Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Friday Knock-Off Deserving of Drowning: Memorial Day (1999)

Memorial Day (1999) (AKA "Memorial Day Killer")
Rating: *
Starring: Marcos Gabriel, Therese Fretwell, Andrew Williams

As of writing this, I was planning to have this review posted exactly at May 30st, the 2016 American Memorial Day, but seeing what exactly this movie had to offer, why bother?

Even funnier is the fact that I actually have this movie in my files since June 2015 but I've completely forgotten about it until just recently when I was cleaning up my hard drive for data space. Sad to say, it was then that I decided to try and survive this movie for the experience and a review before I throw it away, knowing how bad its reputation is among most slasher fans.

The plot is as bastardized standard as it could get; a group of teens go to a lake for Memorial Day weekend, the same lake wherein the brother of our obvious survivor, Rachel, drowned three years ago. Rachel blames herself for this accident but decided it's about time she face her demons and join her friends for some fun. Of course, someone in a plain papermache mask just happens to be there with plans on killing them, leading to an end reveal that gets considerably confusing for a cheapie like this. Perhaps it was desperation to make something out of the paint-by-number story?

If it was, I wouldn't be so surprised; Memorial Day is hardly anything. It's hardly horrifying. Hardly scary. Hardly fun. The characters and their portrayal are a joke, the kills only have one or two moments of impressiveness (but even those moments have their own questionable qualities), and the whole movie just looks too cheap despite the valid attempts to make it look artsy and/or gritty. There is no hiding that this movie was done on a budget and in dire need of an acting and writing course, but seeing the effort the production put into the killings and (perhaps too much) the twist(s), I will say they were at least trying something. It's just too bad that they did the whole film so blandly that these little slices of creativity are understandably overlooked and the final product considerably barely favorable to its target audience.

So yes, Memorial Day is, just as the next horror junkie would probably say, much nothing to work up about. Easily replaceable by other better backwoods slasher titles (especially Friday the 13th (1980)) and best to be pushed back as an obscure memory.

1 male murdered offcamera
1 female knifed on the face
1 male drowned
1 male impaled by a thrown pipe
1 male shot
1 male bludgeoned with a bat
1 female forced to crawl against razors
1 female shot
1 male had nails pushed into his ears, knifed
1 male shot dead
Total: 10

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Our Slasher Valedictorian: Most Likely to Die (2016)

Most Likely to Die (2016)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Chad Addison, Jake Busey, Tess Christiansen

Somewhere in an isolated vacation house, a group of then-classmates are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their high school graduation, recalling hockey games, academics, and pranks. However, one particular prank appears to have marked them for death as its victim, a bullied teenager, was expelled from their school after attempting to get even with his tormentors. None of them ever heard of or seen him again, but his vengeance seems to have found a way on getting back at these friends as a masked killer in a toga and a razor sharp graduate cap is out to get them one by one.

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi of 2009's Dread and the 2014 sleeper creeper Last Shift, Most Likely To Die is a one note horror movie that virtually resembles nothing more than a late 80s/early 90s slashers which is, in my opinion, a passable effort.

Frankly, I like it. I want to love it but I can tell it hadn't done enough to actually earn said love. Taking some cues from Slaughter High and a bit of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, Most Likely to Die has a relatively familiar ring to many other bullied-gets-even slasher flicks of the most formulaic level, sticking to rules such as the entire place must take place at a zero reception zone, former bullies and/or pranksters have an equal chance of being the killer, people trysting are deserving of death, and guns couldn't hit the killer even if they are at least 5 feet away.

The movie, with its obvious simplicity and familiarity to the sub-genre's tropes, can be best described as a sort of tribute to the golden age of slashers, with a little post modern touch and a few interesting notes that stand out, such as the killer's awesome get-up, a unique murder weapon, and a small yet increasingly gory kill count that's bound to satisfy a horror hound's bloodlust.

I will admit, however, that more could have been done here; while one or two moments were fairly thrilling, the entirety of the film  felt grounded, as in there are a lot of scenes wherein characters simply stand or sit around, discussing their next move or contemplating about the killer's identity. This should not be a problem if these scenes were better acted and written, or if the film tried keeping the momentum increasingly hectic the further the plot goes, but with most of the action occurring around the house and steadily leading to a last act that takes the easy route of just having the killer monologue while waving a gun at what's left of the group, it's easy to notice that the movie was working on a budget and one would wonder how better it could have been with the proper funding.

And speaking of a monologuing killer, the reveal actually ruined the experience further enough to knock a positive rating or two. Without spoiling much, their motive was pretty uninspired and unnecessarily complicated, and though I can see where they are coming from, I believe there (as mentioned prior) could have been a better way to deliver this bad news to what remains of the cast. Instead, it took a while, looks pretty desperate and the killer gets bumped off too easily.

However, we did get this last minute reveal that both answers some plot holes and opens more questions as well as a possible sequel, so I guess here's hoping DeBlasi and co. can do next time? Maybe. Maybe not. Hopefully, should it ever happen, they can do something much fresher for our classic slasher plot than just dressing up their killer in a cool suit and giving him a rad murder weapon. For now Most Likely to Die gets my approval as a fair throwback slasher and recommendable for those looking for a horror quickie with nice kills and a passable entertainment value.

Not exactly the best , but fair nonetheless.

1 female had her throat slashed offcamera
1 male strangled with a rope
1 female stabbed on the head with a razor graduate cap, throat slashed
1 female had her throat sliced with a thrown razor graduate cap, head torn off
1 female shot on the chest
1 male gets a hockey stick shoved down his throat, neck sliced open with a box cutter
1 male shot dead
Total: 7

PTSD - Post Traumatic Slasher Disorder: Last Girl Standing (2015)

Last Girl Standing (2015)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos

Ever wonder what happens after the horror movie? After the killer is dead and the final girl walks away with all of her friends slaughtered? 

Some slasher titles answered this via sequels such as the likes of Hatchet, Wes Craven's Scream, My Super Psycho Sweet 16 and even Friday the 13th at some point. More or less, the conclusion they all drew have their survivors either broken or facing the monster all over again, rarely meeting a happy ending.

Last Girl Standing tries to look into this scenario with a tad more drama and psychological angle, telling the aftermath of a backwoods massacre perpetrated by a masked psycho simply known as The Hunter. It's only survivor, Camryn (Akasha Villalobos), who was also the one who ended The Hunter's life and reign of terror, now live a existence tainted with survivor's guilt and post-trauma, inevitably at the cost of her social life. 

When a new employee named Nick (Brian Villalobos) arrives in her workplace one day and shows an obvious liking to her, Camryn finds herself unable to comprehend what she should feel about this apart from fear and anxiousness. Worsening this are the sudden visions of The Hunter seemingly back from the grave and out to get her, but Nick’s posse of friends, especially the cheerful Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger), assures her that it's all in her head and The Hunter is indeed dead. Insert a loving homage of Friday the 13th Part VI's opening here and a small party there, and Camryn is cured of her trauma.

And then the screaming and dying starts.

Think Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 if only Laurie was less atrocious, Last Girl Standing is only a slasher flick at the beginning and at very last act, taking a good run in the middle more as a character piece focusing on post-trauma and its effects in a near realistic way. We see our lead go through a barrage of emotions from fear and anger, to hopeful and apologetic, as she tries her best to fight off the scars left by the worst night of her life, leading us to paths that we could only guess where it will all end up to. This works as a hefty advantage for the movie as Akasha superbly plays her role with much empathy and realism that, despite how odd it is that her world seems pretty open to the fact that the killer she fears looked like he came straight out of an 80s B-grade slasher, we can feel and understand her plight.

Sadly, the further we near to the finale of this movie, the more predictable the plot becomes and most of the acts involved can be regarded as momentary red herrings that did little to mask what was coming. Seeing we begin all of this so coldly and our lead cast spends more time sulking, some scenes around the third act almost seem too "rushed" and too happy that you can't help but feel there's something else up. And, true enough, Last Girl Standing remembers that it is still a slasher and victims are a must, picking off and attacking the conveniently one-dimensional posse full of slasher victim archetypes (including a not so surprising new final girl) and even going full circle on us by ending with what appears to be another hopeless situation. This may not stick well for those expecting an overall happier ending or an uber realistic plot development, but for those who just wanted something a little different without straying too much from what they came to watch, the movie's troubling last act might be worth the wait. (As it was for me)

Looking at it, Last Girl Standing is a decent production; with beautiful camera work, steady potboiler tone, effective gore, competently edited story and interesting main casts, the film's slow burn and rare occurrences of cheese are mighty forgivable with the aforementioned mountainous pros and it is clear that its crew earned whatever merit can be offered. The only real matter here (aside from the predictable last act mentioned prior) is whether it will cater to everybody's taste.

Those egging to see a by-the-book hack fest from this movie might be disappointed, but if they can open up a bit, willing to try something different, or just be patient enough to sit through a boiler pace simply to see a bloody massacre unfold, I say give Last Girl Standing a run and see a gritty possible reality our slasher survivors might go through.

1 male ran through with a machete
1 female found murdered
1 male found disemboweled
1 female hacked on the chest by a spiked booby trap
1 male impaled on a spiked booby trap
1 male hacked to death with a hatchet
1 female killed with a hatchet
1 female hacked with a hatchet
1 male had his throat cut with a bread knife
1 male carved to death with a bread knife
1 male hacked with a hatchet
1 female shot dead
Total: 12

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Night Jackie Came Home: Everto (2015)

Everto (2016)
Rating: **
Starring:  Alessandra Spoletini, Allison Schuette, Jonathan Schneider

(First, a special thanks to the good folks over Dream State Films for providing me this movie to cover. It's my first screener and I do hope this write up will do justice! You can show them your support by visiting their youtube page, or by taking a gander at their Everto Facebook page!

Also, to you Mr Vegan Voorhees! For recommending my little black stain in the web! Keep the slasher spirit alive, buddy!)

What could have been another friendly gathering after class turns deadly and tragic for one Skylar Winters when she finds her friend murdered and the man responsible escaping capture. Distraught over this, she found out that someone named Jack Straw, who disappeared from town many years ago, might be the perpetrator and decided to look further into this figure. However, unknown to Skylar, Jack isn't over with his killing spree as those unfortunate enough to get in his way will discover something inhuman about him.

Clocking around near two hours and mixing a bit of mystery and bloodshed, Everto can be best described as a low budget and lengthy John Carpenter's Halloween clone with a focus on characters and their amateur snooping, as well as a few neat ideas thrown in centering on its killer, Jack Straw.

The killer's lore is noticeably quite similar to Halloween's Michael Myers in the manner of the killer's body language and the fact that he simply came out of nowhere just to begin killing a few folks, though a hint of originality had Jack boasting some supernatural traits that were given little to no explanation up until the very end where we get a decent twist reveal and last minute exposition.

On that note, the premise is indeed a good one given the fact that we were given some time to know the characters and dwell into the true nature of the killer after the first murder, a sort of throwback to the late 90s murder mystery inclined teen thriller/slashers. Sadly, Everto still suffers with a few recognizable flaws, mostly on how it was executed.

As mentioned prior, the film runs nearly two hours, which is odd for a slasher movie but not unheard of with titles like Happy Birthday to Me (1981), the Nightmare on Elm Street spin-off New Nightmare and the 90s Bruce Willis starring erotic slasher mystery Color of Night also having a prolonged running time. Most of these aforementioned titles work because their stories were paced rather neatly and let any means of development run their course throughout the movie. Everto, unfortunately, nearly took a 30 minutes before the first murder occurs, halting and then spending another half hour in attempt to develop its casts and some plot points before the story finally got rolling again.

This is fair but I do believe the film can still be edited short by lessening some of the banters and fillers, wherein a single scene can sometimes ground what kind of situation and/or emotion is being played a lot better than a hundred. This can be best applied at the latter act of the movie in which, while many slashers usually get the bodycounting piling up in the last 30 to 20 minutes before the ending credits, Everto decided to take the time and let the kill count rise for a hour. It is possible that the length was for the sake of building suspense as well as have many other characters involved as possible, but it might make some of these scenes look like it's going on for a while and might burn out whatever kind of tension it was building to. Patient and open viewers might tolerate and understand the length but for those who are looking for a standard kill-a-thon, just a heads up.

Apart from this, another issue I have with the movie would be the acting; now I know slasher flicks were never known for the talents involved as these thespians are more likely to meet the bladed end of a machete around five minutes after they were introduced, but with the kind of story Everto was doing, I believe better deliveries were needed to feel for the casts, which in turn would have made the development and supposed tragic losses more workable. The only time wooden acting can be serviceable in a slasher film (at least in my thoughts) is when the movie had something else to offer, such as superb killings or eye candy visuals, a few things Everto limits either for the sake of drama and/or due to the budget restraints.

I may also point out the amateur make-up and special effects as among the other concerns I have with the movie but I will hold out on these seeing that this is the director's first feature film and, let's face it, there are hardly a lot of folks getting it right on their first try. Scores okay in creeping up a tone and some of the camera work did bring out the imposing side of the killer despite his rather simple get-up, so I'm sure the crew can still do good with the proper budget. This being said, I still wanted to enjoy Everto; the film has ideas that would have made a good, if not great slasher flick, it is just that  I feel like the crew may need some more time sharpening their skills and make something worthy of being a cult indie favorite. 

With this, I'll give Everto an A+ for effort and my approval for a viewing! If you are into some character development and a fair mystery, I say give it a try!

1 female knifed to death
1 female mentioned murdered
1 female killed, method unknown
1 male hacked with a meathook
1 male gets a throat cut
1 female strangled
1 male killed, method unknown
Total: 7

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Gust of Insanity: The Wind (1986)

The Wind (1986) (AKA Edge of Terror)
Rating: ***
Starring: Meg Foster, Wings Hauser, David McCallum

From Nico Mastorakis, the Greek director known for the 1986 action/slasher hybrid The Zero Boys and the 1976 mean-spirited exploitation Island of Death,  comes this odd direct-to-video piece about a man, a woman, and the most antagonizing winds in cinema that wasn't a tornado.

Sian Anderson (Meg Foster) is a writer who needed some peace and quiet to work on a new book, moving from her posh Los Angeles pad to visit a strangely deserted Greek town known as Monemvassia. There, she settled in a cliff-side house and was warned by the landlord that the winds at night can get ridiculously strong, so he highly advised her to stay indoors by then. She did exactly that, but not before encountering a strange handyman named Phil (Wings Hauser) who claims to know a thing or two about death.

This turned out to be less of a bluff when Sian later spots him burying the freshly murdered landlord, thus a deadly game of cat-and-house begins. With the winds cutting her off from reaching help, can Sian survive the night against a sickle-wielding predator?

I guess I'll start with acknowledging the elephant in room as while The Wind is an intense slasher/thriller hybrid, it's not without some pretty distracting flaws. For starters, there isn't much of a story to work with since it's really no more than one long slasher climax wherein the lead girl gets chased all over the house. Right around 20 minutes into the movie, we get our first kill and the stalk-and-chase comes after like a steady stream, cultivating to set-pieces that I would go as far as compare with the trap scenes from the Home Alone movies, complete with Foster's character utilizing available household objects and spatting out one-liners in every chance she stops the killer from getting in.

As smug and plotless as I find this, I guess this kept the film straightforward and rarely boring but at a price that the tone can get uneven, leaving little to no clues where all of this was heading to. There is actually a slight nod that says all of this might just be in Sian's head as she did managed to write about the landlord's death with impossible accuracy, but we never got any clear conclusion regarding this. Anybody else who encountered the killer handyman ended up dead and the movie itself finishes with an underwhelming take with an openness so wide, one would just question themselves what exactly did they just saw.

However, despite the story making little sense in the end, The Wind is still a decent thriller with a minimal yet workable bodycount and a lot of fair stalking and small-scale siege scenes. The script, as I mentioned, can get clunky, doubling in corniness with the performances of our two opposing characters. Thankfully, if it hits right, it's a fun ham-ride that does well with a side of buttered popcorn and some sodas.

I also came to love the scenic quality of the movie and too the decent cinematography that goes well with it. Perhaps if it had a more thought-out plot, it could have been a better flick, but I will give The Wind a pass for trying to break some of the home invasion/women-in-peril slasher tropes, even if the end product mostly resembles one. Let this wind guide you to and through a strange time if you get a chance to catch it!

1 male brained with a fire poker
1 female hacked on the back with a sickle
1 male hacked through with a sickle
1 male falls off a cliff
Total: 4

It's More Violent. And Shittier: Violent Shit The Movie (2016)

Violent Shit the Movie (2016)
Rating: 1/2
Starring:  Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Antonio Zequila, Lilli Carati

Well, shit. This just had to happen, right?

The original Violent Shit was released in the very late of 80s Germany, directed by underground gore film aficionado Andreas Schnaas, which tells the tale of a random madman simply going about hacking and dismembering victims left and right. And that was it.

What the original lacked in story, it makes up with copious amount of gore to the point that it may have reinvigorated the German underground shock genre, as well as landing Schnaas in a position as an underground cult favorite wherein he continues to create gore films, among my personal favorites being Anthropophagus 2000 and Nikos The Impaler.

Three sequels later, Violent Shit returns under a new director and a new dwelling; bye-bye Germany, hello Italy!

Now, unlike the original, Violent Shit the Movie painfully yet failing in any means imaginable tries to have a plot; apparently the main killer from most of the Violent Shit entries, Karl the Butcher, disappeared some time ago and was never caught. When a string of similar murders start popping up in modern day Rome, however, a pair of detectives, German investigator Hans Ebert and Italian Aristide D'Amato, were positive that the culprit is none other than Karl himself. Though this claim was met with skepticism among their colleagues, the duo head on and began looking into this possibility.

All the while, we soon find out that a strange professor had acquired Karl and been keeping him to be resurrected again and again to kill off people. Why? Coz reasons. Just, reasons. No explanation given. He probably just gets his rocks off from seeing gory mayhem and random killings, but if the film had provided any shred of reason for this bald shmuck to keep a supernaturally gifted killer and controlling him like a meat puppet, I apologize but I probably missed it from all of that useless and awkward dialogues.

With the movie starting off with a retelling of how Karl made his first kill as a child, I was looking forward to an updated and possibly more structured retelling of the original Violent Shit. Instead, this is some sort of sequel/midquel that takes place in a different stomping ground, which shouldn't be a problem if only the dang plot makes a whole lot of sense; in fact, the whole supposed murder mystery angle is really just one big red herring as all it was leading up to was just a barrage of gory deaths for the sake of gory deaths. No consistency. No reason. Just people being butchered by Karl the Butcher and just that. For its' worth, these were really great kills. A good dose of gore and special effects were used for the massacre and this is perhaps the movie's only highlight, but why are we forced to wait a good hour or so before a film called Violent Shit give us violent shit?

In fact, why is this a part of Violent Shit's franchise? Karl the Butcher is hardly here and whenever he does appear, he's some bald shmuck's minion? I barely have any respect for this killer but after seeing this dreck, not only is it gone, it's existentially absent in my world. As in I don't know any Karl the Butcher anymore.

Add in terrible acting, Italians (and a few Germans) awkwardly trying to speak English on a tone, near sluggish pace, barely any real action in its direction, and worst of all, the audacity for them to use Claudio Simonetti's awesome score from one of my guilty pleasure Dario Argento giallo Opera, this film is an insulting piece of shit that literally killed any interest for me to see any other Violent Shit movies. I don't really know or understand why this even exists, but I guess some folks just love this series enough to beg its creator to keep pushing forward. Not a bad thing, again, but perhaps Mr. Schnaas could have found someone more...competent?

Yeah, let's go with that.

I apologize for anybody who is forgiving or hardcore of a fan enough to like this, but it takes more than gory deaths to make me respect this. Violent Shit the Movie is just plain shit.

1 female hacked to death with a meat cleaver
1 female murdered, later seen being dismembered
1 female slashed to death with a razor
1 male had his throat crushed
1 female repeatedly cut with a knife
1 female slashed to death with a knife
1 male found with a stabbed throat
1 female found slaughtered
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male shot
1 female hacked on the back with a machete, spine torn out
1 female gutted with a machete
1 female had her throat crushed
1 male pinned to a tree with a machete, castrated
1 male ran through with a machete
1 male decapitated with a spear
1 female had her throat crushed
1 female hacked on the face with a knife
Total: 18

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wanna Play Cowboys?: Death Valley (1982)

Death Valley (1982)
Rating: ***
Starring: Paul Le Mat, Catherine Hicks, Stephen McHattie

At times, simplicity in a plot can go a long way if executed rather unconventionally.

From a glance, Death Valley (1982) doesn't sound like your typical slasher flick as it doesn't deal with busloads of teenagers driving to their doom. Instead we have Billy, a young boy from a divorced family, being sent off to a holiday with his mum Sally and her childhood bud-turned-boyfriend Mike, which the kid isn't too excited about as he would rather spend some time with his beloved dad.

Determined to give the boy a good time, Sally and Mike decided to drive through the near-barren Arizona desert to visit a Western themed novelty town, who Billy is a fan of. Amidst their trip, they stop at the titular Death Valley to take a break, wherein the boy stumbles upon a seemingly empty mobile home and picks up a peculiar looking frog necklace. Unknown to him, however, the necklace belongs to a serial killer who just recently murdered the van's occupants and, after being made aware of this little slip-up, is now determined on snuffing the life out of the tyke and too those who got in the way.

For a good slice of the run, Death Valley (1982) focuses on the dynamics between lil' Billy and the trying Mike as they awkwardly attempt to either trust the other or be trusted. Sometimes these building moments can get a bit cheesy and half-hearted, quite not sure if it is intentional or the acting was a just tad off, but it does call for some developments rarely tackled by other slasher flicks of its decade, showing both boys as flawed yet understandable in the simplest manner.

This transitions quite nicely to the slasher portions of the movie, pretty much starting early with Billy stumbling upon a murder site and going on close calls with one intense scene involving the killer spotting the bespectacled Billy alone inside one of the novelty town's attractions and begin shooting live rounds at his young target, who in turn not knowing it was for real. Things subdue once a while only for the ball to get rolling again no soon after with Mike and Sally going on a date and leaving little Billy alone at a motel with a hired sitter. And we all know how sitters end in a film like this.

What soon leads is a third act filled with fairly entertaining stalk-and-hunt sequences as the kid finds himself prowled upon by a loonie who spouts obscurities and loves to tap dance on rooftops. As silly as some of these scenes are, they are equally fun and tense as the killer has no problem showing just how unhinged he is, destroying anything and anyone to intimidate his targets and even packing a nice but slightly foreseeable twist regarding him.

Overall, as a slasher, Death Valley (1982) tries to play a different game by broadening its casts as people rather than just characters. Though this seems only applied to the main leads, it still works quite an advantage for the movie as not only we learned to feel for the leading family, but it also brought something new to the table, at least for its time when nearly all slasher victims are dumb horny teenagers. In turn, the film barely boasts a high bodycount and some of the kills were on the tame side, but if the final product is a steady flow from point A to point B, with bloody good stalkings and killings to boot, I'm okay with it! 

With all of this, I say Death Valley (1982) is a worthwhile watch for slasher fans and for willing horror junkies who wouldn't mind some cheesy family drama over their dead teenagers. Tame as it may be, it at least has character!

1 male gets a throat cut with a knife
1 male found with throat cut
1 female slaughtered offcamera with a knife
1 male hacked with a pickaxe
1 female gets her throat cut with a knife
1 male shot dead
1 male hit by a car, lands and impaled on an agave plant
Total: 7

When The Ripping Goes West: A Knife for The Ladies (1974)

A Knife for the Ladies (1974) (AKA "Jack the Ripper Goes West", "Silent Sentence", "A Knife in the Dark")
Rating: ***
Starring: Jack Elam, Ruth Roman, Jeff Cooper

It's1882 in a small southwestern town of Mescal and a knife-wielding killer is taking the lives of local prostitutes and no one, not even their local sheriff Marshal Colcord (Jack Elam), seems to know who the culprit is.

Understandably worried, the town official goes to the city and asks Ed Burns (Jeff Cooper), a young investigator, to take over the case, much to the immediate disagreement of Marshal. The two is in no friendly terms due to this, landing blows of criticisms and punches at one another, but when the slasher takes more victims and a man is wrongfully hanged for the crimes, it seems that the town is growing shorter in number and in patience, and the two lawmen have no choice but to team up and finish this reign of madness before its too late.

An early western genre-bender with a murder mystery and buddy cop taste, A Knife for the Ladies is a simplistic 70s cheese ride that dabbles enough elements from the genres it is mixing to result an okay and easily digestible plot, more or less a murder mystery set in the old west, tackling little cowboy cliches of bar brawls and gun fights (so little that I only counted one shoot-out and one fist fight), and focusing more on developing some of its characters and the build up to the identity of the killer.

However, it is still easy to see why A Knife for the Ladies is such an obscurity among the horror community, too, as it's also hardly violent and exploitative enough to satisfy one's craving for gore and sleaze. The horror elements are instead an easy bunch, pretty much standardized stalk-and-stabs that looks unremarkable and replaceable by other better proto-slasher hokums, and sign of sleaziness are reduced to one boob shot early in the movie. Still, this isn't to say the film failed to be entertaining for its worth and I am quite satisfied with the 30s/40s pulp fiction feel of the story as well as the talents involved.

Usual movie baddie Jack Elam took a developing role in here as the gruffy and uninterested sheriff Colcord who started out as a sloppy and temperament character, but later has a change for the better after drunkenly mistreating a son-figure and ending up having a fist fight with Burns.

On the opposite side of the coin is Jeff Cooper as Ed Burns, a detective with a deductive skills to rival. As much as I want to like this character, his development in the story was on a steady roll and he's just the smart and good looking contrast with Elam's character. There aren't much flaws to this character aside from clashing early with the town sheriff and he is relatively the same from the beginning to the end. Nevertheless, Cooper does a fair job sustaining the figure's presence, even if he wasn't that explored.

The writing for these two leads is one of the best elements of the movie, the other being the actual procedural itself that while may be boring for some, it is still a decent watch in a TV thriller sort of manner. And as any murder mysteries, we also have a set of red herrings such as the former deputy-turned-bar man, a surgeon, a barber-slash-mortician, and even Mescal's founder, an old woman who lost her son to the murderer. These characters have their run as possible suspects but with the way they were portrayed, it soon becomes a tad obvious who is and isn't knifing around the town's brothel. I will say, though, that some of them did lead to some interesting plot points on the film and they're played fairly for a bunch of standard casts.

I do wish we got more of these main and/or recurring characters involved with the horrors or at least have the climax more engaging than be a slight hybrid of Friday the 13th (1980) and Psycho (1960) endings, but nevertheless, even if the film couldn't do away more blood, gore or bodycount, the final product is far from terrible.

A Knife for The Ladies is pretty much one edited boobies away from being a TV movie with cheese, character drama and lite murders. Think Murder She Wrote with Jessica Fletcher replaced by a wall-eyed drunk sheriff and a 70s Doctor Who clone in the old American west. It is not a perfect viewing experience, but it is bearable to say the least, thus only recommendable to very open or patient genre fans.

1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female stabbed, later found with a throat cut
1 male found hanged
1 male shot dead
1 male shot dead
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 female found with a throat cut
1 male knifed on the chest
1 female shot
1 male knifed on the chest
Total: 10

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Friday The 13th At Elm Street: Freddy VS Jason (2003)

Freddy vs Jason (2003)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Kelly Rowland

My children... from the very beginning, it was the children who gave me my power. The Springwood Slasher, that's what they called me. My reign of terror was legendary. Dozens of children would fall by my blades. Then the parents of Springwood came for me, taking justice into their own hands. When I was alive, I might have been a little naughty, but after they killed me, I became something much, much worse. The stuff nightmares are made of. The children still feared me, and their fear gave me the power to invade their dreams, and that's when the fun REALLY began. Until they figured out a way to forget about me. To erase me completely. Being dead wasn't a problem, but being forgotten, now that's a BITCH. I can't come back if nobody remembers me. I can't come back if nobody's afraid. I had to search the bowels of Hell, but I found someone, someone who'll make 'em remember. He may get the blood, but I'll get the glory, and that fear is my ticket home...

It's been years since Freddy Krueger ultimately bit the dust in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and he isn't loving it. Stuck in Hell and desperate to reclaim his glory as a feared and unstoppable otherwordly madman, he somehow found his way into another slasher's personal hell, wherein a masked juggernaut methodically and repeatedly murders those he deems worthy of punishment.

Said juggernaut is Jason Voorhees, a silent hulk of pure hate and undying vengeance, dragged to into his own eternal forest in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Thinking Jason is the perfect pawn for his little plan of spreading fear and confusion in Elm Street, Freddy manipulates the giant's soft spot for mum and orders him to visit the town and slaughter a few teens. It was all going according to plan as the youths dwindle down and the adults grow paranoid of the possibility that Krueger is returning, but it all went too far when Jason crashes a rave and massacres anybody he can grab.

Realizing that he needs to stop Jason before the big guy kills off all of his kids, Freddy decides to finish off Jason but only to find out that they might be too evenly matched and the battle between these two horror icons may not be that easy to win.

All the while, Lori, an Elm street teen, finds herself and her friends caught in between the two madmen's clashing. When it appears that they are the only people with some idea of what's going on, they settle with Jason being the lesser evil and must aid him to keep Freddy at bay. When secrets are revealed and more lives are taken, the fight between these monsters may become more personal for Lori.

Ah, Christ. Where do I begin?

I was 13 when Freddy vs Jason came out and at first, I was unmindful of it until my dad pointed out that Freddy was his childhood movie monster and I then realize that Jason was the "boogeyman" I saw on my old TV one time when I was just five. (or so) It seems that these two horror icons were, at some point, a part of my family's pasts and it kinda made me cherish these baddies even more as I grow older and slightly mature in recent years, for not only giving me something to bond with my folks, but also for reinvigorating my love for horror movies and making me a bit aware of the existence of slasher flicks. (I only became a full slasher fan after I read my first HorrorHound magazine while transitioning to college. The issue that listed their top 20 underrated slashers.)

So, personally, this is one of the many movies that withstood my test of time thanks to the point that it's really just an easy-to-remember slash-a-thon. Freddy vs Jason is too much of a popcorn movie to be forgettable for its outrageous set-up, cheesy compose, over-the-top violence and a few shred of dark moments to keep everyone interested and the tone grim when needed.

One thing I really came to like about this movie, however, is that it managed to bring out the best of the two franchises as we are treated with some pretty decent nightmare sequences that actually felt terrifying despite their occasionally cartoonish and often surreal takes, and too loads of gore and humanly impossible murders courtesy of the man behind the mask. Interestingly, it seems that the two franchises have to give up something to make way for the other in turn, such as Freddy's killcount (disappointingly just one, not the counting flashbacks) and that the plot seems to focus more on Mr. Krueger while Jason is just there to cut up some teens (and the occasional adults) and be the more sympathetic monster among the two.

Curiously, Jason here's also given more of a personality than any of the earlier Friday titles; we actually get to see him react at the presence of his "mother", one moment silently following her orders, then seen standing seemingly ashamed that he disapproved his mum. Then we see him grasping his machete in rage as he realizes that Freddy duped him and, hell, we even find out that despite the many times he ventured through lakes and even the friggin ocean (See Jason Takes Manhattan), Jason is actually afraid of the water and was nearly defeated thanks to this fact.

Fan favorite Jason stuntman and actor Kane Hodder didn't wore the mask for this one, much to many fan's dismay, but I will risk saying as I think I like Ken Kirzinger's take the most out of the Friday movies. Yes, this version's felt and look more like a lumbering oaf than a brutish hulk but I believe Kirzinger's got the size right and the slow deadness to his portrayal just added the unpredictability to the monster's brawn and mayhem.

Freddy, in turn, is opportunistic, exploitative and slightly more terrifying here seeing that he is a calculative maniac. We get a good look of how much of a sicko he is as he takes great pride of his child murders, bullies Jason into a world where the big guy re-lives his terrible childhood, and actually molests one of his victims in a rather unsettling display. Robert Englund, thankfully, gave it all to this last and scariest take on the bastard son, successfully making me feel more for some of his victims and, of course, rooting for his grand defeat should it ever come.

The way I see it, this is New Lines trying to bring back Freddy's glory days as a nightmarish monster that meant to be feared (and, for all honesty I think they got it made here), while giving Jason, their newly adopted movie monster, an opportunity to try and connect with the audience as the more rootable villain despite the likely fact that he will have the equal chance of slaying the cast. In a way it works, as both slashers gave something for their fans to cheer upon and they eventually dish out all they could at one another.

And dish out they did; thankfully, the movie paces itself nicely enough to smooth through some of the more building moments, giving us a chaotic roller coaster of slasher murders and violently disturbing dreams until we finally get to all the punching, elbow drops, beatings, trapping, slicing, dismembering, eye-gouging, and even a decapitation as the two icons spared little time to give the other a fighting chance, or at least make sure that the other is covered head to toe in gore and blood.

In fact, even before the fights, Freddy vs Jason's other winning aspect had to be the gore. It is phenomenal may it be CG or practical, and it actually gets better with each dead teenager, though starting the movie with perhaps Jason's best kill (and the first murder he committed in Elm street) was just genius. However, I will admit that the ultra-violence might also be the film's own flaw as the good multitude of it had dumbed down the characters and the plot itself, leading to some laughable blurbs and head-scratching questions.

For example, if Freddy manipulated Jason to just simply "wake up" and kill, why not just pose as Mama Voorhees again and simply tell Jason to "go home" or "go back to sleep" instead of fighting him to the death? Freddy saw how much will Jason has to just come back to life, what's not to say he would have done the same when he is ordered to stop and rest again whole posing as his deranged mother? Then there's the rushed backstory as to why Lori's boyfriend was locked in a clinic and the plothole of Freddy killing an adult if he was only after kids. This said, it is safe to say the movie was made for the fans and maybe some decent horror aficionados out there, but it is definitely not for everybody, especially for those expecting more than just a dumb slasher.

As the casts are pretty forgettable if not for their death sequences, and Monica Keena's Lori seems too dazed to do anything Final Girl-worthy (Though her cleavage seems to get my attention. What? Don't tell me only Freddy and I noticed?), Freddy vs Jason really is Freddy versus Jason. Upstaging against the other by doing what they do best, may it be toying with their victims and spewing one-liners, or simply hacking and slashing in silence.

Still, production looks impressive (despite some hokey CG effects and a few goofs) and the energy of it all is simply enthusiastic, so I think all was never lost. I believe it is best to just view this with all our noggins switched off and just enjoy two gladiators of horror try to dismember the other, all for the sake of our cheesy entertainment and gruesome mayhem that had been on the works for two friggin decades. Will it hold up? Hell, it's Freddy vs effin' Jason! If your childhood self can stomach Tom and Jerry cartoons, then I don't see how two slasher legends cannot be of your cup of tea? (Unless you're not into blood and guts. If that is so...what the hell are you doing here?)

1 girl had her eyes gouged offcamera (flashback)
1 male burned to death (flashback)
1 female impaled to a tree with a machete (dream)
1 male seen with a missing eye (dream)
1 female seen with a throat cut (dream)
1 male repeatedly stabbed through with a machete, folded in half
1 male found beheaded
1 male slashed with a machete
1 male and 1 female skewered with a rusted pipe
1 male had his head twisted
1 male impaled by a thrown flaming machete
1 male slashed with a machete
1 male slashed with a machete
1 male slashed with a machete
1 male gutted with a machete
1 male slashed with a machete
1 female slashed with a machete
1 male seen with wrist slits (dream)
1 male burned, face sliced with a razor glove
1 male crushed by a metal door
1 male electrocuted via current
1 male sliced in half with a machete
1 female stabbed with a razor glove (dream/flashback)
1 male hits a shelf bracket, bled to death
1 female hit by a machete, crashes against a tree
Total: 26

(c) Google Images

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Let's All Remember...

The sacrifices and hardships a mother had to go through
just for the sake of doing it for their children.
It's a kind of love that even the most terrifying monsters either fear
or understand.

Happy Mother's Day from your friends here in StickyRed!