Friday, December 29, 2017

Hiker's Guide To Surviving A Voorhees: Never Hike Alone (2017)

Never Hike Alone (2017)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Drew Leighty, Vincente DiSanti, Katie Schwartz

I made it a rule in this blog not to cover too much fan films for reasons that not a lot of them have the right impact for me despite how fun and interesting some of their ideas are. Maybe it's the quality of the work (no offense), maybe it's the unfinished look that some of these films have thanks to their short running time (again, no offense), but I guess it all rolls down to the fact that I'm a bit obsessive compulsive with this blog's contents. As in "I'll watch a fan film just to pass the time and/or have fun, but since it's not part of the real canon, I'm not gonna cover it."

Of course, I will make some exceptions. Especially if the resulting work looks anywhere as good as this little number from writer/director/actor Vincente DiSanti.

Vlogger Kyle McLeod is on a solo hiking trip through the backwoods when he finds a deserted camp near a beautiful lake. After browsing through the ground's remains, he soon finds a rotting body within one of the derelict cabins and it becomes clear that he just stumbled upon a place where people like him are not welcome. And thus enters Jason Voorhees, an old legend in a hockey mask, there to make sure Kyle leaves this land in pieces.

Funny thing about Never Hike Alone is that I never knew what I was getting myself into. I never read up about it save its ambiguous synopsis on Youtube, nor did I watched any of its trailers or promos. All I knew then was it's free, it has a pretty cool title, and it sounds awfully lot like a generic backwoods survival/stalker horror, so imagine my surprise when I find out I was watching a Friday the 13th fan film, one that's competently put together, a bit unique plot-wise and remains entertaining from beginning to end.

From the get-go, Never Hike Alone plays the fan film card pretty low key as it starts typically like your average modern backwoods horror thriller with a bit of found footage element thrown to it. This approach had the movie juggling first and third person perspectives from time to time as we follow Kyle through his adventure, a narrative style that nicely builds up the anticipation to where exactly the plot will lead to, all the while giving the McLeod character a bit of personality as a thrill-seeking type.

It wasn't until when the weather-worn Camp Crystal Lake sign made an appearance that the movie begins to transition to familiar stalking grounds, pacing  itself to give our lead some time to set himself within the mythos of the Friday the 13th franchise. Quite interesting, though, is that once hockey masked juggernaut Jason Voorhees appears in the flesh and begins his tireless assault on our hero, Never Hike Alone resembles less of a hack'n stab bodycounter and more of a backwoods survival type.

The film eventually did get to have victims pile up but this came into play at the near end and it's mostly made up of false endings and offscreen killings. This meant calling Never Hike Alone a slasher can be a long stretch and it could even be a very big drawback for those expecting Jason hacking people dead left and right for every ten minutes. The way I see it, though, it's poetic: since our protagonist enthusiastically hikes for his vlog and is a bit of a survivalist, what better way to try and test his survival skills by putting him in a situation that's beyond normal?

On that matter, the second half of Never Hike Alone is like the last third of a good Friday The 13th movie, where a final girl (on in this case, final boy) tries their best to end the pursuit, only to have the pursuer get back up, seemingly unscathed, and proceed with his attack. Alone does this not only with wonderful camera work and great atmosphere, but also with an understanding to how the franchise works, especially how Jason does his stalkings: no traps, no magic, just pure backwoods revenant horror, leaves and rubble breaking underneath his footfall, his movement hulking and silent.

I would say our big guy's portrayal here resembles somewhere between Ken Kirzinger's at Freddy VS Jason, and Derek Mear's of the 2009 reboot. The only real peeve I have for this Jason, however, is how he looked unmasked and often his "signature call" was used: the make-up is fine and all, but his face just looked too zombie-like and it's completely in contrast to the rest of his body save a few rotting patches here and there. Plus, I'm sure his "call" isn't his way of breathing, because that's how it sounded like here. Thankfully, these are very small flaws from an otherwise wonderful performance from DiSanti himself (yes, he wore the mask, too. I did say he acted) and I learned to get over these pretty quickly.

From what I heard, the project was originally just 22 minutes long but due to a successful Kickstarter funding, Never Hike Alone managed to earn enough moolah to stretch into a near-feature and even snagged actor Thom Mathews, Tommy Jarvis of Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives, for a badass cameo role. It's definitely a variety from your usual Friday the 13th slasher flick with its lack of bodycount (though some "kills" were gooey-satisfying), but I am glad to see this franchise from another, more thriller-based angle. What else can I say but good show, Mr. DiSanti! We may not get our promised Friday The 13th movie this 2017, but you certainly satisfied my craving for another of Jason Voorhees' reign of terror!

1 rotting head found
1 male had his head crushed (dream)
1 male axed on the gut
1 female killed offcamera
Total: 4
Nice Dissolve!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I Want Your Baby. US Edition: Inside (2016)

Inside (Spain/US, 2016 remake)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Rachel Nichols, Laura Harring, Stany Coppet

To this day, filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s 2007 extreme French horror À l’intérieur (or in English, "Inside") remains as one of my key slasher titles whenever I need a good scare and/or a sick sense of shocking entertainment. Its concept- a home invasion slasher centered on a pregnant woman and a baby stealing psycho- is as unsettling as the movie's use of over the top gore and a rather bleak conclusion, so I find the idea of remaking Inside kinda unnecessary as there's no possible way this film can be topped as an exploitative powerhouse. But, as you can see, Kidnapped (2010)'s director Miguel Ángel Vivas found a way to reboot this Euro horror cult classic and the results, though more commercial, honestly still delivered some solid thrills.

On her third trimester of pregnancy and still grieving over the death of her husband, Sarah (Rachel Nichols) decides to spend her Christmas Eve alone despite open invitations from family and friends to spend some time with them. Not long after, a woman (Laura Harring) comes knocking at her door asking for help with a broken car and it soon becomes clear that there's more to this stranger when she suddenly calls Sarah by her name. Police were called and, like most creeper scenarios, no woman was found by the time they get there, but they did promise to have someone patrol the area later that evening just in case.

Somewhat assured of her safety, Sarah eventually hits the hay, not knowing that the woman will return soon enough and find a way into the house, with a clear intention to steal the soon-mother's baby at all cost. What then follows is a cat-and-mouse situation between not only these two women, but also those unfortunate enough to get between them.

While the original Inside appears to build around a concept of nihilism and shock with its gloomy atmosphere, bitter protagonist and, again, generous supply of splatter, Inside (2016) has a quieter, simpler and somewhat more realistic stroll around the story, even when the carnage begins and is in play. A good deal of this could have something to do with the film's direction and writing, as the story actually took its time to flesh out the setting and situation, showing its lead struggling with her loss and attempting to voice out her concerns as a single parent within her loved ones and friends. The film even dedicated a few moments in the opening to show Sarah happily interacting with her husband before his demise a few scenes later, an approach that not only provided further context behind our lead's grieving, but made her more human and accessible to feel sympathetic for once trouble found her.

In turn, the horror elements of Inside (2016) has a calm yet intense approach that strongly focuses on tone and atmosphere instead of disturbing body horror and a messily high kill count. This can be easily seen on how the movie portrayed its villainess, an unnamed woman with a look and aura of normalcy around her despite hiding a sinister and methodic secret. Laura Harring plays this antagonist effectively with a chill, managing to create quite a disturbing character that doesn't need to overly mutilate her victims and paint the entire house red to be scary, but through sheer dedication to her goal and simple gestures such as holding up a picture of a victim's loved one over their face while slowly killing them.

This meant that (save for one victim) the gore and blood work of Inside (2016) are relatively simple. Far from being tame but harking back to the quick and easy killing styles of late 70s and early 80s slasher flicks, with a lot of stalking scenes and home invasion survival horror, many of which are effectively shot and structured around Sarah's disability to hear (caused by the car crash) and, of course, her vulnerability from carrying her child. Both weaknesses even found their way to stylize the scares and thrills together by deafening some moments to nothing but the sound of heartbeats, Sarah's and/or her child's, emotionally reaching out to us to feel what they feel. Sometimes these styles and directions work, sometimes they don't, but I can honestly say that Inside (2016) would have made it pretty far as a decent remake and a movie of its own, if it wasn't for its last third act.

While the first hour of Inside (2016) follows the plot of the original with only a few tweaks here and there, the remaining 20 to 30 minute run rails off the track and went on with its own pace and plotting, something that would have been fine with me if it didn't felt like re-hashed scenes from countless slasher tropes, from entering a spooky house (which is obviously the killer's hideaway) to look for help, to hiding inside closets where you know the psycho will most likely wise up to and attack our heroine at. None of these, however, measure to the odd conclusion director Vivas went with, making our villainess curveball to a more "honorable" type despite all the cruelty and lives she took, doing the finale away with chock full of symbolism, orchestral score and stylish visual works. I admit it's in tone with the rest of the movie, but the routine slasher scares barely made an impact and that heartwarming and sympathetic twist on the killer felt a tad too forced.

In my eyes, nothing will top the wild, artsy, no-holding-back exploitation Inside (2007) assaulted our senses with, but it is nice to see a more comfortable variation of this film in the form of Inside (2016), especially since there's more hits than misses. With its style and twists mostly deviated from its source material, this remake might as well be a film of its own and it strongly deserves to be seen as one. See it!

1 male killed in car crash
1 dog killed offcamera
1 female gets a glass shard to the neck, bled to death
1 male stabbed on the back with a knife, smothered
1 male had his throat slashed with a knife
1 female shot on the eye
1 male repeatedly stabbed with a peeler, throat punctured with a pair of scissors
1 female drowned inside an enclosed pool
Total: 9

Friday, December 22, 2017

Someone Lurking In The Derelicts: Therapy (2016)

Therapy (France, 2016)
Rating: **
Starring:  Nathan Ambrosioni, Thierry Azzopardi, Vanessa Azzopardi

A slasher movie and a found footage rolled into one? Not entirely new to my eyes and ears (Evidence (2013), Dead of Nite (2013), Exists (2014), The Gallows (2015). just to list down a few), but I am willing to open up for another one of these seeing I have a soft spot for odd genre hybrids.

Therapy opens with a collection of camera footages showing three teens drinking beer and spray painting inside a derelict countryside house, unknown to them that another individual is stalking and also recording them as they go about their hijinks. The stalker soon made their presence and captures one of them before (implied) murdering the rest with an axe.

The film then switches to third world view (for now) as police arrives and investigates the same house after following reports of blood being found in the place. Recovered from the building are a series of recordings, something detectives Jane and Simon are hoping to find some answers from regarding to what exactly happened that lead to all the blood works.

Majority of the footages came from home videos shot by a young man named Sebastien, who was recording his family's camping trip for a school project. All was fun and good times for them until later that night, when they suddenly hear screaming from a nearby abandoned house. After catching a glimpse of a roughed-up looking girl from inside the building, the family unwisely enters the building to investigate, only for them to discover that a masked man with an axe is waiting for them...

Sounds like your typical hack'n slash? For most parts, Therapy certainly merits its category as a slasher as the film plays out a lot of stalking and killing, though more of the former and the latter being reduced to offscreen carnage, a flaw I often see in most found footage/slasher hybrids. The killer in play also wasn't all that impressive to look at, coming out like a dollar store-imitation of  Michael Myers down to the overalls and white face mask (Heck, when I looked at one of this movie's posters, I assumed I'll be watching a Halloween fan film), and there's not a lot to say about its found footage elements neither as the shaky cam shtick have been done all too many times by now and the use of loud sounds for jump scares offers very little lasting effect. I will, however, commend the movie's use of a derelict building as a setting to garner a damn claustrophobic feel to the story, a little creep factor that I always welcome from my horror flicks.

I guess the only mad dash for originality Therapy is going for is its mystery and, for its worth, it did get me watching in anticipation to where exactly all of this is going when the recordings proceed to show that it is more than your typical "masked killer axing people to death" situation. The only matter of this is that our two detectives, who spent their time watching these tapes with us and theorizing what happened, doesn't show much character apart from being expositions with a name; they are basically just there to bookmark the events before viewing the next set of recordings and whatever history and personality they have weren't really explored properly, one of them just hinting signs of being abused while the other...is simply there.

It also doesn't help that the last act failed to be anywhere as exciting as it should be, being a bit dull as not only was the killer's identity lazily spoon-fed to us, but the climax at the killer's abode just felt rushed, lacking any action and further context as to why exactly our villain is doing his MO. (Apart from, y'know, them being crazy) I understand the importance of keeping a villain mysterious for the sake of keeping them creepy, but with all the build up this film went through, you would expect more for our patience. (And money)

Seeing Nathan Ambrosioni, the director behind Therapy, was only sixteen during filming, a part of me wanted to go easy on the kid considering that this is still a pretty solid and professionally movie (one that got theater releases), while another side of me felt underwhelmed as this being the boy's second feature, I expected some improvement. The movie's editing and camera work did bring a couple of eerily nightmarish imagery into play but apart from this, it is mostly routine audio bumps and roller coaster cam, with a side of a dry slasher and a weak mystery. I like to think that maybe lil' Ambrosioni hadn't seen and experienced enough films to learn from and mold a more original feature upon making Therapy, and if that's the case then he does have a long way to go, but I will commend him for making it this far.

Granted, Therapy may not last much in my memory nor will I lose any sleep over it, it's passable as a quick junk food horror that you can rent for a night just for the brief entertainment it offers.

1 male and 1 female murdered offcamera with an axe
5 females found dead/dying from wounds
1 male found murdered, method unknown
1 male seen murdered, method unknown
1 female hacked with an axe
1 female found with a throat cut
1 female shot in the mouth
1 female seen stabbed on the chest
1 female seen stabbed
1 male shot
1 male shot
1 female shot
Total: 17

Monday, December 18, 2017

Huh, Weird...

 Two movies and two seasons of Wolf Creek...
First Movie

Second movie

TV Series, Season 1

TV series, Season 2

And Mick still has his blue truck? I mean, yeah, it's his signature truck, much like how we associate The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers with its BEATINGU truck, but if I recall it correctly, that Mick's little transport got destroyed like twice now!

Is there, like, an abundance of blue trucks in Australia? Hmmm...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mid Life Crisis With A Side Of Slasher: The Ice Cream Truck (2017)

The Ice Cream Truck (2017)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Deanna Russo, Emil Johnsen, John Redlinger

Wow, is it just me? Or is every slasher film made that had something to do with ice cream kinda...weird?

Mary is a 30 plus year old house wife, mother and struggling writer rolled into one, moving from the big city to a surburban neighborhood for a fresh start. The best she could describe her new abode is quaint, perhaps a bit too quaint as the most excitement she could get out of it while waiting for her husband and children to arrive are her nosy neighbors and an odd ice cream man creepily driving around town.

Initially bored out of her noggin, Mary soon gets the attention of Max, the teenage son of one of the neighbors, and what started as a friendly flirting between the two eventually develops into an affair that Mary herself is unsure whether to proceed to or not. But whatever decision she has to make, she better do it quick as the soft spoken aforementioned ice cream man turns out to be a maniac hunting down teenagers to mix in his ice cream and it appears Mary might be next on his chopping block.

To call The Ice Cream Truck a slasher is only a small portion of the truth. In fact, it's so damn small that I swear I forgot I was watching a slasher and instead an altogether different kind of horror flick: a drama.

It's strange, really, but the direction done for The Ice Cream Truck was more of a situational study than a narrative focusing on bringing bloody horror and exploitative fun, as the plot focuses more on what our protagonist is willing to do just to kill time, no matter how flawed it is morally. It doesn't make her your typical goodie-goodie horror flick final girl, nor can we really defend her all the way due to her actions, in turn, but I guess the point of this drama was to create a sort of realistic portrayal for us to observe, revolving around someone who gave up their youthful freedom early in their life, only to try to get it back in what I could be considered as a premature mid-life crisis where they should have surpassed such desires. It's an intriguing notion and  Deanna Russo's performance is pretty spot-on with the kind of character she's portraying, but I can't help but feel that the commentary lacks any real substance as the inclusion of the slasher elements often distract and hinder any further development of this situation realistically.

On the horror spectrum of all things, Emil Johnsen plays our killer ice cream man and all I can say about him is that he gave the character a mysterious mellow personality. We don't have much to go with in terms of this character's motive except to kill teenagers to seemingly mix in with his ice cream for flavor (something that was already done in another ice cream-themed slasher back at 1995, Ice Cream Man), but I got a soft spot for mysterious killers and I have a feeling this guy wasn't given enough treatment to show what he is really capable of.

He, along with whatever slasher elements Ice Cream Truck have to offer, are more or less pushed to the side as a sub-plot, one that was only brought up every after a third of the running time. Whenever we do get these scenes though, I am pretty impressed with their bloody and cheesy executions, a fair reason why I'm a bit disappointed with the fact that we don't get enough of them in the film. There's also the matter that the story seems to be building up to what could be a life-changing encounter between Mary and our homicidal ice cream man, but an odd twist ending not only renders this pointless, but opens more questions as to what really happened in the entire movie. ( I have my theories, though...)

In practice, a drama/slasher hybrid is not impossible if you get a chance to see the obscure slasher "Some Guy Who Kills People"; in that film, we watch a possible vengeful man kill his way through high school bullies, only to have his killing spree halted by the arrival of his runaway daughter. This odd plot warmly balances bodycount thrills, offbeat dark humor and a situational study about an antagonistic lead trying to change his way for the better, thus resulting to a good set of likable characters with chemistry and a story that we can comfortably follow both for its drama and horror elements. Ice Cream Truck, unfortunately, misses its mark to even out and amalgamate its commentaries with hack'n slash action, resulting to a mixed bag of good drama and underwhelming  horror. If anything, I personally believe this film will benefit better as a straight drama, ditching the slasher and his flesh-flavored ice cream altogether, in favor of continuing with its in-depth look of maternal and spousal crisis.

With a splendid looking production, Ice Cream Truck is far from a terrible movie, but it is partially misguided in terms of what it really wanted to be. If you happen to like independent drama with a strange twist of bloodshed, or just have an acquired taste for structure-breaking horror flicks (with varying level of success), then why not give this sweet deal a try?

1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 male stabbed on the gut with an ice cream scooper
1 female repeatedly stabbed on the head with an ice cream scooper
1 male knifed to death
1 male lobotomized with an electronic shake mixer
Total: 5

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The 22.5th Day of Spring: Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)

Jeepers Creepers 3 (2017)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Stan Shaw, Gabrielle Haugh, Brandon Smith

Every 23rd Spring, for 23 days, a flesh-eating flying humanoid simply known as The Creeper goes to hunt, kill and eat the victims it frightens for parts that it likes.

This is a key lore established within the first Jeepers Creepers movie back at 2001 and it was meant to discourage any sequels from ever happening. The sleeper success of this slasher/monster hybrid, however, meant bending the rules or at least finding some loopholes, thus comes Jeepers Creepers II two years later, wherein most of the plot takes place within the 23rd day of the monster's feeding cycle. This on its own also meant seeing The Creeper up and murdering folks for yummy bloody nibblets in another movie will be a further stretch, which again should have killed off any more chances of another follow-up from being developed. (Unless, of course, some producer and/or director will be patient enough to wait exactly 23 years later to bring back The Creeper. If that is true, Hollywood probably ran out of ideas by then...)

Talks about a third film, however, still persisted with ideas ranging from it being a possible prequel taking place in the Old West (which in itself sounds awesome) to a possible time jump 23 years later wherein the surviving girl from the first movie is now a grown adult plotting revenge against The Creeper. Now, in 2017, we somehow get a Jeepers Creepers 3, fourteen years since the last film all the way back in 2003. Looking back at films like Psycho II (1983) or, in a meta kind of way, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), there is a chance that it will be great, if not just good, right? Right?


...Yeah, why the hell would it be?

Jeepers Creepers 3 is a film that's probably quite difficult to follow unless you've seen the first two in the franchise as it takes place slab-dab in the middle of both in terms of continuity. It starts just minutes or hours after the ending of the original with a responding SWAT team surrounding The Creeper's infamous BEATINGU truck and painfully learning that it's rigged to the teeth with traps. In shock of what just and still is transpiring that night is Sgt Tubbs (Brandon Smith), who will soon find out that he is roped into something that's have been going on for years when Sheriff Tashtego (Stan Shaw) and his group of Anti-Creeper hunters show up and basically gave our sergeant a crash course of what they know about the creature so far. (Which can be easily summed up to "it eats people, it's not human and it has done this before")

As Tubbs and Tashtego join forces and plan on killing The Creeper for good the following morning, said monster busies itself by hunting down some teenagers to eat. Eventually added to its little hoard of abducted organ donors is young local horse rider Addison (Gabrielle Haugh), whose grandmother, Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster), had a son that The Creeper murdered many years ago. Why is this little tidbit important? Well, apart from Gramma Brandon being a part of Tashtego's team and that she's sortah driven insane (or haunted, whichever one works) by a ghostly vision resembling her late boy, she also just uncovered something her son buried in their property before he got taken away. Something that might just explain what The Creeper is and she is ready to use it against our flesh-eating monster.

Seeing I am a fan of the first two films, I guess it's only fair that I start with what I enjoyed about this movie in my sincerest. First of which will be Jonathan Breck returning to don the winged monster make-up for the third time and his performance here as our humanoid hell bat-thingie is still spot-on with his takes from the previous two films, though less creeping in the shadows, less "playful", and seemingly more hands-on with its weapons. Apart from this, I also like the fact that the creature's truck kinda became its own villain as it is shown to have a level of sentience, capable of moving or defending its own via traps that are just otherwordly, unless harpoons can be installed to shoot out of working exhaust pipes, or metal spikes can drop down from truck doors out of nowhere.

Sadly, actual scenes involving the creature quickly became an issue for me as the movie's low budget and odd choice to film it in the day meant every little time we get to see The Creeper in action, we would also be constantly looking at the awfully cheap make-up effects, so much so that I can actually see how rushed and flaky it is during close-up scenes. Whatever CG done for the creature's more monstrous features (as in scenes where its wings are shown and in use, or that awkward looking "third nostril") also horribly resembles those from the worst SYFY TV movies due to the budget, much more to my further disappointment that same can be said to the BEATINGU truck's would-be wonderful cavalcade of traps, leaving many scenes that would have been pretty awesome terribly cartoonish and wrongfully hilarious. Sadly, this is only the tip of the problematic iceberg that is Jeepers Creepers 3 as the more I dwell into the movie, the further the issues I have with this sequel get sourer.

With so much going on from a gang of anti-Creeper hunters lead by a sheriff who clearly have dealt with this thing before, to a nearly-insane woman finding out that her late son buried *spoiler alert* one of The Creeper's dismembered hands that apparently has the ability to feed information about the Creeper to another individual just by touching it, clearly this third entry was trying to set us up with the origins of our monster. After all of that scaling and planning, though, not only are we not- I repeat, NOT- shown or at least hinted to what our villain is, but our supposed protagonists seemingly did little to whatever information they gained and more or less just went on attacking the monster with machine guns that we all already know will do little to the creature nor to its suddenly bulletproof truck. Now, I say "seemingly" because one of them did try to do something about what they learned and it is perhaps the dumbest shit you could ever do: leave The Creeper's dismembered hand (y'know the hand that can feed secrets about its previous owner to just about anyone via touch) on an open field, above a letter that basically says "we know what you are", for the Creeper to find and read.

Can you guess what happened next? Well, now angered that someone knows its secrets, our monster does its own impression of Star Wars Episode III Darth Vader going "Noooooo!!!!" after breaking the hand apart, leaving the rest of the world back to square one and the only idiot that perhaps knows how to kill this thing is the town loonie. So, again, instead of keeping the hand to have it pass its knowledge to more competent hunters to prepare for this thing's return 23 years later, the idiot decided to leave it in the open for the monster to find and destroy. Oh, what's that? This action serves as our protagonists' way of warning The Creeper to stay away from them since they are now armed with the knowledge on how exactly they can finish it for good? Well, what fucking good is that for because from what I just saw, The Creeper have no problem killing off those who just learned its secrets, easily landing a battle axe unto one of them. It is even hinted that our Brandon boy knew and, hell, he's dead. So, yeah, let this sink in. Let all of this fucking sink in.

This utter garbage of a finale is so hard to forgive since the rest of the movie is mostly mediocre, if not embarrassing to watch. The actors and actresses involved are okay but I couldn't ground myself to their cookie cutter personalities and flat portrayal no matter how much they flap their mouths about killing The Creeper, talking about The Creeper or even them simply talking about their daily lives before being victimized by this monster. You can only do so much exposition from one character or a group before it gets tiring. Does anything these people would matter in the end, even? I mean, this is a fucking midquel, you know damn well it's gonna fail coz that flying bat-thingie they're trying to destroy is up and stalking around in Jeepers Creepers II! (And speaking of which, really movie? You have the audacity to tie one of your characters with the group victimized by The Creeper in the second? Well that's fine and dandy except for one issue: if he had seen all of this before, why the flying fucking hell was he not doing or saying anything in the Jeepers Creepers II?!

The least this film could do is give us some good scares, monster scenes or even kills but, no. The film couldn't even afford that, nor do they have the capable brain cells to spare for at least that. Even if these Creeper movies weren't really all that focused on gory deaths, they instead try their best to work with the creep factor or otherworldly imagery, something that Jeepers Creepers 3 lacks as its tone felt rushed as if they weren't really prepared what to do in this entry. It lacks proper blood work or scares, and the kills are hardly inventive and drier than a bag of month-old trail mix.

I guess I'm being critical because I really wanted this movie to work. The first two Jeepers Creepers have a special place in my entire person as one of the few monster movies I get to grow up with. (Hell, the DVD of the first film my dad brought home one day during my grade school years still sits among my horror collection. And the best part is, it still works!...I think...I need to check up on that) Jeepers Creepers 3, unfortunately, missed a lot of marks and its overall production have this nagging feeling that they simply did this to pander to its fans but lacking a real heart and dedication to it. It's movies like this that hammers my beliefs that no franchise can ever be perfect as there will always be that one black sheep among the flock that someone will try to avoid. To the folks behind Jeepers Creepers 3? Please stay down and don't come back until 23 years later. That'll give you enough time to think about this piece of celluloid trash before you jump in to that hinted Jeepers Creepers 4 you squeezed in the end...

1 male snatched, killed offcamera
1 male snatched, killed offcamera
1 male found killed, method unknown
2 males skewered by a thrown spear
1 male snatched, killed offscreen
1 male killed, seen bloodied
1 male impaled through the head by a projected spike
1 male seen killed
1 victim stabbed with a dagger
2 males shot dead by bounced bullets
1 male gets a battle axe to the face
1 male attacked, killed offscreen
Total: 14

Friday, November 24, 2017

Preying For A Good Home Invasion: The Strangers: Prey At Night Trailer Thoughts

So, it took ten years for The Strangers to come up and finish a sequel. Well, basing my experience with other sequels and meta-sequels that took their sweet time following up a movie (Psycho II, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), Phantasm V: Oblivion and Jeepers Creepers 3) I'm both excited and rightfully nervous, if not terrified of the notion of it flopping. (The latter thanks to the latter two movies mentioned. Worst. Sequels. Ever.)

So far, I can tell that The Strangers: Prey At Night may do more slasher-lite stalking and killing. I could be wrong, of course, since the trailer for the first The Strangers (2008) did made itself look like one, but unlike that film, this entry seems to have more characters in play so here's hoping to a considerable bodycount and more hack'n slashing action.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Filipino Maniac: Basag Ang Pula (1984)

Basag ang Pula (Philippines, 1984)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Ace Vergel, Snooky Serna, Liza Lorena

(Before I start, I would like to give a big shout out to Jenny Lo for helping me finally see a copy of this surprisingly hard-to-find film! It's people like her why I'm proud to be one with the horror community!)

It's quite a shame my home country, the Philippines, never have that much of a demand for gory slasher flicks because rare cheesy gems like Basag Ang Pula shows that, if we really put a lot of effort to it, we could do a fun and messy bodycounter.

Basag starts with a treat by taking a varying stab on a well-known Filipino urban legend; a father drives to a party to pick up his teenage daughter only for their car to run out of gas while en route back home. The father gets out to find fuel, leaving his daughter inside the car to have someone guard it. This eventually proves to be a terrible idea when a crazed man suddenly attacks the car, frightening the girl into hysterics. The cherry on top? The man slowly reveals that he just freshly decapitated her father and he has the keys...

Another offscreen death and an opening credit later, the crime scene is now swarmed by cops, reporters and curious cats alike, and though they are baffled by the lack of motives for the killings, they are certain this is the work of the same maniac who apparently have been murdering folks around the city recently.

The following morning comes with us watching our killer, Fernando, living his day catching and torturing rats while experiencing horrid childhood flashbacks. Later that very night, he ventures off to do some more human hunting, this time cock-blocking a horny pair of teenagers before fatally stabbing the boy and chasing the girl into the streets. Her screaming draws the attention of patrolling officials, however, prompting Fernando to back off and hide inside a school bus where he murders the driver after the man threatens to tell on the cops.

In a stroke of luck, the bus turns out to be a hired transport for a large group of high school girls attending a retreat and Fernando seizes the opportunity to pretend as the murdered driver's nephew to drive all the way to another city, escaping possible capture. Of course, it isn't long before the man can't hold his murderous impulses back and, once he and the class reach the retreat, the need to start another killing spree catches up to him soon.

While not necessarily a great movie per se, Basag ang Pula does work as a cheesy exploitation flick, somewhat bringing an amount of grit and teeth to an otherwise cheddar-tainted story of an opportunistic murderer slaying his way through a class full of party and/or sex-hungry teenagers. (And teachers) It could have been nothing but hokey hamminess comparable to some late 80s American school girl-in-peril slashers such as School Girl Screamers (1986), Blood Sisters (1987) and The Last Slumber Party (1988), with some scenes actually looking like it was going for that kind of mess (An Ouija board scene between the girls and their recently murdered classmate, anyone? How about a bonfire dance-off between the class goof and the local simpleton?), but Basag found a way to present itself as this dirty and grim-looking creature for over most of the movie's entire run, mainly thanks to our villain's unsettling character and the sheer relentlessness of his attacks, elements played the straightest thus grounding Basag a place as a genuine horror movie.

Though our villain is nothing anywhere as remarkable and noteworthy as many masked slashers reigning the box office of their time, his seemingly unprovoked killing streak and often robotic personality (courtesy of actor Ace Vergel) gave him an unpredictable edge, resulting to a rather sizable killcount consisting of often brutal dispatches without being that gory or inventive. (our killer only wielded two murder weapons: a hunting knife and, later, an automatic rifle) Two notable occasions Basag showed some worthy shock value were the beheading reveal at its opening scene and a part in the middle of the movie where a mentally handicapped man found himself at the wrong place, in the wrong time and through the bad end of a blade.

If there's anything that doesn't really help our antagonist stand above other slashers villains, it would be the climactic reveal of how exactly Fernando became this unhinged wherein his reasons and accompanying flashbacks reveal a tragic romance gone fatal, a cliche nearly as overused as the abusive parental figure when it comes to past traumas. This does lead to a minor mystery whether one girl in the retreat may or may not be Fernando's tragic lover who mysteriously disappeared from his life, but the lack of focus on this supposed sub-plot made it pretty weak and corny, succeeding only to give our killer a reason to hold back on committing a complete stab-a-thon.

Oddly, too, is that Basag's also one of the few slasher titles that spent a good amount on writing and building up a possible final girl among its characters, only for her to be tossed aside in the last act and have the movie stretch 20 minutes more to switch itself from "horror" to "action thriller", with Fernando arming himself with a semi-automatic and shooting down armed cops on pursuit. It's certainly a curve-ball I never saw coming from this film (though it is nothing really new to me. Gotta blame Severance (2003) and The Majorettes (1987) for that one), but I overly enjoy its sheer silliness and macho-inducing reek, a kind of nostalgic grandeur of over-the-top entertainment that only vintage Filipino exploitation flicks can induce.

A rough little gem of a rare slasher, Basag Ang Pula was a challenge to find but I can honestly say that the hunt was well worth it. Cheesy and grim balanced right, this is one foreign entry that deserves a quick look for all slasher completists and horror purists.

1 male head seen
1 female murdered offscreen
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 male had his chest dragged open with a knife
1 female had her throat slashed with a knife
1 female killed, blood spill seen
1 female stabbed with a knife
1 male stabbed in the gut with a knife
1 female stabbed in the head with a knife
1 male knifed in the nape
1 female stabbed on the gut with a knife
1 female mentioned killed
1 male stabbed to death with a knife
1 male stabbed to death with a knife
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
Total: 17

Monday, November 20, 2017

Short Shear Terror: Chainsaw (2015)

Chainsaw (2015)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  James Frey, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Logan Paul

Eight and a half minutes long. Produced by Eli Roth of the Hostel franchise. Yep. This is gonna be a fun one.

At a seaside funfair, a man with a chainsaw nonchalantly walks to the backroom of a haunted house attraction, apparently to work as a hired spook. Of course, with the man's quite demeanor (and this being a short horror flick), we all can tell something's not right and dismemberment soon happens left and right.

Originally made as a sort of sneak peek for a possible feature film, Chainsaw has quite a simple premise that harks back to classic horror stories of dark rides with deadly little secrets. It's pretty straightforward to what it wanted to do and we can easily tell this with the killer's quick succession of murdering five victims in such a short running time. Some may find this predictable and I will not argue with that fact, but this little devil packed enough blood and guts to satisfy bloodthirsty gorehounds and I like the fact that they went on with it in gruesome flair and a bit of dark humor.

It's a quick slice of gory horror pie so there's also very little to argue about in terms of writing and characterization. The victims are victims, the unknowing bystanders are just unknowing bystanders, and our nameless killer is just a nameless killer, though we are shown that he likes to eat raw meat from his victims and that this little thrill kill might not be his last. Special effects are undoubtedly the short's key player as juicy red corn syrup and chunky latex parts are everywhere once the climactic slaughtering begins and even when it ends, having an artsy touch to them with nasty slow-mo close-ups that kinda reminds me of a dismemberment scene from the cheesy cult classic slasher Pieces (1982).

As of writing this, it's been two years since Chainsaw was posted at Crypt TV, a website Eli Roth co-founded. Whether the attempt to make something out of this short failed or it's taking its sweet sweet time fermenting into a genuine feature flick, I will say that this tiny terror ticked every box in making a good fun slasher. If you need quick fix of blood and body parts, then try giving this Chainsaw a gander and see the small buzz it made for itself.

1 male decapitated with a chainsaw
1 male bisected on the shoulder with a chainsaw
1 female sliced in half with a chainsaw
1 female seen killed with a chainsaw
1 male seen dismembered
Total: 5

Monday, October 30, 2017

Militant Bodycounter: The Guest (2014)

The Guest (2014)
Rating: ****
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe

One would remember Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett as the filmmaking duo responsible for the stylish and devilishly fun home invasion/slasher melting pot You're Next (2011), as well as the slow burning yet hypnotizing serial killer thriller A Horrible Way to Die (2009) and a couple of better entries for the first two V/H/S/ anthology horror movies. Now, we'll look into their 2014 hit The Guest, which is far from the standard horror flick you would expect in a slasher blog like this, but it has enough intrigue, kill count and even a few shoutouts to horror flicks to earn a warm welcome here in StickyRed.

Still mourning over the loss of their son Caleb who died in action back at Afghanistan, the Petersons get an unexpected visitor named David one early morning, claiming to be Caleb's marine buddy. He is there to look after them because their late son "asked him to", a promise our titular guest is determined to make good of and a proposition the Petersons were quick to accept.

Well, most of the Petersons: a bit suspicious of this is Anna, the only daughter of the family and now the remaining eldest. She believes there's more to David's near-perfection as a house guest than what he is showing and her suspicions are later proven pin-point, unfortunately, as David has a secret worth killing over and anybody (and I mean anybody) in the way is fair game once he believes he's compromised.

Being frank, The Guest's core plot isn't entirely new if you look back at movies like The Stepfather (1987) and its sequels (and underrated remake), as well as Mikey (1992), Orphan (2009) and many other horror flicks involving suspicious and/or murderous adoptive/adopting family members. It's quite easy to tell that something is up with David's boy-next-door persona and we are eventually made aware of this once he starts talking about acquiring guns in one scene and nonchalantly killing off the suppliers in another. Basically, we are more or less watching a ticking time bomb of a narrative that's scheduled to go off once the climactic curveball is upon us, only the wait is just as fun as the last act it is building to.

What The Guest does that not a lot of its ilk seems to grasp perfectly (or attempted at all) is create a worthwhile diversion to an otherwise predictable scenario. By this I meant that most of the time, movies like The Stepfather or Orphan gave more focus on uncovering the dark secrets of the painfully obvious offending party, molding said offending party into a much more obvious threat that needs to be stopped. In The Guest, however, even after we are made aware of David's potential murder-happy persona, we are still shown a more acceptable side of him as a man looking out for a family and doing a good job at it.

For a good mulch of the time, we see David help with the chores, taught the family's youngest Luke how to stand up against his bullies (beating a good number of them up in the process), and may have done something to have Spencer, the father, suddenly climb the corpotate ladder at his job, all of these with an uncomfortably eerie yet somewhat genuine smile and soft spoken persona only Downtown Abbey's Dan Stevens can muster with good looks and charm. It's these awesome moments that made the David character quite a likable chap, thus adding tension and mystery to the plot as we are never solidly sure what he is capable of, what he really is and/or his actual purpose being there until the hour mark. By then, The Guest turns the table against us and kinda recalls its horror elements, bringing forth an odd mix of slasher flick killing spree and action movie shoot'em up.

This transition is far from perfect as we were never given a clear explanation as to why David suddenly goes 360 from his protective big brother mode and go Terminator on everybody's arses. Yes, they did explain he is programmed by something shady and there was supposed to be a scene that go into this in more details, but Wingard and Barrett decided to cut it out to make David more mysterious. So what exactly this programming does or what it is for were never brought up and this is understandably upsetting for some as it made the David character lazily transformed from a potential anti-hero to something of a slasher villain packing heat (And a box cutter), throwing away all of the development made just for a more explosive and exploitative final act.

Personally, the sudden transformation of both David and the subtle tone of the movie would have been upsetting for me, but seeing the layout of the story was already familiar to me genre-wise, the impact is forseen and though I do wished they planned this twist a bit better, the resulting product is still entertainingly fun and impressive.

What I personally love about The Guest, apart from Steven's portrayal as a first-likable-then-homicidal human weapon, is that it has a grooving retro feel to it from its editing to its soundtrack despite having a modernized setting, giving the entire movie a timeless feel. There's offerings for both thriller and horror enthusiasts in the later carnage as we are given a chance to see David in gunheld action, as well as him delivering some decent kills in both combustive and slicing manner, two in particular (my favorites) involve an unsettling scene where live grenades were tossed at a diner full of innocent bystanders and another at a highschool horror maze in which the film went full slasher movie on us.

Now, if there is anything that I could point as flaws that really bugged me, it'll be the Peterson parent's quick approval of having David around just because he showed little proofs that could have meant anything else. (I mean, did David really got those dog tags from Caleb the way he explained it?) It's a typical horror cliche of "useless/clueless adults" which mostly sets grown ups as deserving meat for the slaughter for being blind of the danger they are getting into and though I get that Mrs. Peterson might be this easily persuaded as she is still grieving over the loss of her boy, I find it too easy for Papa Peterson to be just as easily welcoming after one scene of skepticism. I guess it is a good thing that most of the focus of (kinder) David interactions were on Laura and her son Luke as they were the easiest to relate to and work the best with the kind of plotting The Guest was going for.

A fun genre film that molds the thrilling and the horrifying in one antihero-centered package, I can honestly say that The Guest is a winner in my book, whether its last act works for a lot of folks or not. If you love your good thrillers with a side of horror and character, then this one's a guaranteed definite keeper!

1 male shot on the head
1 male shot
1 male and 1 female mentioned dead from drug overdose
1 male shot
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 male shot on the face with an automatic rifle
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male shot dead
1 male mangled in car collision, shot
1 victim implied shot, blood splatter seen
1 female shot
A number of people presumably killed in grenade explosion
1 male had this throat sliced with a box cutter
1 male had his wrist sliced open with a box cutter, bled to death
1 male implied murdered, uniform seen
Total: 17+