Thursday, August 30, 2018

Bottom Barrel Scraps Vol 3

Coz sometimes, there is such as thing as too long reviews for movies that are so bad, dull and/or boring, they don't deserve them.

After Party Massacre (2011)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Scarlett Von Sinn, Kyle Severn

Some girl named Scarlett attends a death metal after party only to go batshit insane and murderous after being assaulted by a deranged fan. That's it.

Now, I know slasher movies aren't always that big on story but there is such a thing called "trying" right? Well, After Party Massacre's may have tried, but the glaring editing, possibly ad-libbed dialogue, random scenes of metal heads being hardcore (including actual body mods being done onscreen. Ugh.), and dragging sequences of death metal bands playing simply landslide over whatever engaging story this movie is supposed to have, leaving enough little remnants to at least give us an idea on what's supposed to be going on.

The movie's only 77 minutes long and the kills are at least delightfully gruesome at its finest, but do I really want to subject myself to all of that boring, loud, hardly engaging shit just to see some blood and guts? No, thank you~

1 male castrated
1 male beaten with a hammer
1 female had an arm sliced off with a buzzsaw, beaten with a hammer
1 male gets a pickaxe through the mouth
1 female had her throat cut with a boxcutter
1 female pickaxed on the groin
1 female hacked with a pickaxe
1 female beaten to death with a dildo
1 female gets a vibrator hammered through her mouth
1 male had his throat cut with a box cutter
1 female axed on the head
1 male beaten to death with a sledgehammer
1 female strangled to death with an axe handle
1 male beaten to death with a sledgehammer
1 female strangled, stomped on the head
1 female had her throat cut with an axe
Total: 16

The Row (2018)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Lala Kent, Randy Couture, Natali Yura

The Row follows a college freshman trying to get into a sorority only to uncover a dark secret, which eventually coincides with a recent string of murders around campus that's being investigated by her overbearing cop father.

So we pretty much have a movie here that wants to be a cop drama AND a teen slasher flick, which I'm sure would have been just fine given that it'll balance itself out, but, nope! Too much focus was made on the police procedural, mostly involving a lot of uninteresting characters, lame side stories and boring red herrings that I'm positive will excite no one!

It's painfully generic, desperately flashy and, adding insult to injury, horrifically unexciting for a slasher! I mean, really? You have this cool-looking slasher villain and not let them do any real damage onscreen or at least excite us with some good chase scenes?! As if we don't have enough horseshit to sit through...

1 male stabbed with a butterfly knife knife, shot on the head
1 female shot dead
1 female knifed to death
1 female found murdered
1 female knifed to death
1 female knifed
1 male shot dead
1 male shot on the head
Total: 8

Savage County (2010)
Rating: 1/2
Starring:  Ana Ayora, Terry Byrd, David Caffey

And now we have this thing that calls itself a movie by attempting to recapture the true grit and horror of 70s grindhouse hicksploitation. A noble whim for us who are fans of all things gritty and horrifying, if only the whole story wasn't so needlessly complicated!

So this apparent MTV production (which may or may not have been originally a mini-series) centers on a group of teens poking around in places they shouldn't be in the county, only to run afoul with a family of murderers when they killed their grampa in self defense after an encounter gone wrong. First they plan not to tell the cops, then some of them tells anyways, resulting to a very predictable story of evil rednecks stalking teens in the woods, in the barn, in their homes, etc, complete with the usual twist of cops being in cahoots with the family. Flashy MTV editing couldn't save this film's tiring pace, lackluster kills and overall paint-by-number storyline.

1 female pushed to a lawnmower, shredded
1 elderly male brained with a shovel
1 male had his throat slashed with a knife
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 female smothered with a plastic sheet, neck snapped
1 male shot on the chest with a shotgun
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male shot dead
1 female stabbed with a knife, boiled to death in a vat
1 male boiled to death in a vat
Total: 11

Cabin 28 (2017)
Rating: *
Starring: Lee Bane, Harriet Rees, Terri Dwyer

One of the main reasons why I decided to see Cabin 28 is that it is inspired by the Keddie Murders, the same unsolved real world murder spree that one of my favorite guilty pleasures, The Strangers (2009), is based on. The murders happened at 1981 in Keddie, a rural resort town in the Sierra Nevada of northern California, and victims include a mother, her son and daughter and a family friend simply vacationing at the area, so one can always wonder what kind of gruesome plot can be made out of this tragedy.

Well, Cabin 28 tries to sell itself as a fictionalized retelling of this shocking crime by changing the names, age, genders and relationships of the characters and yet, at the end of it all, it still attempts to make it all feel real by spending the last half hour as a crime drama with police interviews and a disclaimer of what we currently believed what happened in the cabin. It's bad taste, for sure, but the real problem here is its lack of focus of what it really wants to be, thus the tone's pretty uneven and the whole thing just felt over-the-top exploitative with its gritty taunting villains and savage murders. The acting also differs from okay to "stop reading the lines and act natural, please!" so whatever drama this film tries to stir to make the victim's demise more tragic just felt laughably cheesy and forced.

In short, Cabin 28 really has no reason to exists apart from to make a dull and boring slasher movie based on a real life crime. For shame, Cabin 28. For shame. At least The Strangers made it vague to what actual events it is based on...

1 male strangled and hanged with a noose
1 male bludgeoned with a hammer and knifed to death
1 female brained with a hammer
1 female brained to death with a hammer
Total: 4

Red Eye (2017)
Rating: *
Starring: Jessica Cameron, Heather Dorff, Clayton Abbott

So here we have another group in the woods trying to make a documentary about a West Virginian local legend inbred called Red Eye, and finding out that the legend is all too real and murderous. Now, I use the term "group" because this film made it all too clear we're not following a pack of "friends" here. Hell, the characterization of this casts often dives into unsettling territory to the point that I care very little about them and just patiently wait in glee to see our killer do them dead in very gory ways.

Sadly, the Indiegogo campaign funding shows just how low the budget go and Red Eye spent too much time talking within its character with an acting range that while isn't that bad, still pretty amateurish and uneven. The end result is a slow-moving low-budget slasher that went overboard on developing its casts and lore, to the point that I, too, care less about the eventual slasher attacks, murders and unexpected twist after all that exposition and unnecessary build-up, though I will admit that the gore effects are pretty neat given the hundred thousand bucks budget.

Nothing special. Nothing original. Red Eye is just...here.

1 female gutted with a meathook
1 male had his head sliced off with a length of barbwire
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female gets a branch shoved down her throat
Total: 4

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

When Good Puppets Go Bad: Puppet Master (1989)

Puppet Master (1989)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle

A genuine cult classic, Puppet Master is a direct-to-video production that puts the name Charles Band into the map when it comes to genre flicks. While this isn't is first foray into the living inaminate horror business as he also acted as one of the producers for the genuinely creepy supernatural slasher Tourist Trap (1979) and the horror-fantasy Dolls (1987), the imaginative variety of the tiny terrors in Puppet Master made way to its success not only as a movie, but also as a franchise that has its ups and downs through out the years. Personally? It's my love for slashers and my still-burning passion for toys and collectibles that made this an instant fave for me, so let's settle in and see what strings this movie pulled.
If Andre Toulon's alive and real, he'll be one hell of a granddad!
Just imagine all of the toys he'll bring murderous life to!
Puppet Master starts in 1939, with an elderly puppeteer named Andre Toulon working on a puppet's head at the Bodega Bay inn while a small figure actively scouts the building. Through the figure's eyes, we see trouble as a pair of Nazi spies soon drive to the bay and started to making their way to the puppeteer, prompting our small scout to rush and beat them to it, warning Toulon, its apparent master. The man, however, calmly hides his beloved creations within the walls of his room before shooting himself dead, keeping everything he knows to the grave.

Fifty years later, psychics Alex Whitaker, Dana Hadley, Frank Forrester and Carissa Stamford are contacted by an old colleague named Neil Gallagher, inviting them to the old Bodega Bay inn where he claims to have found Toulon's secret in giving life to his puppets. Despite some mysterious and fairly disturbing visions of death and gore (A few of them being their own demise, mind you), the physics made it to the inn only to meet not Neil, but rather his estranged wife Megan who they all never heard of until now.

As it turns out, their colleague killed himself after sending out the message (A death so recent that his body is still there in a conveniently placed coffin!) and they believe they're gathered to further investigate Neil's findings. Unknown to them, unfortunately, is that some of Toulon's beloved puppets are out for blood. Could they be guarding their master's secrets? Or is there something foul afoot?
Yeah, it kinda sucks to be the first to arrive at a funeral.
Admittedly, the small budget of $400,000 often shows as Puppet Master can be dialogue heavy and slow paced until the last twenty minutes but direction-wise, the film does its very best as a creepy and bloody horror flick. The story can get a tad too ambitious with its topic of magic, alchemy and psychics, but the writing, stylized visuals and editing made enough of the material to work as a B-grade cult movie, a matter that can be satisfyingly enough for the right audience.

As an addition to the killer toy sub-genre, the puppet effects, though dated and sometimes obvious (are those the shadows of the puppeteers I see?), are great and their gimmicky designs are wonderfully creative, distinguishing and memorable enough to admire, a few of them being popular enough to be recognizable within the horror community: Blade is an apparent leader, wielding a hook and a knife for hands as he slashes down victims four times his size. Pinhead is a brawn that grapples with crushing fist. Tunneler is a literal drill sergeant armed with a working buzz-top to hole through flesh. Leech Woman has a macabre skill of vomiting live leeches. And Jester, perhaps the tamest of the bunch, can shift his expression with an uncanny sneer. 

They're definitely the stars of the movie, something that may or may not say much in regards to our human actors, a cast of unknowns who still, up to this day, remain unknowns. Quite a shame, really, as I think they all did well on their roles and carried the film as good as their puppet co-stars. Granted some of them did get cheesy and their characters can be ridiculous at times (again, if you saw visions of your own death, why proceed?!) but these kinds of travesties are to be expected in low-budget horror flicks so a very little that needs little addressing.
I see the face of death. And it is a puppet with a hook and a knife.
T&A is present as half of the cast are supposedly sexually charged characters, though it is quite surprisingly that these nude scenes were barely erotic or graphic. In fact, gore is relatively lite as well as most of the kills were done in a way they're either cut away the moment steel comes in contact to flesh, or, strangest of it all, green goo replaces blood during the movie's messiest slaughter. It's prim and prudish for a slasher flick, yes, but it somewhat fits the tone and mystic air of the movie so it is, again, hardly a problem. (I mean, the opening theme of the film is already an indication that we'll be dwelling in dark fantasy)

Despite having the common flaws of a budget-restricted production for its time, Puppet Master lives on as one of the more enjoyable killer toy horror films and one of the longest running horror/fantasy franchise, with twelve movies following up after this (including a non-canonical crossover between another Charles Band production, Demonic Toys (1992)) and perhaps more to come. The success of this movie and its film series definitely owes a lot from its featured tiny terrors' grimly charm and I am glad to say I gave this movie a try and a keep. So if you're yet to see Toulon's magnificent creations, then this way come! This is one puppet show you shouldn't miss, dear bodycounter!

1 male shot through the mouth
1 female brained with a firepoker
1 female gets a drill to her face
1 male attacked by leeches
1 female pounded, throat slashed
1 male gets a drill to his neck and a leech shoved down his mouth, neck snapped
Total: 6

Give Us Some Horse Head: S.S.D. (2008)

S.S.D. (Russia, 2008) ("С.С.Д.")
Rating: **
Starring: Anfisa Chekhova, Dmitriy Kubasov, Evgenia Brik

Try imagining Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None done in a way that channels a backwoods slasher and the first episode of a reality TV game show as a backdrop. Now try imagining that as a slightly jumbled mess that can't figure how to balance it all out...

S.S.D. (which stands for Samyi Strashnyi Den (The Scariest Day), Strashilki Sovetskogo Detstva (Horrors of Soviet Childhood) or Smert’ Sovetskim Detia (Death to Soviet Children)) opens in 1984, at the Soviet pioneer camp Lesnaia Poliana where a camp leader tells a creepy story to a cabin full of tykes about a bus littered with decapitated victims,  driven around by a figure with a horse's head. This somewhat coincides with another camp leader canoodling with her boyfriend deep in the woods the very same night, where they are both attacked and murdered by sickle-wielding figure in a horse mask. One boy sees it all and apparently survives the encounter with the masked killer, thus thickening the plot as we skip ahead to the present.

We then follow a set of ten teenagers participating in a reality TV show called Pionerlager, set in the now abandoned camp Lesnaia Poliana where every week, someone would be eliminated from the show until one remains to win the one million rubles prize. It was all going according to how the kids and their host expect the game would be like until one of them, about to leave off from the show, gets shot through the head with an arrow in front of the group. The gang soon learns that vicious guard dogs were set loose outside the camp, trapping them inside with a maniac who now took over the camp's PA system and wants to play the game with a different stake: their lives.

It isn't long before they start to drop like flies, each death seemingly based on Russian folk tales and lore in a flair to channel Agatha Christie's style to sinister childhood rhymes. And in a way, S.S.D. does this methodical whodunit style quite fairly at first with decent build-ups to these (often offscreen) deaths, most victims snuffed off in a seemingly random fashion and the story jumps back and forth between the massacre and its aftermath some time later as cops investigate the now abandoned camp. Sadly, this only lasted for five to six murders before the film made a quick reveal that to the identity of the killers, dragging the story to an uninteresting note.

The problem was that not only were the next set of murders quickly dropped the folklore theme for a more lamely standardized revenge shtick (and then some but we'll get to that later), but the murderers committing them were just as boring. One culprit turns out to be a fan of the host, obsessing over her to the point that they're willing to assist the main villain for that one chance of getting revenge after she failed to like him back. It's weakly cliched and borderline pathetic, more reason for me to hope that the other maniac has a better motive, only for me to be gravely disappointed. To make things simple, the main madman believes something supernatural is in play. Something he simply refers to as "He" or "Him" that, as the movie puts it, inspires those who can see "Him" into becoming bloody murderers.

This supposed supernatural force could have been a cool twist if the execution didn't involve too much yakking and suggesting, shoving the information down our gullets from one exposition to another in hopes of either we buy it or it'll make the finale mysterious. Frankly? "Childhood trauma" would have made a more accepting explanation to the madness as we do find out the killer is the same boy who saw the horse head figure at the beginning of the film but, no, it has to be spoopy ghostly forces that inspires murder because...well, evil.

The final fight is pretty good but it was ruined by an impossible survival and a gory revenge for a yet another shlocky twist reveal involving "Him". Its open ended-ness indicates mystery, but all I find is an underwhelming teen slasher that tries to be smart, sleek and macabre. Maybe with more onscreen gore and a focused style and theme, S.S.D. could have been all that and more but, seeing the misfire that is the film's second half, it's definitely a letdown.

1 male stabbed on the head with a sickle
1 female hacked with a sickle
1 male shot on the head with an arrow
1 male head seen
1 female found impaled to butcher hooks
1 female poisoned
1 female ravaged by dogs
1 male found decapitated
1 male shot
1 female decapitated with a shovel
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male male hacked to death with a lead pipe
1 male throat sliced with a sickle (flashback)
1 male had his throat cut with a sickle
Total: 14

Sunday, August 12, 2018

(S)Laughter is the Best Medicine: Dr. Giggles (1992)

Dr. Giggles (1992)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Cliff De Young

Around the late 80s and early 90s, slasher films were struggling to keep it fresh as barrages of sequels cheapened big names like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger into mostly commercialized monsters whose likeness can be licensed into kid lunch boxes, and most of the newer slasher titles coming out then are cheapened clones of said big names and/or do-it-yourself horror movies filmed by some guy with a lot of time in his hand and little money to spend in making his movie making dreams a big production reality.

Still, struggling they may be, the efforts are occasionally rewarded with some titles getting cult followings or even a solid franchising that continues to this day. For this review, I'll be covering one title that gained a cult following for reasons which may include (but not limited to) bad puns and Darkman (1990)'s Larry Drake hamming it up as a homicidal maniac dressed up as a doctor.

So we begin this medical mayhem with an opening credit featuring a 90s CG blood cell merrily making its way through the circulatory system while cartoonish evil music plays in the background. By the time we get to the heart, a hacking sound is heard and a scalpel slices the organ, killing the unfortunate soul it is attached to. This transitions to an impromptu heart surgery perpetrated by none other than our titular psycho Evan Rendell (AKA "Dr. Giggles" due to his habit to spontaneously giggle whilst parading around dressed up as a doctor) who then proceeds to hack and slash his way out of the loonie bin he is kept in, steal a car and drive back to his home town where his father, a bonafide doctor-turned-murderous schizo, is now some sort of boogeyman children would about during a round of jump-rope after being lynched 35 years ago. Guess who's ready to assume the mantle?

All the while, we are introduced to the heroine of our story Jennifer "Jen" Campbell, your typical teen attending Moorehigh High with a bit of a bad heart which prompts her to carry a monitor on her at all times. Despite this, she tries her hardest not to be a downer for everyone, which is considerably getting harder by the minute as she not only has to deal with a stepmom who's not liking her back, but she also has a rival trying to score one with her boyfriend Max who may have succeeded behind her back.

Oh, and there's Dr. Giggles, now garbed in a doctor's get up and armed with a set of pimped-up medical equipment designed for death, making house calls around town in a mission to "cure" them for killing his father. Some gets injected with poison and killed with scalpels, others gets their a stomach pumped and churned with a drilled nozzle, it isn't long though before Giggles encounters Jen and learns of her heart condition, which puts the mad doc in an inspired predicament to stalk her in good hopes he can perfect his heart surgery skills, whether it'll kill her or not.

With a title that should have been enough to tell what's in store for us, Dr. Giggles fully embraces what makes a slasher movie silly and does it in a way that's cheeky, messy and most importantly, fun. In terms of story, this movie has all of the classic slasher trappings from the ole sex-is-a-death-sentence excuse for stabbing a girl with a sharpened thermometer while castrating her boyfriend, to the incredibly goofy one-liners which channel Freddy Kruger's of the latter year Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, though more deadpan and medically inclined here. In turn, the film is predictable at most, but the genuine cheddar aftertaste its humor leaves behind is enough to direct this movie to a lovable guilty pleasure direction.

Much to its appeal includes Larry Drake's performance as our mad general practitioner, having no problem spatting out medical quips with much gusto and over-the-top ferocity when the deal calls for it. His act even benefits from the movie's fair number of plot holes and silly executions as Giggles' impassive nature to the fact that his little medical bag carries all of his weapons (some of which resembling novelty gag props, others straight out of a SAW sequel) and that he has a near-working operating room-cum-lair underneath his old home just adds to Dr. Giggle's wonderfully silly charm. Of course, there's also Holly Marie Combs of TV’s Picket Fences and Charmed as Jennifer Campbell, also delivering a straight face over her melodramatic dialogue in your typical definitive final girl fashion.

On the technical department, Dr. Giggles is fast paced, well shot (love the Hall of Mirrors scene!) and definitely delivers good grue with a chunk of it in theme to the good doctor's mad practice. If he's not waving around a medical tool-turned-weapon, he'll be murdering folks via  malpractices from hell with bloody wet results to show off, courtesy of early days K.N.B. EFX Group. And why stop with murders? How about a scene where a live child slices his way out of his own mother's fresh corpse where he is sewn into, just to escape an angry mob? Only in Dr. Giggles, everybody. Only in Dr. Giggles.

A far cry from being the movie that saved the slasher genre, Dr. Giggles is still an underrated cult classic on my and many other's book. It's corny and silly, bombed the box office and panned by critics, but for the right audience with the right mindset, this is a rough gem that exists purely to entertain and entertain it did. So, have a heart and if you're yet to see the good doctor, then it's about time you do!

1 male undergoes impromptu heart surgery, heart sliced with a scalpel
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male had his throat sliced with a scalpel
1 male injected with poison
1 female murdered offcamera
1 female gets a prolonged otoscope shoved into her nostril, skull pierced
1 female stabbed in the mouth with a spiked rectal thermometer
1 male castrated with a scalpel
1 female gets a drill-equipped stomach pump shoved down her gullet, insides shredded and pumped
1 female seen dead from heart failure (flashback)
1 female found smothered to death with a giant band aid over her face
1 male stabbed in the back of the head with a scalpel
1 male strangled to death with a pumped heart pressure cuff
1 male gets a buzzsaw to the back
2 males found with throat cuts
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male gets spiked surgical weapon to the face
1 male electrocuted, stabbed and impaled with surgical weapons
Total:  19

Friday, August 10, 2018

Scream If You Know What I Did At Sneek Two Years Ago: Sneekweek (2016)

Sneekweek (Netherlands, 2016) (AKA "Scream Week")
Rating: ***
Starring: Carolien Spoor, Jelle de Jong, Jord Knotter

Welcome to Sneek. Water sport capital of Friesland. Home of the largest inland water event Sneekweek. And apparently the best city in Netherlands to start killing those responsible for an "I Know What You Did Last Summer"- style accidental murder/cover-up something something years ago!

As a form of initiation for new pledges, two college boys and three gal pals have candidates strip down to their willies and sit in an ice bath while singing nursery rhymes, only for one of the candidate's heart to stop from shock, killing the poor naked lad. Panicking for the consequences that awaits them, dude bros Boris and Thjis, quiet-type new pledge Peter, classic party girl trope Lisa and token black girl Kim agree to a story that the boy fell ill while sitting in the bath without their knowledge. Googie goodie criminal law student and Thjis' girlfriend Merel was adamant at first, but eventually gives in due to peer pressure, much to the price of her now-haunted conscience.

Two years later, the gaggle of six graduate from college and drive off to Sneek for Sneekweek in hopes of closing their last chapters as drunken teens by partying, drinking and fornicating like there's no tomorrow. (Oh, and yacht racing! Let's not forget about yacht racing!) But as we know when it comes to this sub-genre, the good times are bound to end methodically as a masked and hooded figure begins prowling the gang's vacation house and follow them everywhere. Soon, a random date bites it via a nailgun, one of girls gets nearly gutted with a buzzsaw and one of the boys is dead in an apparent suicide.

 All of this and more takes place within the near two hour running time of this Dutch Scream/I Know What You Did Last Summer clone-cum-hybrid as the teens learn that one thing they did that one night that they all gravely regret is coming back to bite them (and everybody else that just happens to be there) in the arse and they're pretty much all alone in this as most of them keep finding reasons to keep quiet about the homicide. (Not altogether good reasons, but reasons nonetheless) The stupidity factor goes up an ante with the fact that some of our characters are willing to ignore the fact that two of them were attacked and one of them is dead by the 50 minute mark, just so they can enjoy more evenings partying, giving us plenty of fillers of teens getting drowned in booze and bumping uglies before a very rushed finale littered with red herrings, convenient twists and one WTF ending that kinda reminds me of that weird last shot from the 80s Spanish slasher Pieces (1981).

Slasher-wise, Sneekweek has the advantage of looking pretty darn good with its polished high-production, fluid pacing and considerably fun stalk-and-chase scenes which are easily the highlights of this movie. The only matter that I'm struggling with is that the murders are mostly done offcamera, which is a bit of a downer seeing half of the characters are inconsiderate, thus worthy of having cold steel or unforgiving blunts going into or through their flesh. But as if the movie is channeling its inner 90s (even giving us a slight nod as one character watches a dubbed version of Scream (1996)), the only onscreen bloody treatment we get involves a garrote, a throat cut and a water bucket drowning. I guess we should be thankful that we at least got bloody aftermath bodies and that one boat propeller kill that's kinda cool if only the body parts used didn't look so rubbery.

Maybe with the magic of editing to cut short a little off the filler scenes and add a bit of skin contact between bodies and murder weapons, Sneekweek could have been more of a treat than what it is right now. It's flawed, right, but is it unwatchable? Hardly. Maybe a tad lengthy, but watchable for a simplistic whodunit slasher.

1 male dies after his heart stops from sitting in an ice bath
1 male found with wrist slits and hanged on a boat's sail
1 female found wrapped alive in plastic wrapping, suffocates
1 female stabbed in the head with a sabersaw
1 male garroted
1 female found with a powerdrill to her back
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male tied to a boat propeller, pulled into and shredded to pieces
1 male drowned in a bucket of water
1 male and 1 female decimated in a blown house
Total: 11

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Slasher Sleepout!: Ruin Me (2017)

Ruin Me (2017)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Marcienne Dwyer, Matt Dellapina, Chris Hill

The title alone is reason enough for me to see this. I mean, "Ruin Me"? That can only go down in one of two ways: either our victims are gonna be ruined in a manner that we can't recognize them unless we use dental records or they'll be ruined mentally through hardcore psycho-torture. This being advertised as a backwoods slasher, you would expert the former, but, no...

Recovering druggie Alexandra joins her boyfriend Nathan in a campout slasher-themed horror experience game along with four other participants made up of goth-punk couple Pitch and Marina, chubby horror nerd Larry and token mysterious quiet-type Tim. After having the rules explained to them by a very aggressive Redneck-ish host, getting bags over their heads and dropped off in the middle-of-no-where woods, the six quickly learns that the camp's theme is an asylum breakout and their task is to find a trio of escaped mental patients skulking around in them woods.

It's all fun and games (and scares and heartbreak and awkward conversations) until a supposed actor shows up later that night at their camp, warning them of their impending doom and actually cuts one of them at the arm with a real knife before running off into the forest. If that wasn't intense enough, come the following morning and one of them suddenly disappears, with what looks like their severed fingers left for the rest to find. Could this still be a part of the game? Or are really escaped lunatics out there killing people for real?

Now, I find discussing the pros and cons of this movie a tad difficult without spoiling a bit so heed my warnings, dear readers. In a way, Ruin Me is less of an actual backwoods slasher film and more of a psychological survival horror thriller as while it toys with the classic slasher concepts of masked killers in the woods, the story has a stronger focus on playing with our expectations, particularly whether one of our main casts is going crazy or not, and if any of these is really happening.

With this, I will say that it is an interesting slasher for the first half of the film; the dialogue was great, the characters were engaging and interesting to watch (though the drama between some of them can get eye-rolling hammy), and there are some genuine fun scares to get around. The concept of the survival game is, frankly, really neat and personally the best element of Ruin Me from its little puzzles and clever set-up, to nasty surprises and intense moments. But once most of these campers start dying off in really uninspired ways in a matter of minutes, we get a full curveball on our plot and next thing we know, we're watching a scene straight out of early years SAW, which is great on its own but leads to a lot of frustratingly convoluted twists that are honestly been done for quite a while now, this time a lot worse with the boring final reveal that definitely stretched the movie way longer than it needed to be.

I really wanted to care more about this film but after a strong build-up like that, I expected a better payoff than an unfocused mess and another edgy ending for the sake of being edgy. It does very little justice to the good writing and fun from the former half, but I will say that it at least made the idea of whether what's happening is all in a character's noodle slightly stronger, especially during a certain cop scene, leading to some harrowing development albeit at the price of keeping consistency within the film's tone. Marcienne Dwyer perhaps made the most effort to keep this film watchable as she plays her character with the most uniformly through out the film, thus making her a captivating watch, though this doesn't mean she's safe from Ruin Me's occasional scripting hiccups, most of it quite noticeable at the half-point.

In the end, Ruin Me is unnecessarily unsound. It is my earnest opinion that this film could have been a lot better should it grounded a stronger footing on what it really wanted to be: a satirical slasher spoof? A dramatic SAW clone? A pizzazz psychological thriller in the woods? Not gonna put down a film for trying something different for an outcome, but difference should come with style and Ruin Me, while fun for the most part, went through a lot of bumps in the end that I wouldn't consider a "style". Just overdone and cluttered riffraff. Not the worst slasher thriller to happen, not the most memorable, too.

1 male found murdered, fingers severed
1 male had his throat cut with a hunting knife
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male shot on the gut
1 male disappears into the sea
1 male murdered offcamera, blood splatter seen
1 male shot
1 male murdered with a hunting knife
1 male stabbed on the gut with a hunting knife
1 male stabbed to death with a hunting knife
Total: 10

Military Man, Mad Man: Hollow Man II (2006)

Hollow Man II (2006)
Rating: ***
Starring: Christian Slater, Peter Facinelli, Laura Regan

I fondly remember Hollow Man (2000) as a kid for its impressive (for the time) special effects and I still find it a fun watch to this day as an easy-to-digest slasher-friendly modernized The Invisible Man story packaged with hammy Kevin Bacon acting. Hollow Man II, however, didn't came to my full attention until a year or two ago when I finally decided to give it a whirl as a possible coverage for this blog. For the record, I was aware it existed all the way back its year of release but, after sitting through some terrible DTV sequels also made back then (namely Mimic 3: Sentinel and House of the Dead 2), this film was hardly a priority.

After seeing it now, I can honestly say the film's still nothing to lose sleep over, though I wouldn't go as far as claim it didn't come with its set of good points.

Linking itself to the first Hollow Man film by a shoestring, Hollow Man II follows the desperate and murderous escapades of one Michael Griffin (Christian Slater), a soldier-turned-assassin handpicked by the US government to undergo the same invisibility experiment being perfected back at the first film, as he kills his way to get a cure for his condition, finding himself rotting away as his cells slowly dies as a side effect of having too much sunlight passing through his body.

After interrogating and killing a scientist who knows the whereabouts of a formula that'll prevent his body from going full mush, Griffin plans on targeting biologist Maggie Dalton (Laura Regan) next and force her to concoct the cure he's seeking. Unbeknownst to him, the military is now well aware of his rampage and sends out Detective Frank Turner (Peter Facinelli) as an impromptu bodyguard for Dalton without divulging too much info on what he'll be dealing with, which of course leads to Griffin killing Turner's partner and the detective-biologist duo going on the run.

Comparing this to the original, Hollow Man II's budget is noticeably lower but it did find ways to make its invisible assassin concept work with what little it have. In fact, cut out the matter that this movie is supposed to be a sequel and we still get a solid standalone scifi horror thriller with a few decent kills, passable special effects and a serviceable story that expands its own universe quite well. With its stable pace and direction paired with very able casts, this straight-to-video release basically has a smooth and polished look that evokes a few fair scares and tension along the way, a feat no short of impressive on my book.

I guess a better set of kills and attacks would have made me like this film a lot more, but the real nitpick I have here is Slater's uneven take on his invisible killer: during the scenes he is visible, he does an okay job being a creep. Come the parts he is transparent, though, and he suddenly sounds like your typical B-grade homicidal thriller villain from the 90s, cocky and brash with a hint of cartoonish ham. Nevertheless, it dents the film very lightly so, while it is flawed, Hollow Man II is far from being the suspected trash I thought it'll be so many years ago.

Looking past the low grade and cheesy villain, Hollow Man II is a fairly conceptualized slasher that's worth an hour and a half of your time if you have little to do for the moment. Wouldn't say it's a keep, but it does make a fun rental!

1 male had his throat cut with a broken cellphone
1 female bludgeoned with a lamp
3 males seen murdered
1 male stabbed on the eye with a letter opener
1 male seen strangled (flashback)
1 male had his neck broken from falling down a flight of stairs (flashback)
1 male mentioned drowned
1 male had his neck broken
1 male hit by an incoming car
1 male hacked with a shovel
Total: 12