Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Girlfriend From Hell Worth Remembering: Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990)

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (Canada, 1990)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Tim Conlon, Cynthia Preston, David Stratton

The first Prom Night (1980) sequel was a podge of all things supernatural with a little bit of bodycounting; we had possessions, hauntings, and teenagers being flattened inside compressed lockers, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II was indeed a fun baggage but I believe it could have used more carnage...and the actual Mary Lou experience.

Thankfully, someone by the name of Ron Oliver thought so too and decided to direct the Prom Queen from Hell's Direct to Video return in this early 90s splatter effort! (Before spending his directorial talent on TV productions including the 90s Police Academy TV series and some Goosebumps episodes. That actually explains a lot for this movie...)

It seems that sometime after the events of Prom Night II, Mary Lou (now played by the adorable Courtney Taylor) finds herself banished and chained back to Hell, to spend an eternity dancing to boogie music along with other damned gals. (No, really) Obviously not wanting any of this, she nail files her shackles off and hauntingly returns to Hamilton High where she wastes no time wrecking havoc all over again.

Catching her good side is one Alex Grey (Tim Conlon), an average student and football player who dreams of going to medical school but is struggling to keep his grades satisfactory and his girlfriend, Sarah, happy. Charmed by his good looks, Mary Lou decided to use her supernatural prowess to help (read: murder anybody that is making Alex's life a moderate hell), as well as make herself available for some ghostly love-making! Alex, though was kinda cool with this at first, slowly realizes that he's biting more than he can chew when Mary's murderous antics worsens by the minute.

For this round, The Last Kiss can be best described as a reverse treatment of the Hello Mary Lou plot, wherein we get a more traditional supernatural slasher act for the first hour, before moving to an strange yet entertaining last third involving a descent to hell, zombified victims and a killer jukebox. I find this a very welcome take that not only delivered the goriest (and some of the best) deaths in the series and a rather more worthwhile (if not downright likable) plot, but it also brought the Mary Lou saga to its rightful place as a fun and funny borderline spoof of all things horror and slasher, even more effectively than what the prior entry did.

From crazy murder set-pieces to odd announcements over the PA, The Last Kiss settles its normally upsetting ideas of cheating, framing, and, of course, gory murders with a comical approach that's more fitting to a teen comedy than an actual horror flick. In fact, this third Prom Night makes a lousy excuse for a horror movie since nearly everybody acts like a bad sitcom character and there's hardly any brooding atmosphere or a sense of dread, all of which can be evidently seen on our supposed hero as he reacts to some murders in a manner more fitting to how one would to a pet cat accidentally pushing its food dish down.

Still, these are very minor drawbacks if the end result was a silly film with a memorable villainess, who is now a maniacally lovestruck and homicidally imaginative wisecracking teenage mistress worthy of rivaling Freddy Krueger. (Yeah, I went there. Deal with it!) You could say that The Last Kiss was an attempted vehicle to bring Mary Lou up with the other memorable femme fatales in slasherdom, obvious with her larger onscreen presence and more aggressive attitude compared to Prom Night II's treatment, though whether this worked or not seems dependent on the viewers but I am happy to admit I am one of this version's adoring fans. (There's a few more out there. I'm sure of it)

If there is one thing that stopped me from rating this film any higher, it is how unnecessarily mean and dreary the ending turned up to be. Without spoiling anything, someone dies and someone gets trapped in the 50s for eternity, but it was the contrasting tone that felt out of place which delivered the wounding blow. Still, with the positives thankfully overwhelming this little chip on the wood, I learned to let it go and let murderous hell girls do their thang. Afterall, this is the last time we get to experience the perfect Mary Lou in her supernatural goriness so might as well switch out and enjoy The Last Kiss!

1 male electrocuted against a jukebox, pacemaker blows out from his chest
1 male ran through the head with a handheld mixer, split open
1 female bathe in battery acid
1 male impaled to a goal post with a thrown football-drill
1 male clawed through the chest, heart torn out
2 males electrocuted
1 male killed, later found wrapped in magnetic tape
1 female clawed through the gut
Total: 9

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Prom Queen Worth Remembering: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Lisa Schrage, Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon

From a masked madman seeking revenge for their sister's death, to a supernatural she-bitch hellbent on winning Prom Queen. Definitely a transition that made no sense but it's here so I guess we just have to roll with it.

Hello Mary Lou opens with a trunk hauntingly opening by itself and warping us to 1957, when the titular nightmare gal was up and alive, enjoying what will be her last prom night after ditching her date Billy Nordham (played by Michael Ironside both as a teenager and as an adult, both with a thinning haircut) to play hooky with another boy in media res of the celebration.

Understandably pissed, Billy decided to ruin her ex-date's prom queen coronation by lighting up a stink bomb some pranksters left. Unfortunately, the fire from the lit wick caught Mary's dress, setting her ablaze in front of everyone before dying an agonizing exit.

Fast forward to the present, we now have Vickie to focus our attention to as she prepares for prom with good hopes seeing she's one of the candidates for winning prom queen. She has some supporters, a good bunch of friends to hang out with, and a dashing badass boyfriend (who is also the son of Billy, now the school's current principal), but on the other side of the coin, she also has an overbearing zealous mother and the ever-present bullying mean girl/prom queen rival to face along the way. It all leads for the worse when, after rummaging through old school props, Vickie opens a trunk containing Mary Lou's prom dress and tiara, somewhat reawakening the girl from hell as a vengeful specter haunting and possessing Vickie to carry out a bloody massacre from the beyond.

Best described as a mad dab melting pot of The Exorcist (1973), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Carrie (1976), expect less of the whodunit axe murders and more of the supernatural shenanigans as the teen slasher gig was pushed to the very last third of the run, spending a good chunk of an hour with our leads trying to figure out what is obviously (for us, the audience) causing the weird hauntings. In fact, the only real connection here with the original 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis powerhouse original was that both took place in Hamilton High.

Of course, this being a late 80s teen horror flick, you can expect this supposed sequel to be cheesed and sleazed up, which is a really passable approach seeing how fun it made this film despite its oddball premise. From possessions implied via tar pit chalkboards, weird dreams involving random 50s greasers, creepy poltergeists scenes with a demonic rocking horse, its little on the scare factor but the bad taste entertainment made the bodycount enriched third act well worth the wait.

And speaking of which, the teen-kill-fest worked quite well here thanks to the presence and style of our titular killer's rampage, balancing a Freddy Krueger-inspired wit with a Carrie-inspired fantasy-based killings like a cool locker crushing (with bonus soapy brains) and a wicked "shroud attack" that teases just in the right way. Under that note, the character of Mary Lou Maloney also comes out as a rather underrated villainess whose limited screentime didn't do enough justice with what can be done for this character. (From what we can tell from the opening act and the scenes when she had taken over Vickie, she's a real number as a nightmare date big on the evil personality. Thankfully, we get to have more of Ms. Maloney as an active baddie in this series' only true sense of a follow-up, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, but that will be a story (Or review) for another time. )

In the acting department, not much can be said for the casts as they were rather bland; Michael Ironside is the only name any horror fans can recognize from the roster and he is practically good in his role here as both a teenager (with, again, a thinning haircut) and as a father to a son who might be in danger. (Not much I can say about him being a principal. He kind of just sits there) Vickie actress Wendy Lyon was also quite alright in her role, playing two sides of a coin as both a troubled yet good natured next door girl and a sexed-up prom bitch. Some characters did try to make themselves more interesting by having a few scenes that appears to be made just for them, but as a part of the whole flick, it did little to elevate anything.

These, of course, did little to dent the movie as an entertainment piece and I find myself liking it enough to tolerate the bad acting and bad cheese. A supernatural slasher with a goofy yet serviceable mock-up of all things weird, cheesy and 80s, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II just requires a lot of patience and an open taste to enjoy. Have these ready on your head and you're bound for a fair time with a hot 1950s prom angel from hell!

1 female set ablaze by a bomb wick
1 female hanged by an elevating shroud
1 male stabbed on the face with a crucifix
1 female crushed inside a flattened locker
1 female crashes through door
1 male electrocuted
1 female impaled by a falling light fixture
Total: 7

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Non-Horror Post: Today I love Skunk-Butt Floor Rugs

 And adorable buddy film with a fox and a rabbit
Right in Zootopia!
(You did well, Disney...)

How Murderers Make Love: Murder Loves Killers Too (2008)

Murder Loves Killers Too (2008)
Rating: ****
Starring: Christine Haeberman, Allen Andrews, Mary LeGault

Do-it-yourself horror flicks are often notarized for their lack of production values and amateurish plots, but once in a while we get handmade gems like the Nailgun Massacre (1986),  Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness (1986), and this, a mouthful of a title that is Murder Loves Killers Too.

Needless to say, the story of Murder is really no more than the classic backwoods slasher, with a van full of five teenagers (two guys eyeing to bone their respective girlfriends and one bookish girl who is obviously going to live until the end) driving to a cabin in the woods, only to discover that somebody else is staying there, hiding somewhere in the house only to appear to them, one by one, with plans of ending their fun and their lives.

What makes Murder a cut above other shot-on-video indie backwoods horror out there is its approach as, while majority of the slasher cliches are present (mainly the sex-starved idiotic teens, brutal killings and an impressive cat-and-mouse stalking sequence), it isn't shy on taking a few twists and turns no one could've saw coming. For one, its killer appears to be less of the usual grungy-looking wildman or mutated backwoods hick these kinds of slashers normally have and more of an actual guy renting a cabin. In fact, the way he, Big Stevie, dispose these teenagers looked more like some guy grudgingly and boringly doing a chore than a manic massacre, complete with morning robes and fluffy slippers.

Despite his seemingly lack of interest on killing these chumps, he is actually pretty good at it, utilizing the house's nooks and crannies to get around and pluck these teenagers off their places unexpectedly, and the budget for Murder did not strain much to give us a killing spree with an 80s vibe. (though they did get a tad Torture Porn-ish with that one drill murder but the rest were decent knife murders, some of which done in an cheap yet effective camera work)

This spree ends as soon as it started and we are then left with this awesome stalk-and-prowl set-piece before shifting entirely into a situation quite reminiscent of the original 1974 Toolbox Murders' last act, with Stevie giving some time to talk with one of these unfortunate kids about a matter not all slasher maniacs are so open to discuss. Normally, I would be disappointed, but his little pep talk on why he is doing all of this and the eventual odd curveball we're treated with is just so outrageous that I can't help but like all the weirdness out of it.

So, it sounds like Murder's a pretty swell film to have around and it is, but it isn't without its flaws; not quite much to mock up the movie but the acting from its casts could really use some flair, audio needs some work, and some scenes did took a while to get going. Again, this isn't much to nick the movie down and I like to see these shortcomings as a "tribute" to good "bad" late 80s slashers. Besides, any guy who can work around his tiny budget and still make a gorgeous looking and humorous entertainment piece like this is well worth our attention.

And to think you know your backwood slashers, here we get a real work of detail and tribute with a small dash of originality; Murder Loves Killers Too will definitely love to be a part of your collection and, too, for a whole lot of open-minded horror fanatics' out there!

1 female murdered offcamera
1 male drilled through the gut, disemboweled
1 male repeatedly knifed, head twisted to the back
1 female knifed on the gut then mouth
1 male bludgeoned with a crowbar, tongue torn off and shoved down his throat
Total: 5

Monday, February 15, 2016

For This February, In Case You Hadn't Noticed...

That's right! It's been a while since I did a themed month but with a few new additions to my collection (and a few other titles I had not reviewed yet), February's gonna be all about painful love and lovely pain!

So if you think Valentine's Day is over here at Sticky Red, you've sadly mistaken! Bring out the Bleeding Hearts!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

No One in The City Will Understand You: Entrance (2011)

Entrance (2011)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Suziey Block, Karen Baird, Farley Burge

Sometimes a slow burning can go a long way for horror flicks.

Suziey (Suziey Block) is a young barista living in Los Angeles, existing a rather repetitive and uneventful life with her roommate Karen and a loving dog. This lifeless cycle, though, will soon take a turn for the unexpected when she her beloved dog suddenly disappears without a trace, pushing her into depression and forcing her to see that her life is really going nowhere. With this, Suziey decided to go back to her home town and, with the urgings of her roommate and her friends, throws a farewell party for herself and the crowd. All was good except one of the guests wasn't invited.

And he has an axe.

Being a part of the naturalism-focused indie sub-genre known as mumblecore (or mumblegore seeing horror is thrown in the mix), Entrance is reasonably more talk, fittingly devoted a decent hour on the uber-mundane life of a really ordinary mid-20s girl that can strike a little too close to home for some of us, in a sense that not everyone can easily find meaning in their life and some are bound to a routine existence.

Due to this, much of the interests rest upon the lead character's struggles to make something out of her days, all the while the only "horror" scenes happening were two stalkings (one hinted and one eerily obvious), strange noises, and Suziey's brooding sense of paranoia and depression. These are the reasons why the sinister extremes of the last twenty-something minutes, when most sense of realism disappears and we are suddenly thrown into this hectic and utterly nightmarish situation involving a mad axeman and a rather quick massacre that still hits the right way.

While many of us saw it, we never knew how hard it will pull its punches, which is a lot to say seeing majority of the killings were done offcamera and we were never given a full reveal to who and why all of that just happened, all except that the killer had sometime taken interest to our girl. It's as creepy as its disturbingly open ending which spells very little hope of a happy end for either us or our lead.

Being more of a character study than a slasher flick in its ratio, Entrance marks filmmakers Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath's good sense of timing and direction for this slow burner, rightfully rewarding any patient viewers with all the promised goodness a bodycounter can provide. Though it is low on the skin, exploits, and blood, the film skillfully makes up for this by showering us a decent lead actress that knew how to portray the troubles and hardships any normal person will live through (over and over again) as well as those that anyone of us will never expect (Again, masked maniac killing all of your friends while your screams for help are drowned by the rest of L.A.), somehow managing to carry the entire film with just her presence.

While obviously not a total winner for just any horror junkie, Entrance is a nice deviation to the similarly routine build-up of a classic slasher, a well-deserved lookie-look for any true hack-a-thon fans out there who just want to stray off the straight path at least a little bit.

1 female stabbed to death with a scissor
1 male found murdered
1 male found hacked on the head with an axe
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male and 1 female found skewered with a rod
Total: 6

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Puppy Love Snarling: He Loves Me...He Loves Me Not (2002)

He Loves Me...He Loves me Not (À La Folie... Pas Du Tout) (France, 2002)
Rating: ****
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan, Isabelle Carré

And lo and behold, the one film that puts me off dating for another ten years.

Young and perky Angelique is an art student whimsically in love with an older gentleman named Loic, who is the local cardiologist. We watch her plays a daring affair with the married man by sneaking in presents, love notes, pink roses and, once, share a small date with him during a fancy party, much to the disapproval of her concerned friends. But just as it seems their romance couldn't get any more bittersweet, Loi'c pregnant wife had a miscarriage and Loic apparently abandons Angelique all the way. Depressed by his "betrayal", Angelique goes through many desperate means to have him back, destroying her own life, as well as the lives of other people along the way.

To call À La Folie a horror film is only half right since it was more of a dark deconstruction of your typical love story, before becoming a gritty and unsettling reconstruction into thriller territory.
The face of evil? Hardly.
Until halfway into the film...
Right at the beginning of the film, we are lead to think that this is going to be your sweet puppy-love type of plot and it seems steadying on that direction until upsetting and disturbing elements such as affairs, miscarriages, and stalkings start to make its way into the narrative. By then, À La Folie goes intense, unpredictable, and incredibly scary as the once sweet Angelique devolves into a desperate and dangerous character, lost in her own delusions that her love will come back for her.

A lot of this effectiveness goes on the talents involved since À La Folie is dry on the bloodletting department, with all but one scene of violence implied; Audrey Tautou plays one of the leads, Angelique, with much passion and quirkiness that seems as adorable as her other well-known role, Amelie from the 2001 French film of the same name. However, unlike her character there, Tautou had more range to work in this production as, again, we see her character degrade into a manic state, which works quite a lot on bringing out the creepiness of her situation seeing how pretty, talented, and seemingly sane this character was. Samuel Le Bihan plays the good doctor Loi'c who, much like Tautou, was given a wide array of characterization from a simple line-less plot piece, to a man soon to be haunted by paranoia and desperation to figure out who is destroying his life.

These two were never really seen interacting with one another in the same shot, which plays a devilish importance to the movie's twist halfway into the run and perhaps another good reason why the film worked so well thanks to these casts; without spoiling much (Unless you already saw it yourself. Or the trailer. Or read about it somewhere), the film decided to do an approach interconnecting Angelique's and Loic's perspective which drastically change the pitch of the film until the end. It also made repeated viewings of this film quite a treat since, once you knew what is really going on, À La Folie works so much better as the thriller it was meant to be, playing with winks and nods to the audience for the upcoming horrors abound.

Things ultimately wrap up rather calmly, with both characters somehow ending up recovering from something but the real horror continues and lingers on even once the end credits roll, especially when another chilling reveal was made for us to ponder about. With all of this, little violence is to be expected, which is definitely a breath of fresh air from all the recent violent French horror, but still make way for the same messed-up psychological torture and scares the European country is sort of  known for. Heartily recommended!

1 baby implied miscarried
1 female implied dead from a heart seizure
Total: 2

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Death Curse Tape (No. Not Sadako's) :Gurozuka (2005)

Gurozuka (Japan, 2005)
Rating: **
starring: Nozomi Andô, Yukari Fukui, Yûko Itô

Japan never seem to like their horror flicks simple as they usually put some depth and/or weirdness to them, one way or another. For many, this is good as it does give us something different for our genre films as well as show us a thing or two about another country's culture and what is their perception of horror.

With this kind of mindset, I find myself both fearful and giddy about Japanese slashers as you wouldn't know what kind of crazy twist this country would do to a rather formulaic horror sub-genre. They already impressed me with the uber-violent yet artsy Evil Dead Trap (1988), showed me they can do it simple with Black Rat (2007), and disturbed me with unrelentless gore with Lesson of the Evil (2012); so what can I expect from Gurozuka?

A whole lot of bitching and barely any killing. Oh, boy...

After finding an apparent snuff film wherein a girl in a mask hacks another to death, two college girls, Ai and Maki, decided to investigate this as a project for their campus' newly revived film club. Tricking three girls from the drama club into joining them, and accompanied by Maki's teacher older sister Yoko (who in turn brought along her possible lesbian lover, Takako, who is no older than the rest of the girls), the group had a simple start despite a few arguments. That was until the following morning came.

Upon waking up, the group discovers their food and phones missing, and everybody was quick to point fingers. However, it seems the commodities are not the only things that will go missing that day as one by one, the girls start turning up dead as someone in a haunting Noh mask and wielding a bloody billhook prowls the woods.

A big part of me really wants to love Gurozuka; the plot itself sounds like an Asian take on a whodunit in the vein of 70s Italian gialli, evident with its heavy reliance on mystery and red herrings, and its lack of exploitative elements and onscreen killings. It also has a workable tone, establishing a sullen and uneasy atmosphere quite early into the group's predicament as it has its shares of double crosses, scandals, personal agendas, things that inevitably say that the bunch is not quite trustworthy among themselves and that anybody can later be behind that creepy theater mask, killing people.

It looks posh for a low budget film and it even packs a few creepy imagery that are in touch with the surrealist nature of Japanese horror. Regrettably though, Gurozuka is still relatively hackneyed as both a slasher and a Japanese horror flick, a part of the blame falling on the absence of rootable characters since nearly everybody here takes their time seriously and most likely having a bone to pick with someone within the group. This is nothing new for murder mysteries or even a few slashers, but it's overplayed and got tiring really fast, eventually making me wonder if a chase scene or two would have made me care for these doomed gals if it ever come to that.

Things further went downhill when, instead of finding ways to defend themselves and be more rootable heroines, the "horror-filled" second act was no more than the girls panicking and hiding from the killer, scarcely fighting off, singing songs to calm themselves (no really) and somehow finding the time to express their deep ingratitude to one another even when they're dying. It all leads to a predictable payoff with a boring little number about someone being in-love on a homicidal (and cannibalistic) level, topped with an open ending that hints a bit of the supernatural. It's convoluted, yes, but still a rather lifeless way to end what could have been a decent b-flick.

Needless to say, Gurozuka are among the many slasher titles out there that had potential. It already have some good elements thrown in such as a fair-looking killer and, again, a workable mystery concerning whether the snuff was real or not, or whether it is cursed. Somewhere in the line, these trappings get trapped within the overambitious direction that burnt this film overcooked, resulting to a somewhat okay but agreeably underwhelming film.

If you are an Asian horror junkie, I guess this film is worth a try. Slasher fans can too if they can keep their expectations low. Really low.

1 female hacked to death with a billhook
1 female attacked with a billhook, later found burnt
1 female found with throat cut
1 female found dead with head wound
1 female dies from hack wounds
1 female stabbed on the chest with a nail
Total: 6

Monday, February 1, 2016

I Spy with my Little Cam: Alone With Her (2006)

Alone With Her (2006)
rating: ***1/2
Starring: Ana Claudia Talancón, Colin Hanks

If there's one thing that slasher films taught me is that humans can be the ultimate monster; murderers, rapists, psychopaths, almost everything we fear in life are brought upon criminals one way to another, may it be through something as big as wars...

Or something small like an individual stalking.

Doug is a man that simply exists; he has no job, no family, no friends, and the only thing that keeps him going is his terrifying agenda of stalking women. His current target is a girl named Amy, whose room he bugged with hidden cameras in hopes of learning more about his new prey.

We all see this through the perspective of Doug's multiple cameras and the realism of the situation is among the many pros Alone with Her have; the further the story goes, the more we see Doug invade Amy's life with a nice guy facade, building to more uneasy and dire situations such as Doug's attempts to ruin Amy's work and peer life just so she can be more vulnerable to his advances (which includes getting her fired and murdering a few friends) as well as skincrawling "normal" moments such as Doug's courting that Amy nearly feel for. We get to see most of these scenes in detail, so the film can get a bit slow which, seeing how effective these scenarios go with the tone and direction the plot was heading to, exactly the kind of slow burner pace welcome for this creepy chiller.

Since a lot of the factors here were more on creeping the audience with realism, another element that made Alone with Her worthwhile are the talents involved; Colin Hanks took the role of Doug and, I have to say his portrayal of the pathetic yet dangerous creeper was spot-on, both in action and looks. He's vividly unnerving, which is in complete contrast of the friendly and "normal" portrayal of  Ana Claudia Talancón's character Amy, in turn making the stalkings all the more triggering and had us worrying for Amy's fate in the end. There's no superhuman monster, no dumb teenagers doing dumb things, just two kinds of people that you can encounter everyday, being themselves in both good or bad way and it's all what the movie needs.

Judging from all of this, it's safe to say that Alone with Her is not a slasher in any way, but I believe this is just as interesting of a watch as any bodycounters out there. With most of the recent slashers hacking up unsympathetic and bland casts just for the sake of kill count and gore, it is kinda sad that we can't feel and be afraid for them just as we did back then; I guess this is where Alone with Her comes in, reminding us that human monsters can still be scary in the movies, especially if it can easily reflect what can happen or is happening in real life.

If you find voyeuristic tendencies scary or just want something different for your found footage thrillers, Alone with Her is a good title to start with. Kinda makes you wonder if someone is watching you right now...

1 female falls down a flight of stairs, killed
1 female strangled
Total: 2