Friday, January 27, 2017

Nightmares From A Sleeping Mind: Sleepwalker (1984)

Sleepwalker (Britain, 1984)
Rating: ***
Starring: Joanna David, Bill Douglas, Nickolas Grace

Not to be confused with Stephen King's 90s monster flick Sleepwalkers, this odd 80s mid-feature slasher hails all the way from Britain and tells the story of two couples going out for dinner, in which they discuss their businesses and personal lives in a not so chummy way. The night soon ends with the group staying over their host's home for some drinks and shut eye, only to fall victim to a hatchet wielding murderer who might be one of them.

While the plot sounds considerably easy, Sleepwalker's execution is anything but as the overall result almost didn't feel like a slasher until the last few minutes in which the murders finally happen, spending a good span of its 50 minute run focusing instead on the characters and their interactions with one other. It's a direction as tricky to follow as the characters' discussions and those expecting a bloodbath from the first minute to the last will get their patience tested as these scenes can get a tad too drawn out and tedious.

I cannot deny, however, the brooding atmosphere created throughout the flow of the short, as little hints were given to what may come at the end and the lengthy conversations somehow help build the uneasy and brooding tone the further we follow the story, turning what should have been a normal gathering into a series of passive aggressive verbal attacks littered with cruel insults, emotional abuse and hidden agendas. Watching these scenes can indeed be a chore and a nightmare of another kind for some, but the payoff was kinda well worth waiting through basically one large red herring as the shocking graphic killings comes strangely satisfying. (if not also laughable with the the victims' "theatrical" acting) and the twist, though nothing entirely big, just worked for me with its simplistic shock value and how the last few shots were quite disturbing in a surrealist way.

Sleepwalker is certainly an strange one with it's Grand Guignol-esque production, utilizing an artsy visual style with its use of nightmare logic, blue gel lighting and obscure camera work, best seen once the carnage finally takes fold. It's more the reason why I like this short and though I still stand on my claim that the lengthy banters could have been trimmed shorter, I can definitely recommend this to my fellow slasher completists and lovers of rare and obscure cinema, particularly those patient enough to experience something that walks between the lines of familiar and not-so-familiar horror tropes. Uneasy at first, brutal at the last, Sleepwalker can surprise and entertain in most of the right buttons.

1 male disemboweled (dream)
1 male cut to death with a knife
1 female hacked on the head with a cleaver
1 male hacked on the chest with a cleaver
Total: 4

Friday, January 20, 2017

Halloween Monster Crash: The Barn (2016)

The Barn (2016)
Rating: ***
Starring: Mitchell Musolino, Will Stout, Lexi Dripps

Three demonic killers. Two unlikely heroes. One town to save from eternal damnation. Exciting? Could be.

Opening in 1959 Halloween, at the small town of Wheary Falls, we watch as a pastor gives his good blessings to his young mass-goers before they go trick-or-treating, warning them that a certain barn not too far from town is off limits. Naturally, one of the kids blows this warning off and, encountering the sinister forces that reside in said barn, pays the grave price of getting a pickaxe buried into her head.

Thirty years later at the neighboring town of Helen's Valley, bestfriends Sam and Joshua are two fun-loving teenage pranksters who, after being scolded by their town's church head and Sam's father for a Mischief Night gag-gone-wrong, are starting to dawn on the inevitable fact that their years of being immature delinquents are numbered once high school ends. Thinking they should end their last Halloween with a bang, Sam and Josh decided to attend a rock concert a couple of towns over the following night, as well as have some fun trick-or-treating for some sweets along the way.

Inviting a few friends to tag along, the duo's trip makes a momentary stop at Wheary Falls where Sam's expertise on all Halloween related easily recognizes our infamous barn. In light of the holiday and to test if the legends are true, the group makes a fatal mistake of beckoning the three demons, unleashing them from hell to murder and devour their unsuspecting victims once again.

Shot to resemble a late 80s horror movie, The Barn certainly captures the same nostalgic low-budget affair that granted enough cheese and grue to keep fans of vintage horror satisfied, if not bumping into a few issues here and there.

The first hour of the film bleeds pure slasher-monster hybriding, with your typical kids splitting up and screwing with each other, leading to dumb choices and sex scenes paid gravely with a sharp tool down their gullets. Perhaps the only deviation that made The Barn stand out for me is that it spent enough of its running time building around our two teenage heroes with as much charm as any awkwardly geeky protagonist in a cheesy horror flick, with a side of religious crisis, low-key coming-of-age babble and a nerdy look into Halloween as a holiday which can be a hit-or-miss. Actors Mitchell Musolino and Will Stout plays Sam and Josh respectively in a style that comes in between fair and wooden, but their characterization and scripting work well with the tone of the movie so their presence and interaction with the rest of the cast (who a few tried to be more than two-dimensional in terms of scripting) were a decent watch even after the monsters finally come out.

And speaking of monsters, the slasher elements kick in after a third into the film and for a while, I enjoyed what I was seeing. By doing a childish ritual involving three knocks and a rhyme during Halloween, the titular barn turns into a portal between Hell and Earth, unleashing a trio of demons who each comes with their own unique lore: The Boogeyman is a ghoulish miner armed with iron fingernails and a mean pickaxe that he also uses to tunnel from Hell and back, Hallowed Jack is a pumpkin-headed axe-wielding creature that can revive itself by possessing jack-o-lanterns, and The Candycorn Scarecrow is a living husk man with razor sharp candy corn for teeth. I love how each of these killers look so different from one another and how whenever they are on screen, it bounds to deliver blood deaths and delicious gore, so much so that I am willing to believe that a good chunk of the budget went to the practical effects used for these manic moments. I do, sadly, wished there were more scenes in which our monsters get to kill off folks individually rather than as a group, as I felt their lore were disappointingly underused to the point that the film could have went on without it, in turn almost simplifying these villains into your everyday slashers that just so happen to have really cool designs. (and for some of them, immortal on a condition)

This, sadly, is only one of the two main concerns I have with The Barn and the other was the last half hour. After a wonderfully brutal (and wonkily scored) massacre that leaves a good bulk of the town's population dead and eaten, the film then tries to have our two protagonists properly act out their roles as heroes and fight the monsters they unknowingly unleashed. This should have been a pretty rad direction and I was hoping that it could lead to some decent fights and perhaps more bodycount, but the action involved wad as cheap as the budget could allow it, with some of the choreography being a chore to sit through and most of the monsters getting defeated way too easy for my taste. If that's not bad enough, there was also an unnecessary twist thrown in to give the film a more supernatural/religious taste, something that I felt slowed the film down and wasted too much time that could have been used on better scenes featuring our heroes, the monsters, or both.

Still, I can't really say that I hated the last 30 minutes or so of the film, since the last fight was as close to the kind of man-vs-monster brawl out I was wishing to see and the ending has this bittersweet touch to it. In fact, these little gripes didn't deter me much from enjoying The Barn, not with its likable leads, cool monster concepts and the generous amount of splattery grue. It's quality definitely shows the kind of monetary restrains the producers had to work with but, again, the tone, style and gimmick of the movie as a late 80s horror throwback managed to use these restrictions in the movie's advantage and I love overall results, more even when it managed to snag some fun cameos like Linnea Quigley (Of Night of the Demons (1988)) and Ari Lehman (the original Jason Voorhees). Perhaps not as much as I wanted to love it when I first saw its trailer, but with a better budget, The Barn could have been a greater movie for me.

The Barn was well worth my patience as a decent monster/slasher hybrid, a fair and fun addition to my ever growing collection of all things bodycounting. With the kind of ending we are given at the end, I do wish there will be more of Sam, Joshua and, of course, our three Halloween demons, but until then, I say give this one a shot should you ever get a chance! Perhaps you'll like it more than I did. Perhaps you already do!

1 girl gets a pickaxe to the head
1 male bashed to death with a rock hammer
1 female had an arm slashed off with a sickle, skewered
1 female hacked on the head with an axe
1 female clawed through the head
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male had his face flayed off
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male impaled with a pitchfork
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male stabbed on the eyes with drumsticks
1 male had his face crushed with a length of chord until eyes popped out
1 male hacked with a pickaxe
1 male drowned in a bob-an-apple barrel
1 female bitten on the neck
1 male scalded with boiling soup
1 male had his heart ripped out
1 male slashed on the gut, disemboweled
1 male clawed on the face
1 male knifed on the head
1 female had her head crushed
1 female decapitated
1 female gets broken glass thrown and pierce into her face
1 male had his neck broken
1 male stabbed on the eye with a stalk
A number of victims killed offcamera
1 male disemboweled with a knife
1 male found with his carved carved and hallowed
1 male stabbed with a crucifix dagger, caught in a burning barn
Total: 25+

(Note: Due to the supernatural nature of the demons, I left them out from the count)

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Guess who just turned 25? I JUST TURNED 25 HAH! TAKE THAT, 24-YEAR OLD ME!!!! >8D

Ah, crap, I am getting old.
Just cut me a slice of my pie, Gourai...

(P.S. It is technically the 15th of January here in the Philippines so...yeah..time travel birthdays, my foreign friends and watchers!)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Kill For Mother Redux: Friday the 13th (2009)

Friday the 13th (2009 Remake)
Rating: ****
Starring: Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Derek Mears 

We all know that remaking classic movies can be a really really big gamble. 90s' Psycho was tarnished for being too similar from the original and more or less lacked any real reason to exist, Rob Zombie's Halloween divided attention between praisers and haters, and let's not get started with the Ghostbusters fiasco of 2016. (which, personally, I actually enjoyed. I apologize for those who are appalled but, live with it.)

The original Friday the 13th is a classic of its own kind and reputation being one of the most well known slasher movie and franchise, as well as one of the many key influences to hundreds of slashers to come until recent times, so there is in turn no doubt remaking it for the modern audience would have been no easy task. And yet, here it is, one of the more entertaining reboots to come out of our generation, hitting our nostalgic side and quenching our thirst for sex, blood and hockey masked backwoods boogeymen.

The film opens with a blast from the past as we see Mrs. Voorhees hunting down the last counselor of Camp Crystal lake, circa 1980s. Blaming the poor girl for the demise of her son Jason, Mrs. Voorhees readies herself to murder the counselor, only to meet her demise instead when the frightened would-be victim decapitates her with a machete. But, lo and behold, Jason wasn't really dead and the boy had the unfortunate timing to see his mum literally lose her noggin and vows to murder anyone entering his woods since.

Cutting forward to the present, we see a group hiking down the same forest for the typical teen slasher sins of gratuitous sex and weed hunting. Two of them, however, decided to venture deeper into the woods instead and end up walking into the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake and, long story short, the now grown Jason spots the group, slaughters them one by one except sweet girl Whitney, who he had taken an interest to as she resembles a younger Mrs. Voorhees.

One very late title card and six weeks later, yet another group of teenagers are visiting the lake, this time staying at their rich snobby friend's dad's lakeside cabin. Coinciding with their fun is Whitney's concerned brother Clay, snooping around the lake and woods in hopes of finding his sister, if not at least some sort of closure, a feat that caught our second potential final girl Venna's attention and prompts her to join him in his search. Unfortunately for the two and everybody else, what they will end up with instead is a very long night to survive as hulking Jason again arms himself with all things sharp and deadly, to slice and dice these pesky teens and whoever else getting in his way.

Despite the modernized settings and the again mortal (?) Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th '09 is more or less the classic backwoods slasher plot done not once, but twice (!) in the same movie, as the story, more or less, simply consisted of two "deep in the woods" massacres, each featuring a set wild partying teens doomed to be mince meat by the end of the day (or night). I can't really tell if this is a case of the writers lacking the needed imagination to make their project anymore exciting than any backwoods slasher, or simply them getting in touch with the nostalgic bare-bone slasher formula, but after all of the crazy things the franchise had gone through like having Jason battle a psychic girl (or Freddy Krueger), have the big guy shipped all the way to one part of New York, turned into a demonic slug after being blown to bits, or even have Jason frozen and thawed in a SciFi future, I guess the only problem I have with this reboot is that it hardly tried to be anything else other than the same old shtick we've seen hundreds of times before. But as time flies and occasional viewings were made, I did eventually saw the nostalgic effectiveness of Friday the 13th '09 as it strolls through familiar footings and cut open the same wounds we get to love from a slasher flick.

The film paced itself decently enough that we get to have a fairly bloody murder in between some of the attempted character and/or plot development, which was a fine approach thing seeing not a lot of these teenagers are that likable. A whole good deal of them are your token  stereotypes, beaming with the same rowdy energy as their late 80s/early 90s counterparts, albeit more risque with the plentiful near-softcore sex scenes and copious amount of topless nudity. Drugs are passed, juvenile jokes were cracked (hit or miss, unfortunately), dumb decisions are still made (would you really leave your friends to help a stranger you just met this morning?), it wasn't too long before we are rooting for Jason to come out and put his machete to good use and put it to good use he did! 

I will admit that I did took me some time getting used to another fleshy Jason since I grew up with post-The Final Chapter Friday the 13th movies, and kinda anxious to see if he will remain as invulnerable as his zombified take, it is kinda cool to see that hardly anything changed for the only man to matter in this movie. Jason is still Jason. Hockey mask, uber-sharp machete, 7 foot stature and all. He is still the silent mass of muscle and hate that we all knew and love, though he did have this one kill that felt out of place in a Friday the 13th flick (those who have seen this flick will know what the roast I am talking about) but this is a minor gripe on my end and so long as the results still show blood red, I'm all for it.

Being a Hollywood production, it is to be expected that the production quality of the film from its lighting and camera work (love the lush darkened woods and the stormy finale), to its soundtrack (sadly, no signature "ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma" though. I guess that's another point down) are above (if not simply) average, which is a lot to say about a movie where we are to be entertained by teenagers being hacked to death. It's definitely one of the more polished entry to the Friday the 13th franchise, and one that actually deserves a good watch for not only hardcore Friday fans, but also to true slasher fans as well as behind the glitter and gold is the very same gritty and savage monster we know and love with a few little extra something for our time, so make no mistake on passing this one!

It may be a standalone reboot of a classic it will never beat, it is safe to say that it at least tried and did enough good on its own to recognize its efforts. With this, I say Friday the 13th (2009) stands proudly with and above the rest of its slasher kin, and I myself had and still am having a great time with this simple, yet insanely fun bodycounter.

1 female decapitated with a machete
1 male had an ear sliced off with a machete, found slaughtered
1 female roasted alive above a campfire
1 male slaughtered offcamera with a machete
1 male hacked on the head with a machete
1 male had his throat sliced with a machete
1 male gets an arrow shot through his head
1 female stabbed on the head with a machete
1 male gets a screwdriver forced into his neck
1 male gets a thrown axe to his back and forced through his chest
1 female impaled unto deer antlers
1 male stabbed through the eye with a fire poker
1 male stabbed through the chest with a machete, thrown and impaled unto rebars
1 female ran through with a machete
Total: 14

Friday, January 6, 2017

Short Shear Terror: The Gas Station (1993)

The Gas Station (1993) (Body Bags segment)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher, David Naughton

My time with the horror anthology TV movie Body Bags goes a long way back, closely around my preteen childhood when Philippines was still getting used to the idea of cable networking and I was one of the lucky kinders to experience it first hand. I remember seeing Bags one morning during a Summer vacation and I thought it was pretty gnarly with all the messed-up deaths and body horror. Saw it again a few years later at high school, and then again when I was at college (the latter being my "resurgence" to slasher flicks) and until this very day, I still think it's an okay movie, but I just can't help but feel the John Carpenter directed segment The Gas Station is out of place.

The short takes place at the titular gas station in Haddonfield, Illinois (yes, Micheal Myer's Haddonfield) where one college student named Anne will be working her first night at as an attendant. It should have been a quite evening if it wasn't for the recent news of an escaped mental patient killing people and Anne begins to suspect maybe the vagrant she lately encountered might be the killer. Little does she know, unfortunately, the nutcase is much closer than she anticipated.

As a segment to the entirety of Body Bags, The Gas Station just felt lost; while the next two segments, "Hair" and "Eye" deals with body modifications as one man gets a hair transplant he will never forget and another poor soul gets a literal evil eye respectively, Station functions no more and less than a standard fare slasher flick. It's a tad distracting as another body modification segment would have made Bags a thematically balanced body horror anthology, or at least have one of said body horror shorts replaced with something entirely different should they wanted to keep things as colorful as possible.

Thankfully, Carpenter managed to make an inspired bodycounter out of The Gas Station as it can stand and exists on its own, devilishly playing with a decent twist and a generous offering of bright red goriness. With a strong resemblance to a fun campfire tale or urban legend, the direction and build up to the big reveal came with a lot of strong atmosphere and some likable bunch of players, most of whom made up equally fun cameos including directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi, David Naughton from An American Werewolf in London, and They Live (1988) and Arachnophobia's (1990) Peter Jason. Once the big twist was made, the short even held nothing back on the stalk-and-chase antics, as well as on a last minute blood work, making Station a really strong first segment and undoubtedly the best among the three. (Or four if you're the kind to include the wraparounds)

Bloodily exciting and effectively creepy, The Gas Station is, no argument, a really good slasher short and personally one of Carpenter's stronger offering to the horror crowd. May it come packaged with two body mod fright flicks or simply on its own, make no mistake on dismissing, or simply missing out on this segment as a true bodycounter!

1 male found with a mangled throat
1 male found nearly decapitated
1 male crushed under a vehicle lift
Total: 3

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bad Juju Trinkets: The Devil's Dolls (2016)

The Devil's Dolls (2016) (AKA "Worry Dolls")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Christopher Wiehl, Kym Jackson, Tina Lifford

When a horror movie killer dies within the first ten minutes or so of the film, you know darn well that something else is up.

On one fateful day, detective Matt finally caught and kills backwaters serial killer Henry Leonard Bale, apparently ending the maniac's streak of brutal slayings and closing the very case that ruined his marriage. But when a series of savage killings begins plaguing Matt's small town, one of the perpetrators being his own young daughter, it suddenly becomes clear that the threat is far from over and he will soon learn something new about Bale. Something formerly hidden away from a wooden box, never meant to be taken out...

Looking past the brutality of its murder sequences and the interesting variation of a should-be enlightening child's trinket, The Devil's Dolls (or Worry Dolls, a cooler less-generic title I actually prefer) could have been a gorily intriguing thriller in the vein of other voodoo horror flicks like The Serpent and The Rainbow or the underrated The Skeleton Key (2005), but it instead passes through its run time as a somewhat predictable bodycounter, bringing out the worst and the passable slasher flick tropes.

Falling in right between terribly executed and the agreeably entertaining, Dolls noticeably suffers with a lot of plot holes, some caused by questionable writing (if Matt have been on Bale's case so much so to the point he practically ruined his marriage, then shouldn't he at least knew about Bale's past as a practitioner of voodoo magic?), others by the folks at the cutting room. (we never really saw the part Matt's daughter, Chloe, took the dolls. One minute they were in the car (as supposed to, y'know, put them in an evidence locker or something), then the scene shifts and Chloe's making necklaces out of them at some shop all of the sudden) It also doesn't help that not a lot of the characters offered to us were that well fleshed-out, affecting a would-be workable concept that the titular dolls apparently amplify whatever anxieties its wearers go through to the point of being deranged and homicidal. If we did get to know these characters a tad better, I'm sure the brutal lashings and slashings they do once the dolls force them to go nutty cuckoo would have made a stronger impact both gore-wise and story-wise, but instead they simply let the movie as basic as possible, which in turn may just be enough for the right audience.

As The Devil's Dolls decided to simply have our protagonist just go about and try to figure out why these seemingly innocent people suddenly go Jason Voorhees on everyone (Something we, the audience, already know and probably waiting patiently just for them to wise up), it's direction thankfully breezes through the Southern Gothic sensibilities of voodoo and a few shredding of B-grade police drama in a quick enough pacing, and we are often rewarded with some strong slasher-esque scenes, the best among being the opening action wherein we see just how dangerous Bale was alive and wielding a gas-operated powerdrill (how else are we to explain the chainsaw sounds that thing was making), and one The Burning-inspired situation wherein a husband goes on a garden shear stabbing spree.

The blood and gore effects from these scenes are generously gratuitous, but I am a tad underwhelmed with the kind of climax they decided to do once the dolls were collected. Without giving away much, it was like the film had a problem of not having a central villain to focus with so they decided to throw in a last minute twist and, well, it just felt rushed, unnecessary and out of character. I guess the lack of villains to fight at the end would have made the resolution quite too easy, but I just felt like they could have done a better job with it, especially since the absence of a central killer is one of the key points that made Dolls such a fun film.

As a whole, The Devil's Dolls is just a B-flick being a B-flick, despite the lush camera quality and too good special effects used. It's not gonna be something we could lose some sleep over but whenever it is available for a quick viewing, I would recommend giving it a shot should you be thirsty for an easy story and blood red killings!

1 male gets a powerdrill through the head
1 male shot to death
1 male repeatedly stabbed and disemboweled with a pair of scissors
1 male shot dead
1 dog knifed to death
1 male stabbed to death with garden shears
1 female had her throat chopped with garden shears
1 male shot dead
1 female had her throat cut with a glass shard
Total: 9