featuring a killer who somehow can teleport away from being shot. The story is an interesting case as it has a chaotic direction, jumping back and forth to what could be all in our lead's mind and what could be happening for real. Realities soon blur and in a turn similar to the underlooked I, Madman (1989), a fictional character turns out to be real.

Unfortunately, I have do have nitpicks and most of it would be the execution of the story itself, particularly how the reveal was handled. Without spoiling much, those with a keen eye and a sense of continuity can tell the reveal a mile away thanks to some gimmicks used here, the sub-plot of Emily drawing a slasher comic contributing the most thanks to some filming tricks indicating which might be real and which is not.

Eitherways, Suspension still works as a slasher and while the ending is predictable, everything else is spot on as a bloody B-grade horror flick.

1 female impaled to a meathook, gets a ridding crop shoved down her throat
1 male stabbed with a pitchfork, bled to death
1 dog killed
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male repeatedly shot, knifed
1 male knifed on the groin
1 male knifed on the neck
1 male shot on the head
1 male repeatedly knifed, throat cut
1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 male seen brained with a hammer
1 female hacked to death with an axe/brained with a hammer
Total: 12

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Welcome Back, After Dark! (3 of 4): Murder In The Dark (2013)

Five years since their last batch, 2015 marks the return of 8 Films to Die For, now with a new partnership with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment! 

And making this return more special for me is the fact we got half of the line-up packed with interesting slashers, so, for this 4-part review, we will be looking at these new masked terrors bodycounting their way through the festivities that is After Dark Horrorfest 2015!

So without further delay, let's get hacking! This is...

Murder In The Dark (USA/Italy2013)
Rating ***
Starring: Luke Arnold, Phil Austin, Yann Bean

For a group of tourists, a trip to an ancient Turkish ruins should have been an experience worth remembering, may it be for the people they meet, the people they fall in love with, or for the little time to get away from their troubles back home. However, these people will soon discover that somebody out in these parts is preying on them, stealing organs from each victim they take. With their car sabotaged, they have no choice but to find ways to defend themselves from a madman who may or may not be among them.

Plot-wise, Murder In The Dark succeeds as murder thriller that took a lot of cues from the classic Agatha Christie whodunit novel Ten Little Indians such as total strangers being stranded at a very barren location, people getting murderous out of paranoia, and the fact that the killer is doing each victim away under a certain pattern.

Expect little of the usual slasher fodder then with this comparison in mind as the killings, nudity, cheese and many other exploitation elements are tamed down and offer, in turn, some practicable acting and worrisome tone thanks to its unique filming technique.

As an experiment, the actors were not given a full script to work with and instead had the plot (including its twists) relayed to them each day of the filming. With this, some of the acting are ad-libbed and the surprises on the script comes as shocking to them as they can be for the viewers, adding a sense of realism that pretty much worked well for the film’s dreading and uncertain atmosphere.

If anything of a slight flaw from this film, it would be that the reveal itself swerves a bit to the cheesy side and pretty much the very thing that justifies Murder In The Dark as a slasher. (Without spoiling lots, it involves a lot of mad science and a last act that simply threw away all sense of realism in favor of a snorty giggle. Not that it is a bad thing for me, mind you)

There’s also a matter of taste as anybody looking for a fast-paced bloody slasher can be fairly disappointed at the tension-driven approach of the film, and too those expecting a rather believable payoff to the mystery. Then again, a good substance of the movie still worked for me and I had a lot of fun watching it and anticipating the reveal. If you don’t mind a simplistic approach to your whodunit, Murder In The Dark can be a good addition to your viewing list.

1 female presumably killed, hand seen
1 female had her side cut open, disemboweled
1 female found dead with head and gut wound
1 female found dead with head and gut wound
1 male knifed on the neck
2 female seen dead with head and gut wounds
1 male found dead with gut wound
1 male dies from botched operation
1 female dies from poison
1 male seen with surgical wounds, presumably killed
1 male stabbed with a vial of poison, knifed on the chest
Total: 12

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Welcome Back, After Dark! (2 of 4): Lumberjack Man (2015)

Five years since their last batch, 2015 marks the return of 8 Films to Die For, now with a new partnership with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment! 

And making this return more special for me is the fact we got half of the line-up packed with interesting slashers, so, for this 4-part review, we will be looking at these new masked terrors bodycounting their way through the festivities that is After Dark Horrorfest 2015!

So without further delay, let's get hacking! This is...

Lumberjack Man (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring: Michael Madsen, Hector Becerra, Jasmin Carina

Many years ago, there was once a lumberjack named Easterday who made flapjacks so good that one of the folks he generously shared it with murdered him for the recipe and made millions out of it. This of course angers the spirit of Easterday and it wasn’t long before he came back from the grave as a murderous demon logger with glowing red eyes, immense strength, and an appetite for giant blood-soaked pancakes, slaughtering anyone unfortunate enough to encounter him.

At the present, a bus full of either sex-craved or religiously-confused counselors is making its way to Good Friends Church Camp where the teens in question are tasked to prep up the place before the kids arrive the following morning. As these people go through the chores, spy on girls, and/or smoke a joint or two, little do they know that ole Easterday is around and this camp might just be their final resting place as they gorily fall victim to the logger, one staff at a time.

Boasting a fair level of camp wherein plot points like pancake syrup being an effective weapon against evil or a giant pancake bludgeoning is a thing that can happen, Lumberjack Man is a silly yet watchable throwback to 80s backwoods hack-a-thon, differentiating itself from other slasher-in-the-woods flick ever so slightly with its cheesy premise, gratuitous sleaze, and loads of gory kills that are quite fun to watch.

With a rather competent looking production and some okay set of casts spewing ridiculous writing, one can say Lumberjack Man does a rather straight approach as a hammy horror flick with boob jokes as early as the post-opening credits and the first kill coming in around fifteen-ish minutes later. Thankfully, despite the staggering 100 minute running time, the film only had a couple of scenes that felt the need of trimming down for pacing purposes, thus it is far from boring with its worthwhile moments (such as the cafeteria massacre and a cool animated origin story) easily outshining the bad ones.

Said moments worthy of trimming would be the last act (without spoiling) as it was drawn out for some forced additional gags and last minute sexy shenanigans that hardly worked at all, nearly going on forever before having the killer gets dispatched rather easily. (Though they tried to hype it up with a random explosion) I do hope this wasn’t the case since this killer lumberjack was just too cool to be done away at a snap of a finger.

There’s also the fact that not many of the characters are that memorable, may it be because they’re poorly written, hardly have enough screentime, or just simply there to be killed off and/or be a recurring background filler. I try not to look into this a lot since the main focus of the story is on Easterday’s rampage and a few characters did make themselves work with their cheesiness (Adam Sessler as an overly enthusiastic camp manager who thinks free pizza still works as a bribe) or over-the-top portrayal. (Michael Madsen as an Ahab who can be a bit too sure of himself)

With all of this, the totality of Lumberjack Man is a cheesy yet awesome slasher flick that truly delivers the kills and tits, and is a welcome addition to any horror fan’s viewing. Down-to-earth basic slaughtering never looked this fun, funny, and sticky sweet; see it with a whopping platter of fresh pancakes and you are good to go!

2 females beheaded with an axe
1 male impaled through the jaw with a javelin
1 male had his head torn off
1 male crushed by a falling tree
1 male strangled, head torn off
1 female mangled, thrown to a tree
1 male bludgeoned against a wall
1 female stabbed on the head with a spout
1 female bashed to death with a giant flapjack
1 male drowned in a vat of syrup (flashback)
1 victim seen being dismembered (flashback)
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 female gets a thrown hatchet to the head
1 male decapitated with a hatchet
1 female slashed with an axe
1 male thrown to a fusebox
1 female had her silicons pushed out from the back
1 male gets a falling knife to his neck
1 male ran through the chest with a javelin
1 female found sliced to pieces
1 male ran through a logging saw, sliced in half
1 male had his heart torn out and shoved down his throat
Total: 23

Friday, November 6, 2015

Welcome Back, After Dark! (1 of 4): Bastard (2015)

Five years since their last batch, 2015 marks the return of 8 Films to Die For, now with a new partnership with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment! 

And making this return more special for me is the fact we got half of the line-up packed with interesting slashers, so, for this 4-part review, we will be looking at these new masked terrors bodycounting their way through the festivities that is After Dark Horrorfest 2015!

So without further delay, let's get hacking! This is...

Bastard (2015)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Rebekah Kennedy, Ellis Greer, Dan Creed

Roads are crossed when two couples, one being a pair of newlywed serial killers and the other being troubled runaways, end up driving to the same mountain side bed-and-breakfast. Joining them soon is a suicidal cop who just wanted to get away from it all, which should spell trouble for some of these individuals but, as it all will turn out, he might be the least of their worries.

Somewhere deep in the woods is a maniac offing people with a mean meat cleaver; as the guests dwindle down in number, who is to blame and who will be left alive in the end?

With this, Bastard may sound like your standard slasher fodder but it offered something that's normally lost among recent releases and that would be characterization; each couple fleshed out from the very beginning of the film, focusing on their plights and struggles as they plan ahead a better future for themselves. The thing, however, is that none of the casts is who they seem, even those who have shown their flaws the moment they're introduced as their imperfections layered them enough to keep themselves interesting even if there is a chance you don't feel like rooting for them.

This is, unfortunately, where the flaw of the film lingers from; the moment Bastard  finally reaches its climax and has the killer stalk and murder these characters, they are reduced to plain meat and most of their deaths came rather quick and easy. (And, ironically, the goriest kill happened to a random throwaway couple) I don't normally have any problem with this but after all that build-up, I expected these guys to have a fighting chance and not have all of that development thrown out of the window in the next minute.

The last act also becomes a bit of a drag but it did shed enough light to give the killer their side of the madness, which was really unsettling to look at but a chore to sit through nonetheless.

Apart from these flaws, there are bits of comedic elements that felt a bit forced and out of place considering how character and story-heavy the plot is. Thankfully, these are just tiny tidbits and the rest of act plays as straight as any serious slasher could and the overall experience is a rocky yet beautifully insane bodycounter that looks, sounds, and feels grand with a slight influence from 70s/80s exploitation film, made obvious with its opening and ending credits.

May not have worked all the way but Bastard is a welcome viewing for slasher fans out there looking for workable characters or something with a story altogether. If there is anything else I can say, bring on Bastard Reborn!

1 male gets a hammer buried into his forehead
1 female murdered, method unknown
1 male had his back sliced open with a meat cleaver, spine ripped out
1 male hacked on the head with a meat cleaver
1 male had his jaw sliced with a thrown meat cleaver, killed
1 male sliced on the back with a meat cleaver, hacked
1 male shot
1 female shot on the head
1 female hammer-clawed on the head
1 victim seen murdered
Total: 10

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mass Vengeance Gone Wrong: An American Terror (2014)

An American Terror (2014)
Rating: ***
Starring: Joe Abplanalp, Troy Alan, Graham Emmons

If this movie was made around the late 90s, I’m dang sure this would have fared better. Or worse depending on how you see it.

Josh lives a pretty uneventful yet troubled life as an outcast; he wakes up every day questioning his purpose, watch his parents fight while he eats breakfast, endure bullying from a group of stereotyped jocks and cheerleaders, and then finish the rest of the day hanging out with his equally troubled loser friends, Ray and Sammy.

After a bullying incident goes too far, Ray is inspired to get even with the whole school by plotting a shooting and bombing during the upcoming prom night; Josh and Sammy join in the scheme and plan their attack until realizing that they are low on firepower. Conveniently for them, they spot a junker with a truck decorated with pro-arms stickers, which might mean he has guns. Loads of them. Ray opted to try rob the junker of his firearms and tags Josh along for the job, all the while leaving Sammy to finish their pipe bombs. Unfortunately, something more depraved is waiting for Ray and Josh at the junker’s domain when it turns out he is a deranged maniac with a habit of creating death machines and the two might end up as his next victims.

With talks of mass shootings and bombings, An American Terror would have been easily one of the more gutsy horror films to be released in par with Elephant (2003) and Takahashi Miike’s Lesson of the Evil (2012) if only it decided to played this plot straight. Instead, what we get is an attempt to merge two plot lines that didn’t do too well despite some decent and fair elements from both sides of the coin.

I guess the best way to describe the movie entirely is that it held back; a plot covering school-shootings is controversial enough to begin with but American Terror went by this a little too fast, leaving both the events that led to the decision to shoot up prom night and the characters involved rushed and under-developed. It seems that it was done this way to transition into the more macabre portion of the film which, again, would have been a unique way to get into full on slasher territory.

Seeing the slasher parts have a hint of torture porn in it (and the story still focusing on the school attack via transitions back to Sam and his pipe bombs), it held back on growing its kill count, limited the gore to a single scene and leaves us with Josh somehow avoiding capture, ending up helping a kidnapped cheerleader escape the deranged junker. This is a fairly passable turn since it did manage to give more of a redeeming quality for the Josh character, now having a change of heart and doing his best to save not only himself and the kidnapped girl, but also those he intended to kill at prom.

This being said, American Terror can be a mixed bag and I honestly find myself wondering at my first viewing if I should be disappointed for its lack of grit or be glad that it didn’t exploit the already controversial backdrop of school violence. In the end, and after a while, I came to like its strange 90s feel and shifty direction, and too the upbeat and hopeful message it is trying to convey which (for me) worked well with the story. If anything of a real flaw, I really wished they made a bigger kill count for the junker here, who is one of the few fat maniacs out there that actually looked intimidating, if not disgusting.

Some may say that this film might be a tad outdated but, looking into the recent cases of mass shootings in America, I beg to differ; An American Terror has an interesting concept despite having not enough execution to actually make both ends work. If you are looking for a cheap and easy horror-thriller that can act as a cautionary tale for those looking for vengeance, this might be worth your time.

1 female seen shot (dream)
1 male seen shot (dream)
1 male shot to death (dream)
1 male had his eye lids cut off, shot on the head
1 female murdered offcamera, method unknown
1 male crushed by a pile of cars
1 male decimated with a bomb
1 male shot
Total: 8

Blazing Mother: Don't Go In The House (1980)

Don't Go In The House (1980)
Rating: ****
Starring: Dan Grimaldi, Charles Bonet, Bill Ricci

An underrated grindhouse classic of sorts, Don’t Go In The House is a sad strange little bodycounter that tried its luck as a grim character study but fell short thanks to the ever present cheese.

Donny, as a staple in most slasher movies, is a man with a rough childhood; his mum abused him as a kid through various methods of fire torture whenever she thought it was necessary (meaning, all the time) which traumatized Donny to the point that he grew up both frightened and fascinated with fire.

On one work night, Donny discovers that his mum passed away in her sleep; not sure how to react to this, he was first delighted from the fact that he is now free from his abusive parent but soon realizes that he is unable to move on from the torture he went through in her hands.

Literally following the voices he is suddenly hearing in his head, Donny proceeds to take out his frustrations by building a fireproof room, purchasing a flame thrower (with bonus fire retardant suit), and kidnapping women for him to set ablaze.

Unfortunately for him, his murderous ways begins to haunt him and people around town (noticing his odd behavior but unaware of his evil deeds) are getting a little worried for him. Can Donny keep it together? Or was he doomed from the beginning?

Structure-wise, Don’t Go In The House is only a slasher for the first half before gradually devolving into a psychological thriller; as a bodycounter, it has its unnerving and distressful moments such as that infamous scene where an innocent woman was stripped naked and chained up before being set on fire, which was grueling, sadistic, and over all uncomfortable to sit through. Oddly enough, while Donny did went on killing more girls, the rest of the murders were done offcamera and through heavy implications which eventually made way for the film to start tackling the psychological horrors of being a deranged murderer.

By the time the film reached its half-mark, the film shifts tone and began focusing more on Donny's descent into madness as he becomes troubled by his own actions, visualizing walking corpses of his victims that may or may not be real apparitions. This is where the movie began to blur the line of sane and insanity as well as hinting some bit of the supernatural, though the latter wasn’t that heavily implied until the last act.

More or less, the film made itself entertaining with its odd mixing of dread and B-grade camp, which was already done by other villain-centered slashers such as The Driller Killer (1979) and Maniac (1980); Don’t Go In The House tried to play all of this with a straight face but the late-70s/early-80s cheesiness, outdated premises and some bit of bad writing and acting did find its way on some scenes. (such as Donny's first taste of freedom involving him jumping on a chair while loud Jazz music is playing and him smoking a cigar) Thankfully, this isn’t that big of a distraction as the movie’s tone and gritty grindhouse look manages to bring out more of the sullen creepiness from Donny's situation, which seems to be the real focus of the movie as would explain the low count of exploitative murders.

Though most slasher fans will be disappointed at the direction Don't Go In The House took, its lack of satisfying kill count, and/or the bothersome cheese, it is still nothing short of an underrated cult classic worthy of some attention just for its strangeness alone and its odd attempt to do things differently for its killer. Those who enjoy a fair grindhouse flick (and too open-minded slasher fans) are welcome to try this oddity out and, who knows, perhaps you can find some charm from this weird little title and see why some people came to appreciate it.

1 female found dead in her sleep
1 female set ablaze with a flamethrower
1 female burned offcamera
1 female burned offcamera
1 male caught inside a burning house
Total: 5