Monday, October 31, 2016


It's Midnight at the 31st
And blood will spill to quench your thirst
As axes and Scythes fall to dismember
For a Halloween night you will remember


Hell In A Maze: 31 (2016)

31 (2016)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Richard Brake, Jeff Daniel Phillips

After ruining a classic slasher franchise with Halloween II back at 2009 (and no, I will not include his 2007 Halloween remake. I happen to like that one), as well as further mucking up his horror prowess with an artsy-fartsy witch mumbo-jumbo called The Lords of Salem back at 2012, I honestly cared less about rock star-turned-horror director Rob Zombie until it was announced that he was working on another movie simply called 31 a few years ago. Intrigued yet skeptical for two obvious reasons, I decided to give him another shot and see this film once it comes out, keeping my expectations low while hoping I wouldn't be making a mistake worth gouging my eyes and tongue out. And holy effin hell, I am glad I did see it coz Mr. Zombie may finally have his mojo back! Greasy, vulgar, obscene and offensive mojo but a welcome mojo nonetheless!

Taking place in 1976 Halloween, "31" follows a group of rowdy and dirty carnies as they drive across US of Nowhere for another gig only to be cornered by a group of masked men later that night and have all but five of them murdered.

Further going down the shit hole, it turns out that the lucky ones died first when the surviving thespians are thrown into a hellish game of "31", where they have to survive twelve hours inside a dilapidated maze while being stalked by a group of maniacal and homicidal clowns known as the "Heads", all for the amusement and wagers of a trio of deranged individuals in powdered wigs.

So, to make a long story short, 31 is The Running Man (1987) (or $LA$HER$ (2001) for you hardcore slasher fans) only grittier, louder and gorier with it's strong use of hicksploitation and slasher movie elements around a pretty basic a horror survival plot. This being said, expect this movie to be low on the cranial matter and high on swear-heavy and degrading scripts, chunky body parts and blood flying everywhere, and technically a repetitive stalk-and-kill direction that has our five protagonists fending off a slasher killer or two which also has some interesting turns once in a while.

Obviously, not everyone's going to dive in and swim well with this no-brainer approach and some may even see this as a step down from his otherwise more memorable outings such as the ever infamous The Devil's Rejects. However, I like to see 31 as a throwback to Rob Zombie's wilder and chaotic direction style that debuted from his first feature flick House of 1000 Corpses  which, as most of Rob Zombie's works as well, has its occasions of blurring the lines between acceptable and disturbing by giving a livelier interpretation of its villains through the use of shock value and warped humor,  in contrast to the cliched portrayal of its teenage protagonists.

Here in 31, the direction takes a slight nod to the more modern Rob Zombie movies as while we are meant to root for the five kidnapped victims to escape unharmed, their bland and robust introduction mostly consisting innuendo-filled conversations of weed smoking and sex jokes made them the least approachable faces to grace our screens.This only lasted for the first third of the film before they are thinned down in number and forced to play a game of survival and savagery against a colorful set of villains, most (if not all) having a considerably stronger screen presence than the victims with their outlandish personality and gritty get-ups, as well as even sounding as human as the people they are going to kill. This approach allows the film to focus more on the gory action and shock entertainment, without a doubt cementing the movie as a title meant to be enjoyed with a billion braincells napping or dead. Again, not everyone's cup of spiked coffee, but it's not without it's fans and daring viewers willing to try out.

In terms of casts, we got the now familiar Sheri Moon Zombie playing (yet again) lead female Charly, who quickly discovers her inner bloodlust once the gore games begin, as well as Malcolm McDowell playing "Father Murder", one of the mysterious trio who enjoys tormenting the unwilling players psychologically and betting on the odds of their survival. Between these two, Sherri is okay-ish on her role but I can't get enough of McDowell's outrageous character and his optimism for the carnage unfolding. The cast making up the "players" in the game 31, mainly Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips,  Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Kevin Jackson, ranges from underused to complicated in terms of each of their character's portrayal and I guess I can say the same for the majority of the actors playing the murderous "Heads" save for two, one of which portrayed by Chilean little actor Pancho Moler, starting carnage with a whopper of a character called "Sick-Head", a face-painted, Spanish speaking little Nazi armed with a pair of deadly daggers. Despite his size, he's notoriously vulgar, intimidating and got the ball rolling quite well with a fair number of stalk-and-stab scenes.

The other "head" is the supposedly best of the bunch, a philosophic psychopath called "Doom-Head" who loves sex, murder and trivias. Rob seems to have an aim to make this character the next big thing as a slasher villain and actor Richard Brake delivers just that, with so much grime in his teeth and glee from all the murders he commits, all the while showing a near-pretentious prowess that may or may not provoke a thought or two, if not striking a nerve. He is the last "head" to show up in the main game (as well as the first "head" seen in the entire film) and I couldn't have it in any other way!

The film looks pretty darn good for a crowd funded production shot for only 20 days, with some splashy gore effects and a few interesting set-pieces, though the unnatural and clunky look of the premise may look cheap for some, but I like to see it as a nostalgic take on practical effects. In totality, 31 is no big masterpiece but it is a passable gory offering from one of horror's wildest musically-inclined directors who you can either love or hate. From my standing, I see a cult classic in the making with this movie and I recommend this for the gore hounds and slasher fans out there!

1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 female knifed to death
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 female killed with a knife
1 female found murdered
1 male hit on the head with a nailed table leg, repeatedly knifed and bashed with a bat
1 male dies from stab wounds
1 female eviscerated with a chainsaw
1 male land on a chainsaw, sliced in half
1 male decapitated with a chainsaw
1 male bashed on the head with a nailed bat
1 male hit on the gut with a nailed bat, bled to death
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female knifed on the chest (dream)
1 female gutted with a switchblade
1 male stabbed to death with switchblade
Total: 16

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Too Many Bodies, Too Little Substance: The Funhouse Massacre (2015)

The Funhouse Massacre (2015)
Rating: **
Starring: Robert Englund, Jere Burns, Scottie Thompson

Don't you just hate it when a movie's advertised as something and it's anything but that? Like how Danielle Harris' directorial debut "Among Friends" was at some point marketed as a slasher flick when it's really nothing more than a cheap and boring SAW clone without the bloodshed and more of on talking? Or how some of David DeCoteau's recent horror movies are advertised to star certain actors when in fact it's just their voice doing narrations? Welp, it seems The Funhouse Massacre may have joined this bandwagon as while marketed as a "tribute to 80s slashers", all I saw was mostly "death porn".

Five deranged madmen consisting of a dentist with a powerdrill, a cannibal chef, a taxidermist who likes to disembowel people, a mute overpowered wrestler and a cult leader, are freed one Halloween night by the cult leader's equally homicidal daughter who happens to like dressing up as a harlequin. The ghoulish gang then gate crash a local fair's funhouse utilizing their crimes as a gimmick, murdering and replacing the actors so the killers can pretty much just maim and mutilate whoever goes inside and get away with it since none would be the wiser to think it's all "real".

Soon to be caught in this fiasco is a group of teenagers who eventually discovers people are indeed dying, as well as a duo of local cops, one of which having some sort of connection with one of the killers. Arming themselves to the teeth, it's up to whoever will be left alive from these unlikely bunch to save the night and stop the madness before more lives are taken.

Now, I mentioned more than once before that I can be a sucker for slasher movies that feature more than one killer, especially if each villain has their own gimmick and/or personality. A wide variety of villains normally meant a wholesome collection of creative killings and/or possibly stronger and more intense scenes as they obviously outnumber and maybe even out-strengthen our protagonists, which is why I enjoy titles like Neon Maniacs (1986), $LA$HER$ (2001), the Wrong Turn series and The Hill Have Eyes remake series, just to name a few. So will this mean The Funhouse Massacre is an instant addition to my little cavalcade of interest? Almost, but not quite.

It's hard to explain and I am sure that some of you will not agree, but I personally believe Funhouse Massacre may have done the killings too much too soon that it lost much of the hype even before the real carnage starts. True, we have slasher and slasher-esque movies like The Collection (2012) and Ghost Ship (2002) starting with a colossal bodycount, but at least they slowed down a bit to actually try building some pacing for atmosphere and maybe even some plot and character development. The Funhouse Massacre just has to have 10 dead guys in a span of a single scene, a lot of which are just random people dying easy, senseless and repetitive deaths, something less commonly seen in a true slasher movie and more on a death porn flick, movies that are more or less a collection of death scenes than an actual story. (Though one scene did almost made the think it'll go down the familiar stalk-and-kill route but, sadly, that too ended quickly)

Not only that, but I also felt that we only get to see a few of the villains in real action as a good bunch of the killers kinda just stayed in one place and do their (mostly offcamera) murders there or just bark around orders. For a supposed 80s slasher tribute, having two out of the six killers introduced go out, chase and kill people like a real slasher villain should just felt underwhelming (especially since one of them is played by Clint Howard!) and kinda odd considering these guys end up with hundreds of dead bodies littered all over the place. (Overpowered much?) And with all of these deaths happening around, why was not there a single crowd panicking or complaining about the putrid dead body stench in the air until the climax where the killers made it really really clear that all of the murders are real? Is this movie saying we're that desensitized to violence that we can't tell what's real and not in front of our eyes? Maybe one or two deaths, yeah, but tens? Hundreds? Hell, I don't know how six mortal killers (or five since one of them survived a friggin shotgun to the head) piled up hundreds of dead folks in just a couple of hours but if said folks were braindead enough not to fully grasp the notion of a rotting human carcass next to them to begin with then I guess in Darwin's theory, these dead guys have their untimely demise coming.

So, paperthin concept, multiple plotholes and misleading marketing aside, is there anything I enjoyed out of this overkill of a movie still? Welp, surprisingly enough, yeah; it's not much, but the killing sprees were so overblown with dead bodies that it really does live up to its title as a Funhouse Massacre with a gore count and latex work to boot, and I can't help but just roll with it once in a while. With the movie's cheesy and partially comic tone, it also eventually puts a good use to the one note yet cheeky characterization of its cast (both heroes and villains) by having the last third of the movie involve our quirky gang of misfits fighting against the killers, some hitting it harder and funnier than the rest. It's just kinda disappointing that it took this long to have the supposed protagonist do something worthwhile but at least the plot got a little more workable by then and the movie passable despite it's many flaws.

So, yes, The Funhouse Massacre may fail as an intense and well-oiled scare flick, but as a popcorn movie that you can watch and enjoy without stressing out a brain cell or two, it might just work. While I still have some nitpicks with its advertisements as slasher movie, I can imagine worse gimmicks this movie's marketing could have done like, I dunno, have Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund pose for the film's poster and box cover in a manner that he might be the head villain or something when in reality, he's gets killed early in the movie by one of the maniacs. Yeah, this movie was decent enough not to do tha-

Wait, they did?


1 victim seen dismembered (flashback)
1 male drilled through the mouth, exits through head (flashback)
1 female seem dismembered (flashback)
1 male smashed against a ring post (flashback)
1 male had his neck snapped (flashback)
1 male had his jaw punched off flashback)
1 female set ablaze (flashback)
1 male garroted with a thin wire
1 male stabbed to death with a letter opener
1 male shot, beaten to death with a billy club
1 female seen murdered with her throat cut and her face stitched shut
1 male gets a powerdrill to the face
2 male missing, presumably killed
1 male pounded on the head, killed
1 male brained with a wrench
3 females seen killed with their faces sewn shut
1 male gets a throat cut
1 male had his neck snapped
4 males seen drilled through their heads
1 male powerdrilled through the face
1 male disembowelled
1 female gets her throat cut
1 victim seen being cannibalized
1 female pushed through a coat hook, impaled by the neck
3 females seen killed with their faces sewn shut
1 female gets a thrown dagger to her head
1 male smashed against a pavement
1 male had his head smashed with a sledgehammer
1 male had his head crushed through gate railings
1 female seen bloodied, dies from wounds
1 male found slaughtered
3 males found slaughtered
1 female heard being murdered
1 male gets a scalpel pushed through the ears
1 male had his neck snapped
1 male gets a microphone shoved down his throat
5 victims seen slaughtered
1 female slashed to death with a dagger
2 males beaten
1 male bearhugged to death
1 male headbutted, killed
1 male gets his throat cut
1 female murdered
1 male murdered
1 female murdered
1 male had his head ripped off
1 female seen seen
1 female decapitated with a dagger
1 male shot
1 female seen murdered
1 male shot dead
2 females seen dead
1 male seen dead
A number of victims seen dead
1 male shot on the head
1 male burnt against a grill, killed
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male had his back broken against the killer's knees
1 female presumably killed
1 driver presumably killed
Total: 75+

Monday, October 24, 2016

Too Spoopy: Scary Movie (1991)

Scary Movie (1991)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:John Hawkes, Suzanne Aldrich, Ev Lunning

Before the term becomes notoriously associated with a certain horror spoof franchise that I personally believe should have stopped as a trilogy, there was another slasher film satire called "Scary Movie" back at the early 90s, one that poked fun at the subgenre's conventions without the need of completely parodying it, though I'm not sure if that's any better.

Our masked slasher...or is it?
It all takes place in one Halloween night, the same night a mental patient was being transported to another clinic, only for his ride to crash and set him loose. News of this escape soon reach the authorities of a nearby town, as well as finding its way to the town's annual Halloween fair and into the ears of one Warren. 

Now, the thing about Warren is that (pardon my French) he's the biggest pussy around, so much so that it borderlines dementia and it seems everyone (and I mean everyone) loves to pick on him because of this. So when Warren tries to warn everybody about the escaped nutcase, it comes to no surprise that nobody believes him until, that is, something happens inside the fair's haunted funhouse and Warren finds himself trapped inside it, accompanied by someone masked and carrying a deadly scythe. Could it be the looney from the crashed looney bin? Or perhaps something much worse?

From my seating, Scary Movie (1991) can be best described as a potboiling teaser of sorts, playing with a number of imagery normally associated with slasher horror such as obscured figures picking up dropped rubber masks (and presumably putting it on), people reacting to mysterious noises before cutting away to another scene (a practice used in slashers to imply a death or a red herring), and even glimpses of what could be bodies being dragged inside houses. It is these familiar set-ups that most likely made a lot of slasher fans comfortably expect bonafide dead teenager mayhem from this movie, but with the kind of twists and direction made, these might as well be the very same tropes that puts off half of (if not most) viewers by the end of the film. 

Without spoiling much, Scary Movie (1991) decided to play a lot of curve balls in regards to these cliches, blurring the line of what's legit and not. We see bodies and masked figures, but not all of it is what it seems until the time our lead finally gets out of the haunt house and gets confronted by the police, when we were finally given a clear explanation of what happened in the entire night. Can't say I dislike the conclusion as I already seen other slasher flicks do something similar to it, but I cannot deny that I felt cheated and underwhelmed because of it.

Perhaps the issues I have with this film is that it's not really all that funny despite the dark comedy approach and it's dangerously close to being boring; we got some running gags and quirky scenarios, but the mean-spirited tone and lack of likable personalities made it hard to be invested in the story and/or root for any of the characters, thus I usually find myself waiting for the next possibly legit horror scene to pop up and hope it will be satisfying. (And more often than not, they are not.) Bloodletting is unsurprisingly minimal with the kind of direction the plot headed to, but I will say that they almost got it right with the tension, mainly at the last act that sort of resembles the funhouse scenes of Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse. This build up for intensity could have been the movie's saving grace if only the characterization of our supposed hero wasn't such a tedious chore to watch as he literally wuss out at the very slightest instance of something "horrible" happening and the few scenes he decided to brave up and defend someone are rewarded with laughter, psychosis, and more insults. If the movie is slowly breaking down our protagonist for the sake of the movie's twist, then the least they could so is actually make the descent thrilling to compensate for the horror half of the movie or, should they really want to stick with the comedy, actually find some material that's worth laughing at or at least make the cast slightly less annoying.

Now that I am older, I will say that the Wayan brother's first Scary Movie is a dumb, vulgar and cheap parody that tries to be the Airplane! of teen slasher flicks of its time, but at least it has the energy and guts to pull some punches. Scary Movie (1991) has barely the energy, barely made any punches, but at least it tries to have a solid story to follow as everything that happens in the movie has a reason for it, so I guess the real problem is the execution of its concept. With this, Scary Movie (1991) is either a misunderstood hidden gem or an underwhelming timewaster depending on how well you can take the joke and/or how far you can stay away from your slasher comfort zone. It personally did nothing for my end but should you wish to experience grueling 90 minutes of some wimp freaking out just cause he saw a masked guy during Halloween, then what the hell is wrong with you feel free to indulge in this.

1 male mangled in car crash
1 male shot with a shotgun
Total: 2

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Blood Art: The Dark Stranger (2015)

The Dark Stranger (2015)
Rating: ****
Starring: Katie Findlay, Stephen McHattie, Enrico Colantoni

Surely, many of us in the creative medium felt that uncomfortable and saddening feeling of uncertainty, questioning ourselves whether we're really cut out to do the things we do, may it be music, art, acting, or, heck, even writing. Many of us learn to overcome it and accept whatever flaws we have to move forward, while others give in to this feeling and end up wallowing in their own despair.

The Dark Stranger approaches this subject with an amalgamation of drama, dark fantasy and even a little bit of supernatural slasher, as we follow a young graphic artist named Leah Garrison going down a path of self-harm, isolation and depression, in guilt of her artist mother's breakdown and suicide some time ago. Her remaining family, a dotty father and a teenage rocker brother, tries their best to live a normal life past the incident and this includes agreeing with a local art associate to have the late Mrs. Garrison's paintings showcased for an art show.

This, however, sets into motion a series of unnatural occurrences, one of which the arrival of The Dark Stranger, a villain inspiring Leah to start a fantasy comic paralleling her life, but at the cost of further harming herself and the deterioration of her own psyche. The more she draws, the more the Stranger crosses into the real world, thus it's only a matter of time and will before the spirit gains power over Leah and have her for himself.

Lacking double digit killings or sexualized victims, The Dark Stranger hardly counts as a slasher if it wasn't for the titular villain, who is basically a more art-oriented take on A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger targeting and torturing artists into killing themselves so he can take their souls, the source of his powers. And while many may argue that emotional and psychological torture-induced suicide barely qualify as a slasher trope (and more of the infamous torture porn sub-genre's), the Stranger actually has the freedom to kill off others who got in the way of his plans, which meant the movie could have easily filled a good deal of its time racking up a bodycount.

Instead, The Dark Stranger tries to do a more developed story by pretty much focusing on the effects of depression on those who are suffering from it and to the people around them. This surprisingly works pretty well with the talents involved, as well as the kind of tone the movie sets itself to. A great bunch of the casts involved help make this approach workable, mainly actress Katie Findlay who plays our lead Leah, giving the role a rather approachable kind of cold shoulder, one that you can see is trying to get past her troubles, despite being forlorn and snarky. There's also TV actor Enrico Colantoni taking in the role of Leah's father with the kind of warmth and concern you would see from a struggling well-meaning single patriarch of two, which sort of reminds of the changed-of-heart Mr. Dennis Johnson from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.

And then, of course, we have  Stephen McHattie in a dual role of Randall Thoth, a mysterious art enthusiast, and The Stranger. In all honesty, I think there wasn't enough of McHattie here to fully ground the villain since the Stranger mostly appeared in his comic book form during the (simple yet expressively) animated segments and the majority of his live appearances were a few minute of scares and one murder. (And don't get me started on his role as Randall. Remember that random scene in Jeepers Creepers 2 where that one cheerleader suddenly gets the answer to what the Creeper is? Randall is basically that) Still, I think his role did fairly better than the rest of the cast I'm yet to mention, basically Mark O'Brien, Alex Ozerov and Jennifer Dale as Leah's love interest, brother and psychiatrist respectively. It's not like they were badly portrayed, just dipping a little on the laughably cliched end.

In regards to the theme of mental illness, the film's approach to this subject is somewhat subtle as it shows a closely realistic take of the condition compared to many other horror films out there, treating it as a phase that could either lead to something better (acceptance and forgiveness) or worse. (self-destruction) The presence of the supernatural wasn't even that obvious and could have been all under the protagonists's mental lapses until the last act, the one part of the movie that I see as its only real drawback; instead of further mixing the idea of the illness into the horror plot, The Dark Stranger more or less threw out all of the development regarding the character's depression and dives straight into pure horror movie territory. While I don't have a big gripe against this decision, they could have either done a Babadook-style ending where both psychological and horror themes were played with much thought and understanding, or (should they really want a purebred horror conclusion) they could have done a much grander approach like, I dunno, a more satisfying fight between Leah and The Stranger? Or at least have them animated to stay true to the movie's art theme?

Still, while the movie has these amateur moments and missed opportunities, what we have now could have been so much worse as, for all we know, the villain would have ended up being another wisecrack-a-minute slasher and our lead could have been another Laurie Strode from Rob Zombie's second Halloween movie. (Yeah, I made that comparison) The Dark Stranger is not going to quench a lot of bloodlust or choke you with a monumental kill count, it is an interesting watch especially for those with an artistic outlet (like yours truly!) and I do hope there will be more of The Stranger in the future, with more onscreen presence!

1 female cuts her neck with an inking pen
1 female had her neck broken, possible throat cut
1 male implied dead from suicide
1 male shot himself on the head
1 male decapitated with a sword (?)
Total: 5

Monday, October 10, 2016

Incidents On and Off an Accident: Fender Bender (2016)

Fender Bender (2016)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Cassidy Freeman, Makenzie Vega, Lora Martinez-Cunningham

Seventeen-year old Hilary is just having the worst day of her life: not only did she just find out her boyfriend is cheating on her, but she also gets into the titular fender bender with a random driver after he accidentally rear-ends her new car. As she just had her driver's license and did not know any better, Hilary didn't hesitate to exchange informations with the driver, hoping that the troubles wouldn't get any worse.

she's a virgin, alright- an accident virgin
Sadly, it got worse; upon getting back home, her folks got rightfully upset not just because of the car's damage, but also from the fact that she worried them after storming out of the house to catch her unfaithful boyfriend without giving them a single clue what she was doing. As punishment, Hilary's parents went on to their planned family trip without her and she is to stay in the house for the weekends and settle things with the insurance company.

It all goes further downhill when Hilary's fender bender "friend" starts messaging her later that day and what may or may not be his car is seen prowling across her home. Two of her best friends show up to lighten her mood though, so all will be well, right? Does a gimp-masked giant switchblade-wielding psycho in a car hunting everybody down count as a 'yes'? It doesn't? Well, damn.

Truth be told, Fender Bender is relatively easy on the plot as nearly everything about it is your classic slasher set-up, minus strong exploitation, nudity and a high kill count as it was originally aired as a TV movie. But what it lacks in extreme entertainment, Bender makes up for it by delivering what made slasher films entertaining to begin with, mainly some likable characters, a cool villain and shockingly brutal and intense murder sequences that gets bloodier and more distraught with each dead teen.

A gimp masked killer done right!
The direction has this Halloween (1978)-inspired flow to it that works really well with the movie's simplistic and more suspense-driven tone. Though some of the characterisation were leaning pretty close on the stupidly cliched side, and there can be some unnecessarily slow moments, I am glad to see that Bender still manages to surprise me with some unexpected turns to keep itself fresh and even a bit dark at times. The villain, for example, comes off as a mix of both a silent hulk and a talky psychopath as he switches from and to these two archetypes in the very right moments; non-self aware conversational creep when stalking his victims in their homes, brutal mute maniac with a really cool mask when hunting them.

There's also a couple of worthwhile creepy moments straight out of a sinister home invasion scenario and the bloodletting was deliciously crimson red with the stabbings and one vehicular manslaughter thanks to some really cool practical works and the fact that most of these victims did manage to be likable despite their minuscule development and screentime, all of which leading to a struggle for survival between our lead and the nameless killer, a decent run shockingly made better (or worse, depending on you) with its grim turn of events.

It's strange, really, that something as simple of a story as Fender Bender's could do something this creative without overdoing it, as I can sincerely see from this film that director Mark Pavia really understood and respected the sub-genre. With it's nostalgic 80s atmosphere despite the well-adapted modern touches, the movie is certainly an instant cult fave in my book for having a timeless touch and ticking down nearly all of the right boxes in making a fun and frightening bodycounter. Either see it fresh from the TV or out of a bluray/DVD box, Fender Bender is one of the better slashers this decade has to offer!

1 female stabbed to death with a switchblade
1 male repeatedly stabbed, switchblade to the head
1 female stabbed with a switchblade and pushed through a window, ran over with a car
1 male stabbed through the neck with a switchblade
1 female killed with a switchblade
Total: 5

Monday, October 3, 2016

Cheese Without a Face: Faceless (1987)

Faceless (Les Predateurs De La Nuit) (France/Spain, 1987)
Rating: ***
Starring: Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Telly Savalas

Singling this movie out as a slasher is only a portion of the truth. Should you add medical thriller, mad science, sleazy exploitation, and whatever movie genre allows a detective to fight an uber-muscular yet comically-voiced bodybuilder, then you will have the near-perfect definition for this strange late 80s euro-horror.

Starting the film classy with a shot of the Eiffel tower at night and a very vocal fellow (Vincent Thoma) mellowing our ears with the movie's own theme song, we soon follow Dr. Frank Flammand escorting his sister Ingrid and his assistant Natalie around the city as they have whatever fun rich and successful plastic surgeons can think of. Their evening was soon interrupted when one of Frank's former patients caught them off guard and tried to melt the doctor's face with acid in revenge for botching up her face. Fortunately for Frank, the vengeful patient misses when his sister pushed him away. But for Ingrid, however, she received the acid attack instead, severely burning her face.

Years passed and both Frank and Natalie are finding ways to repair Ingrid's face, most (if not all) of which involves kidnapping beautiful and fair-skinned women in hopes of placing one of their faces to Ingrid's. Why it never dawned on these two that some people will recognize the face they'll be stealing should their project be a success and get themselves in a bigger mess, I have no clue, but they seem to be sticking with this plan as they proceed to add another captive, an attractive fashion model for a new one-of-a-kind watch.

With the model's father rightfully concerned about his daughter's sudden disappearance, in comes private detective Sam Morgan snooping around in Paris and trailing whatever leads he can get. All the while, Frank, realizing he needs a professional's help, asks former Nazi doctor Orloff for assistance, a requests the surgeon is happy to accept as he sees it as an opportunity to hone his mad science talent yet again.

So now we got the mad science part. Where do the slasher bits come in, you say? Welp, just to cater for us blood junkies and gorehounds, Faceless also packs a fair amount of chunky bloodletting on behalf of Natalie and a mute (and sexually frustrated) brute named Gordon whose job is simply eliminate any living leftovers from the doctors' surgeries, as well as those who got too close on discovering their little secret. Truth be told, out of all the murders here, only one felt legitimately in tune with a slasher flick's with a nice chase scene and a power tool-wielding Gordon, while the rest were more or less just extra bloody and grandeur killings you can pull off for a crime thriller. This being said, while I am pretty impressed by the splatterific gore effects here, I cannot help but think that the dead women in this movie aren't the only ones missing their identity.

Basically, Faceless is every B-grade horror and exploitation flicks rolled into one since there's a little bit of something for everybody, such as the likes of unapologetic sleaze scenes, bloody murders, crazy Nazi science, and cheesy action sequences just to name a few. And like most hodge-podged stories, the tone is, unsurprisingly, shifty as it ranges mostly from being unintentionally (or maybe, intentionally) hilarious to just plain gross and uncomfortable, bringing nothing more to the table than some really bad writing in both the sense of scripting and plotting, but saved by the grace of just having the right amount of cheese, some fun (albeit oddly acted) characters and an EC comic- style take on horror and macabre. The pacing is relatively easy to follow too, and rarely boring as something interesting and/or cheesy is always going on, so while it's not a good movie, per se, Faceless has the charm of a really bad midnight picture that only a 70s sleaze-meister like its director, Jess Franco, can provide.

Obviously not gonna be everyone's kind of biscuit, this cult fave euro-horror is mostly enjoyable as a popcorn flick for the no-brainers and tongue-in-cheekers, and I wouldn't want it anymore than that! Some people might want to look elsewhere should they want a stronger mystery or less exploitative "detective story", but for the rest of us horror fans who just wanna have fun, there's nothing Faceless cannot provide!

1 female hacked with a machete
1 female body seen
1 female injected with a syringe full of chemical into an eye
1 female decapitated with a chainsaw
1 male stabbed through the throat with a pair of scissors
1 female powerdrilled through the head
1 female had her face flayed off, presumably killed
1 male had his head pushed into a hanger hook, impaled
Total: 8
(Note: due to the nature of the ending, I decided not include 2 possible additional victims)