Sunday, June 28, 2020

Brutal Bigfoot Bachelor Bloodbath: Cherokee Creek (2018)

Cherokee Creek (2018)
Rating: ***
Starring: Billy Blair, Todd Jenkins, Justin Armstrong

When a young groom-to-be named Patrick gets kidnapped at gunpoint by a pair of masked thugs, he expects torture, humiliation and eventual death. Little does he know, he'll be getting all of that but through a rather different circumstance.

As it turn out, the thugs in the balaclava are two of his closest friends, actor Vinny Blades and Patrick's Best Man Jinx, and the kidnapping was to get him to a secret bachelor party deep into the very woods where the first American Bigfoot sightings were made as Patrick is a big cryptid nerd. The naive groom, though, isn't particularly happy on how all of this debauchery's proceeding so far since apart from the fact that he's taken there against his will, the gang also invited a toxic atheist former friend and they ordered strippers despite promising Patrick's very shrew fiance' Caroline, who planned the secret party with them, that there won't be any.

Then again, as it is his last night to be a free man, Patrick goes along with the beer-guzzling raunchy fun as much as he can, not knowing that all of the loud noises, pissing in the woods and free-for-all sex have disturbed a very angry ancient creature and its going to rid this forest of these trespassers, one dismembered body part at a time.

Cherokee Creek (2018)
can be best described as a sex comedy in the woods slowly devolving into a backwoods monster/slasher hybrid, evident from the point that the movie really takes it time to get the gory goodness going. It starts strong with an opening Bigfoot attack that foreshadows the kind of messy jig we're gonna be subjected to, as well as a hilarious kidnapping-gone-wrong involving vulgar old ladies and a kid getting his hand sticky from porn, but the film drags itself down once the backwoods bachelor night is revealed, much to establish the type of people we're dealing with through lengthy buddy dialogue and get down to the naughty bits which is mostly alright on my book.

For a while, Creek has the politically incorrect shameness of poop, piss and ammonia-smelling bodily fluids reeking up as its source of humor and gags and seeing this is an independent low/mid-budget production, they really went on out dishing the most uninhibited and crudest shtick to entertain our inner crassness as socks get used as emergency butt wipes and we get full frontals from both dudes and girls among plenty other cheap shot comedy and jests. These scenes have their moments, but we can only get along with so much toilet humor and softcore sex until it gets too low brow to be consistently hilarious, tipping near annoying as they do occasionally pad out way too long than needed.

Fortunately by the time Bigfoot starts making his bodycount rounds (around an hour and a quarter into a nearly two hour movie!), it picks itself back up greatly with worthwhile practical effects, brutal demises for our characters and some workable dark humor. Some of the highlights here include a decent stalk-and-chase scene of a prick which ends with a chunky gutting and, perhaps the film's most memorable piece, a character getting his member chomped off after Bigfoot clawed his partner dead and decapitates her mid-fellatio.

Should the film have cut down its character dialogues and get to the killer cryptid action sooner, I would certainly love Cherokee Creek (2018) more as a fair throwback to old school cheesy monster flicks. Still, I cannot deny the product's crazy B-grade fun albeit its unnecessarily long run, so if you're the mood for a Bigfoot slasher high on grue and no holds barred explicitness, trail on this for your next movie night!

1 male clawed on the neck
1 male clawed on the chest, mauled offcamera
1 male killed offcamera, later found with a ripped throat
1 male clawed through the back, disemboweled
1 male bearhugged to death
1 male had his groin ripped off, eyes clawed
1 female had her head clawed off
1 female clawed to death
1 male bled to death from a castrated groin and a missing hand
1 male had his head stomped flat
1 male shot dead
Total: 11

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Curtains For The Critics: Theatre of Blood (1973)

Theatre of Blood (United Kingdom, 1973)
Rating: ****
Starring: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry 

Ah, Vincent Price. You and your enjoyable proto-slashers! We meet again!

A deliciously campy romp from the legendary horror icon, Price is Shakespearean actor Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart! Disgraced by a group of critics who tore his performance apart, leading to him losing a prestigious award to a newcomer and driving him into suicide by jumping to the Thames from a building's height. Thought to be dead for two years, Lionheart, surviving the fall, soon returns as a madman hellbent on revenge and he has a little mob of homeless meth drinkers, as well as a mysterious man in shades helping him impose gruesome demises upon those who failed to see his genius.

Basically, Theatre of Blood (1973) is a brilliant classic proto-slasher for Price to demonstrate his ability to be both horrific and melodramatic at the highest levels of camp. He succeeds in doing this with the most over-the-top devilish persona to ever grace an exploitation piece, a shamed former actor who puts his stage skills and newfound bloodlust to use through the most entertaining revenge plot that's as cheeky as it is horrendous. There's no doubt Price adored this role seeing his twisted enthusiasm and wry delivery, perhaps one of his most entertaining characters in his acting career! He even gets to treat us with his stage play prowess reciting lines reeking in high grand, all to entertain his smelly and impressionable group of minions inside the abandoned Putney Hippodrome, adding a layer of appeal to his character.

The rest of the cast are a catch too, mainly Diana Rigg, a 60’s sex symbol and the Bond Girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), playing Lionheart’s avenging daughter Edwina who willfully carries out her father's plan along his side, and Ian Hendry as Peregrine Devlin, the only likable critic who suspects Lionheart's hand on the recent deaths and putting up a good fencing fight in yet another of the movie's more memorable scenes. The pompousness of the doomed critics does rile up a good nerve to earn their ruthless yet creative dispatches, but not enough to make them overly unlikable to the matter of being unentertaining considering their sneering banter with one another provided some laughs.

And speaking of dispatches, the deaths here are another aspect of this movie that makes it a spectacular watch, perverting Shakespearean writing into decidedly gory comeuppances ranging from a delightfully messy decapitations, an ironic drowning, upsetting meat pies and a clever trick that has one of the critics getting themselves into a fate leading to death. The graphic nature of these killings contrasts fully with the light-hearted comedic tone of the script, hence making them cathartic and striking enough even if they have a twinge of dark humor in them.

In all honesty, I see very little to speak ill of about this movie as everything about it works as a comical slice of horror cinema. From Price playing dress-up multiple times to lure in or get close to his victims, to the outrageous set-pieces he and his cohorts have to work with just to get back on those who wronged Lionheart's talent and make a point, there's hardly a boring scene here. Every thing is dipped in a good amount of gloriously hilarious goodah and on a pace that flows so smoothly that its hundred minute running time feels like a satisfying breeze. The movie carries its British retro charm to a fun tee and snazz it up further by practically not taking itself too seriously, just having fun with the ridiculousness of its premise. 

Shockingly macabre yet innovatively dark, Theatre of Blood (1973) is a horror comedy in its best form, and too Vincent Price's testament as to why he's regarded as one of horror's treasured artists. Don't delay yourself from this 70s genre classic and see it as soon as you can!

1 male stabbed to death by a mob of vagrants
1 male ran through with a spear
1 male decapitated in an impromptu surgery
1 male had his heart carved out with a dagger
1 male drowned in a barrel of wine
1 female smothered with a pillow
1 male implied to die in prison due to old age
1 female electrocuted with a rigged salon hair dryer
1 male choked on force-fed meat pie
1 male immolated inside a car by an incoming train
1 female dies from a bludgeoned head
1 male set ablaze
Total: 12

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rad Chad's Bite-Sized Horror Deal: Scare Package (2019)

Scare Package (2019)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Jeremy King, Noah Segan, Toni Trucks

It has been a long while since I treated myself with a good anthology horror film, among the last I recall seeing and sincerely enjoyed being the mostly amazing sci-fright cluster Galaxy of Horror (2017). (Not to be confused with 1981's Galaxy of Terror) The reason for this is that plenty of modern horror anthologies just couldn't tip their scales right in giving enough fun horror shorts and I normally find myself enjoying one or two segments out of, let's say, five or six. Anthologies are a gamble and it's a rare chance to have one where all, if not most of the segments work. (Hence why I hold films like Trick' R Treat (2007), V/H/S/2 (2013) and the first two Creepshow movies with high regards.)

Scare Package is another modern outing for anthology movies, one that markets itself as a cheesy horror-comedy throwback ride maneuvered by seven directors which I find rather endearing considering its trailer looked fairly produced (and bloody as hell) and, from the looks of it, majority of the shorts are slasher centered. So will it sink, or will it swim?

The movie cold opens with, um, Cold Open; it's about a very average looking guy named Mike who seems to be the personification of horror story cliches in a literal sense. He's the guy who makes sure a haunted house is sold, a creepy doll is cursed and so forth, all instructed through a piece of paper from a mysterious source. It appears that he isn't the only one who makes sure the horror trappings you know and love happen as his friend is always given a hero role, a fact that Mike envies greatly to the point he decided to break the rules one night and tries to be a character in a slasher movie. It ends terribly for some.

This opening more or less sets the running theme of the rest of the movie, a meta-humor look at all of the horror traits pushed to cheesy extremes that borderlines parody. It's a cute and clever way to start a film that delivers some modest chuckles, shifting the segment's end to our the movie's main hook, Rad Chad's Horror Emporium

In Emporium, we follow the titular Chad, quirky owner of a VHS rental store, as he trains a new employee named while brushing off an annoying horror buff who really really wants to work in the place but can't because, well, he's a jerk. It's a wraparound that feels the least like a horror film and more of a work place comedy with a horror genre aftertaste, filled with funny exchanges, genre references and witty grounded gags that center in the on-goings between colleagues and customers. In between all of their shenanigans, we get our segments through random VHS tapes these guys would come across, starting with One Time In The Woods

Woods follows a small group of campers who gets encountered by a man warning them that he's dangerous, he's going to kill them and that he's going to change to something. Never really explained what he'll change into but involves melting into goo for reasons. A Howling IV (1988) werewolf maybe since silver pauses the transformation. (as in if the guy's in the middle of his melty transformation when silver gets applied somehow, he's stuck as a melting pile of steaming meat ooze) Fortunately for these campers, one of them happens to be carrying a shiny pair of silver hand-cuffs. The problem with this, though? He's a backwoods slasher!

This is hands down one of my two favorite segments in the entire movie as it's practically a deep woods hack-a-thon exaggerated to cartoonish extremes with something like a single bear hug (from a deceptively lean man) can squeeze out organs or a rock throw can destroy heads with explosive results. Punctuate it all with a guy who's proceeding to melt nonchalantly and have all of this gore and body horror done with sticky and rubbery practical effects, and you have me as giddy as kid laughing at the short's often deadpan tone to all of the carnage.

The next segment, titled M.I.S.T.,E.R., is about a husband who plans on joining a small motivational group where figuratively neutered men come together to try earning their place back as the top of the food chain by being aggro. It turns out these men are not what they seem to be, but neither is our leading husband. Wouldn't say that this is a bad segment as it does have its share of funny gags and clever lines, but I didn't find the punchline to the whole short's joke that clever or inventive and the ending is just weak as it is random. It's without a doubt the weakest entry, but at least it has some good kills.

Girls Night Out of Body is a more artsy short, described as a post modern feminist slasher revenge body horror. In here, a trio of girls in their night out steals an ominous looking candy from a small convenient store, not knowing the odd effects the treat have in store for them, nor are they aware that a masked intruder is prowling around outside. It's only a slasher as an afterthought, with the segment branding itself greatly on the body horror aspect and its giallo-inspired art house direction of trippy-editing, creepy score and slow-mo dance sequences. The humor in this may leans on the dinky look of the resulting deformity that befall on the girls and maybe even some of their lines, but as a whole, it's more interesting than comical and I can't argue much with the results.

After that comes my second favorite segment, The Night He Came back Again! Part IV- The Final Kill, which satirize the non-dying trope of slasher killers as a group of teens captures a notorious masked murderer and tries to find a way to ultimately end him at the cost of their own life, one by one. This had me laughing my arse off as the murder attempts on the killer gets gradually extreme from multiple knife stabs to electrocution, force feeding fireworks to even a woodschipper mulching, all of this somehow backfiring at the teens as the killer still finds a way to murder them, which in turn gets equally ridiculous.   

The whole segment is a brutally funny watch, with special effects as gruesome as they are splattery and a few unexpectedly clever scenes getting a hefty guffaw out of me, like the moment our killer gets unmasked and our supposed final girl reacted in a way that I've grown curious about. It all ends with an extremely bloody note and I love every minute of it!

The sixth horror short is more inclined into the supernatural with So Much To Do, a possession story about a man who somehow ends up hexed and buried alive by a pair of men in black, his soul then taking the form of a living smoke that possess a random woman. It's not overly bloody or graphic, but the short does feature a funny brawl-out as the two souls fight for control over the body, all because one of them doesn't want to watch a TV show due to spoilers! A fun shallow piece, I'll definitely like it better if they at least give us some idea what exactly is going on.

The last short is certainly the longest and it transitions straight from Rad Chad's Horror Emporium. It's called Horror Hypothesis and without spoiling a lot, Chad finds himself collected with a few others inside a guarded secret testing site where scientists study the probabilities of horror cliches. Chad quickly deduces this and aims to help the others escape with his nerdy knowledge of horror tropes, which is easier said than done as the site's current test subject, a masked hulk known as the Devil's Lake Impaler, has just escaped, massacred nearly everybody and is now making his rounds through them.

Yet another slasher piece, Hypothesis can feel like a standard clunk of meta-humor and title dropping that's been done before with Scream (1996) or Cabin In The Woods (2012), but its abundance of gory demises and a fair selection of laugh-worthy bits still made itself work as a short and cheesy run on horror satire. It can get slightly irritating with Chad annoyingly geeking out assurances on how all of this is supposed to work out. He's funny in small doses but the more he takes the spotlight, the further his scenes become testy, which is a good thing that we get a change of lead/s at the near end and that the kills are splatsticky enough to distract us. It also helps that there's genuine wit in regards to this segment's parody and satire, the best ones being a running gag "good incest" discussion about Game of Thrones, a shaven young Tommy Jarvis gag ala Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter to distract a killer (leading to an equally hilarious montage of the killer being buddy-buddy with a cancer kid) and Joe Bob Brigg's unfortunate incident. (And Chad's reaction to it)

All in all, despite some flaws and a few misses from its jokes, Scare Package (2019) is a competent horror-comedy anthology that caters well with its capable production and lively direction. With all of its segments offering good laughs and decent set-pieces, this movie is set to course as a B-grade favorite, ready to entertain us with cheesy thrills!

1 female trips and gets a pair of pliers to the neck
1 female got stabbed on the chest with a pair of pliers, bled to death
1 male gets an axe thrown to his groin
1 male bear-hugged until guts squeezed out
1 female had her head destroyed with a thrown rock
1 male bludgeoned with his own severed legs
1 male slips face-first to an axe head
1 male and 1 female halfway melting into goo, left for dead (?)
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male impaled with a flagpole
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 male poisoned with a bar of chocolate
1 male killed offcamera, blood splash seen
1 male knifed on the head
1 male had his head blown apart with an electrical surge
1 female strangled and hanged by the killer's dismembered legs
1 male had his neck crushed
1 male buried alive
1 male bludgeoned with a club
1 victim seen murdered
1 victim bludgeoned with a club
1 male impaled with a bunsen burner
1 male gets a thrown axe to the back
1 female sliced in half with a thrown treadmill
12 victims found slaughtered and mangled
1 male found murdered
1 female found murdered
1 female shot to death
1 female impaled with a lead pipe
2 males and 1 female seen skewered with a lead pipe
1 male stabbed through the head with a dismembered arm's bone
1 Joe Bob Briggs crashed through a wall, dies from wounds
1 male punched through the head
1 male disemboweled with an axe
1 male had his legs split apart
1 female impaled with a lead pipe (dream)
1 male immolated in car explosion
Total: 51 (?)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Down Under The Rubble: Derelict (2017)

Derelict (Australia, 2017)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Tristan Balz, James Broadhurst, Justin Burford 

A directorial debut from brothers Cristian and James Broadhurst, Derelict (2017) is as easy as it gets for a low-budget slasher movie from the Land Down Under. 

It follows a trio of friends who are into urban exploration, getting lost inside a labyrinth-esque abandoned building which they soon find out is rigged with small traps and is prowled upon by a figure in a gas mask. There isn't much else to go with here as you can simply tell where this movie is going, even with the little surprises made at the near end.

It's a done-to-death idea of teens basically journeying and making their mark in a place they shouldn't be at before spotting a masked figure wielding a crowbar, proceeding mostly as a survivalist thriller drama between the three men as they get themselves misplaced within the intertwining of tunnels and rooms. As this situation tests the men's limits as they start to quarrel with one another about one misfortune to the next, or about risky decisions like tagging along another lost man who some of them find rather suspicious, it isn't until the climax where we get some proper slasher action going as the gas masked prowler shows up again and start bludgeoning the boys one by one while chasing them throughout. 

At that point, Derelict (2017) can get bloody, though nothing too spectacular or heavy in the kill count. What the movie thrives in is its claustrophobic and murky set-up instead, put into good use as our characters spot similar dead ends in the shadows or low lights, tripping over wires that land them into a room filled with asbestos and garbage like used needles or pitting them against a maniac out for blood. The rest of the production, from acting to editing are okay too for a debut film, nothing that grandeur but passable for a small horror movie release.

This is a quick jug of a slasher so not much to pick apart from, save for really cheap thrills. You can give this a spot of your time but, all in all, you're not missing much.

1 male missing, presumably killed
1 female dragged away, killed
1 male killed offcamera
1 male bludgeoned with a crowbar
1 male strangled to death
1 male bludgeoned with a crowbar
Total: 6

Saturday, June 20, 2020

I Got The Babysitting Blues: Babysitter's Nightmare (2018)

Babysitter's Nightmare (2018) (AKA "A Stranger Outside")
Rating: ***
Starring: Brittany Underwood, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Shanica Knowles 

From the writer of throwback slashers Severed Lives (2006), Bloody Homecoming (2013) and Varsity Blood (2014) Jake Helgren comes this yet another lookie-look back at fun and simple TV slashers on old!

Recently fired as a nurse at the wake of a child patient's death, Daphne Hart (Brittany Underwood) carries much of the guilt over the boy's passing despite the fact that her superior was the one who grossly neglected the patient. Her colleague boyfriend Jeremy (Mark Grossman) fails to comfort and defend her from the blame, leading to Daphne breaking up with him as she cannot deal with anymore of ineptness in her life. 

Fortunately, Daphne still has her sunny bestfriend and (now former) co-worker Kaci Washington (Shanica Knowles) giving her a shoulder to cry on and a helping hand when she got our hapless heroine a babysitting gig for the Andrews, a wealthy neighboring family in need of somebody to watch after their diabetic son Toby (Jet Jurgensmeyer) while they fly over to a funeral. Reluctant at first, Daphne eventually agrees to do the babysitting job, grateful that the Andrews sympathize with her and are willing to trust her their boy's life.

Problems arise, however, when news of a local babysitter was found murdered and suspicious individuals start showing up around the Andrews residence, from a creepy pizza delivery guy to a more distraught Jeremy looking to fix their relationship desperately. It isn't long before somebody in a hood and wielding a knife breaks into the house and Daphne will have no choice but to fight back to save her ward.

A babysitter slasher flick isn't exactly new in this day and age, not with Halloween (1978)'s Michael Myers stalking Jamie Lee Curtis' babysitting Laurie Strode, or creepy stalking phoning babysitters in all versions of When A Stranger Calls. Babysitter's Nightmare adds itself in this line of terrorized child-watching gig with admittedly tame horror exploits, but makes up for it with a range of decent acting, character driven plotting and a nice reveal that does add up. 

The main meat of the film focuses greatly on Underwood's portrayal of her Daphne character, a sympathetic protagonist dealing with remorse but staying strong enough to be a likable heroine healthily bonding with her ward. Granted she may have one or two things that normally end up killing horny teenagers in a bolder slasher flick, but her outlook within the home invasion last act was kept smart and determined, thus her barely doing anything dumb or annoying to stray us from rooting for her in the entire run. Add the fact that the friends she's surrounded with are equally entertaining for their sass, may it be Jurgensmeyer's geeky kid charm or Knowles' feisty charisma, and you have a strong main cast that's one reason enough to see this TV teen horror fix.

In terms of the thriller and horror elements of the Babysitter's Nightmare, it's pretty basic; there are red herrings dropping in and out who are too obvious to be anything else, the kills are minimal and barely bloody and it gets a tad obvious who the killer is by the time they're inside the house judging from the attacker's figure and an early conversation that doubles as a reveal made too soon. Nevertheless, it ties the events fairly enough and the movie still has the good heart to give us a thrilling cat-and-mouse sequence within the sizable posh house, working in some atmosphere and cinematography that definitely sets an isolated tone.

Certainly a back-to-basics slasher movie for the small screen, Babysitter's Nightmare (2018) isn't winning anything for originality, but its working tone and root-worthy characters may worth your time should ever this title shows up on your cable line-up. It's cheap thrills and I love it!

1 female smothered with a plastic bag
1 boy mentioned dead from hospital complications
1 male strangled with a stethoscope
1 female forced to a bottle shard, head stabbed
1 female stabbed in the temple with a syringe, dies from injected air bubble
Total: 5

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Death In Cycles: Final Destination 5 (2011)

Final Destination 5 (2011)
Rating: ****
Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Arlen Escarpeta

Looks like 2009's "The" Final Destination wasn't the final destination. Good!

It's the corporate retreat of printing company Presage Paper and all of the white collar types are attending a camp for a team building experience. Enroute to the retreat however, employee Sam Lawton foresees the bridge's destructive collapse which not only kills everybody caught in the fall, but almost everyone in the company bus as well, including him.

Disturbed by this premonition, Sam tries to convince the others to get off the bus before the accident happens, successfully getting his ex-girlfriend Molly to go with him, followed by his concerned friends Nathan Sears and Peter Friedkin, Peter's girlfriend Candice Hooper, their boss Dennis Lapman, and finally his co-workers Olivia Castle and Isaac Palmer. True enough, the bridge starts tearing itself no soon after, killing a many and putting some suspicion on Sam considering all the conspicuous things he did before the collapse.

Nevertheless, not enough can be pinned on him so Sam is free to go and continue working in Presage Paper with his surviving colleagues and friends, even getting back with Molly who had some sort of epiphany from the accident and welcomes him to her life again. But not everything is fine and dandy as you can tell by this point of the franchise; Death, the cosmic weaver of fates, isn't happy that his design was cheated by some mortals so those who got off the bridge collapse starts to die one by one through a series of bizarre accidents, all in the order they were supposed to die in the vision. 

As our survivors start piecing together what's happening to them, it's only a matter of time for them to figure out how to beat the inevitable, which may or may not involve a suspicious mortician's advice that one can steal the remaining years of those not originally in Death's design through outright murder. A life for a life.

Looking into the basics of the franchise, the Final Destination movies all feature the core idea of Death being a cold, spiteful and sadistic cosmic force, but what differs for each is how their direction approached the notion; the first movie tackles this with some existential leanings, the second noticeably has a stronger emphasis on heightening the death count with a small twist on the gimmick, the third caters to how brutal death can get as a splatter flick and the fourth basically just made a dark joke out of it. 

Shot in 3D, Final Destination 5 is more or less a do-over of the series' previous chapter back in 2009 with The Final Destination, the franchise's supposed attempt to close itself with a bang. In this fifth serving, the movie tries to get back to the saga's roots, keeping the story as simple as they can while still maintaining the gore quota the franchise is associated with at this point. The result is technically another soft-reboot of sorts (like how Final Destination 3 (2006) and the aforementioned The Final Destination (2009) can stand as their own movies given how little they mentioned or tie-in the events of the first two films) but only with a much more respectable angle.

Straying away from the typical screaming teen victims, this entry looked for ways to expand its circle of working class characters from your cliched trappings, mostly through slower and quieter scenes in an attempt to make most of this lot more likable or at least interesting. This is used generously on the main three leads Sam, Molly and Peter, as two of them figure out where to go from their close encounter with the Omega, while the other's slowly driven insane on the notion that Death isn't and shouldn't be playing favorites. Without a doubt, we still have a few duds who are simply there to be the comic relief or the casual lamb for the slaughter, but they do make sitting through their moments worth the while considering the eye-candy demise they'll be getting into.

On that note, Final Destination 5 made a finer effort to blend in CG with practical effects for its 3D gimmick, unlike the 2009 prior which have majority of its murders done in obvious cartoonish digital graphics. It is noteworthy, however, that this entry's treatment of its gory accidents have more proper build-up to them, swaying us from one possible cause of death to another in nail-biting suspense before striking us with an unexpected bloody surprise. Furthermore, the chance this movie did to bend the mythos' rules a bit is also a clever touch as it introduces the possibility of human killers. And, sure enough, the climax treats us with a more brawl-out action thriller fight that kinda felt misplaced in a horror movie, but ties in fittingly either ways once we get to the finale.

Now, notice I never called this movie a sequel and there's a reason for that, but it falls into spoiler territories. It's a particularly nice touch of a twist, one that is almost completely hidden unless you take a gander at the pieces of technology everybody is using here, as well as the littered hints thrown here and there that hails back to the other Final Destination movies. This reveal ties the franchise altogether with a better and, dare I say, stronger knot and I wouldn't be any happier if this amazing entry is indeed our last foray into the series. (Hopefully, for now)

All in all, Final Destination 5 brought an tired formula back to life with the proper manic energy, a hint of grim mysticism and rightfully placed sympathy for its leading casts. (and then some) It's focus is without a doubt to be another movie for the franchise fans to chew on, from the random visions to the Goldberg-esque set-pieces but with a bit more messy meat and thought to it, a matter that horror fans can surely appreciate from a humble entry like this. See it and hail it!

86 individuals killed in bridge collapse
1 female mangled upon a bad landing from a balance beam routine
1 male had his head crushed by a falling Buddha statue
1 female falls to her death through a building window
1 male gets a construction hook through the head
1 male gets a flying wrench buried into his face
1 male shot to death
1 male impaled through with a barbecue skewer
1 female sucked out from a plane, bisected through a rudder
1 male incinerated in a plane explosion
1 male crushed by a falling plane wheel 
Total; 96

(Note: Not counting the rest of the passengers and staff killed in a plane explosion. It would feel redundant...)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Happy 60th Birthday, Psycho!

On this day, June 16th,  in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Horror Magnus Opus "Psycho" was released, welcoming evil on two legs and a knife!

Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock!

The Campaign Night He Came Home: President Evil (2018)

President Evil (2018)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Ryan Quinn Adams, Kevin Alain, Sitara Attaie

Despite sounding a whole lot like a political satire of a zombie movie, President Evil (2018) is instead a parody of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) centered on a goofier take on Donald Trump as a plus-sized murderer going around killing (and insulting?) people who aren't with the Republican party.

It begins with the point-of-view shot of some kid named David, sneaking up on his gold-digging pornstar mom and her lover getting into some smut talk while his unnamed real estate billionaire dad's away. It also happens to be the early 80s and around a presidential election so everybody's on a political mood, down to the Ronald Reagan masks and republican letter openers. Can you take a quick guess what David wore and used to pop dear ole' mum's water balloon implants with out of sheer anger?

David is then caught and institutionalized until modern times when he murders his way out to freedom, heading back to his hometown of Libertybelle where life is hard, unless you're white. By luck, the night he comes home coincides with Trump's ‘state of the union’ address, something our Muslim heroine Lana and her Mexican, Haitian and transgender friends wanted to watch and poke fun at seeing that night's also Halloween.

With David more or less set to go on a killing spree targeting anyone who isn't white or straight, all the while empowered by the powers of the Dark One courtesy of an unexpected ally, Lana and her friends have no choice but to defend themselves against the large gut and sharpened knife of an angry Republican in a bad wig and mask! 

Now, as a self-proclaimed guy living comfortably under a rock, I never see myself as a political person even til' this day. I understand there is a need for a government to exist as we cannot function without order, as well as the matter that a government cannot exist without its people to support it, but you wouldn't find me arguing on who fucked a donkey or who had a quickie with an elephant as, to simply put it, I just don't have the patience for it and the subject of politics bores me.

This said, with a range of satire from name-dropping (or hinting) political figures involved with the Trump administration to lengthy talks of how Republicans are evil and Democrats are good fueling every scene like precious life blood, President Evil is just forced and hardly subtle. It's a point that hurts the movie as it makes the plot and gags feel rather dated, replacing much of the wit and humor with outcries lazily driven by a single political jab and hardly anything else. There are moments that got me laughing at the cheesiness and outrageousness of the scenes (Particularly the ones with a vandalized tombstone, a demonic pact and David's defeat in the end. Oh god, you wouldn't believe how much I laughed at these) but they're very scarce and peppered throughout the movie awfully far apart.

On the horror side of this horror-comedy, President Evil is literally a Halloween (1978) clone that deviates little from the source, dropping in other slasher knock-off sequences like Psycho (1960)'s stair kill whenever its not sparing some time poking fun at the state of America under Trump. Despite this, the murders are sadly dry and lacking variety as they're mostly knife murders, their only identifiable trait being that they come after a joke or two. I could blame the movie's low budget, but I've seen other slasher titles with minimal funding do better with their bloodletting so this just comes off underwhelming. At least some of these jokey killings work alright and our masked maniac does look memorable enough for what the jests are worth, wielding a flag-themed kitchen knife and donning a cheap Trump mask topped with a bad wig.

Frankly, I understand the filmmakers' grounds and what they're trying to achieve here, it's just that I'm not the right audience for this kind of jabs. Again, government politics bore me and President Evil has enough pleasantries to tackle the subject sideways, but all I want in a slasher comedy is a good kill count, maybe some splatstick gore and a much more general array of funnies that anybody, regardless of age, gender, skin color, beliefs and preferred barnyard animal can enjoy. It still had me laughing at times so I will give it that, but I'm sure there are others out there who will love this more than I do. 

1 female stabbed in the chest implants with a letter opener
1 female found dying from a stabbed back
2 males found murdered
1 victim mentioned murdered
1 male knifed to death
1 female knifed on the back
1 male knifed to death
1 female knifed to death
1 male shot dead
1 male decimated with a grenade launcher
Total: 11

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Chaotic Lawful, Lawful Chaotic: 10 To Midnight (1983)

10 To Midnight (1983)
Rating: ***
Starring: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens

When Death Wish came out in 1974, main lead Charles Bronson is pretty much set to star in many of Hollywood's action titles as the staple old-fashioned rightist who deals with scum by bending the law for their own brand of justice. 10 To Midnight (1983) is one of these Bronson vehicles, pitting him as a Dirty Harry-clone of sorts against a killer who prey on nubile women.

After his co-worker at a secretarial pool rejects his aggressive advances, Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) hatches a murder plan which involves him going to a local theater and harassing a couple of girls there to create an alibi, before sneaking out through the bathrooms to drive to a nearby spot in the woods where his co-worker Betty and her boyfriend are making sweet love. To further cover his tracks, Warren strips down into nothing but a pair of rubber gloves, which proves to be an effective tactic as responding police couldn't properly pin the murder of Betty and her partner on him due to lack of evidence.

It's almost the perfect murder. Almost.

Among the officials looking into the killings are weary old cop Leo Kesller (Charles Bronson) and his young quixotic partner Paul McAnn (Andrew Stevens), and it turns out Betty was an old friend of Kesller's nurse daughter Laurie (Lisa Eilbacher), who hasn't been in touch with her old man until this case. As the three attend Betty's funeral, not knowing her killer is also lurking within the group, Kesller is made aware by the victim's father that she kept a diary which may contain some details to the identity of her killer. Warren, also hearing this, rushes to Betty's apartment no soon after to try sneaking the diary out, but not only did he find the diary missing, but he's forced to kill her surviving roommate to keep his tracks clean.

By luck, Kesller and MacAnn actually got hold of the diary first and narrowed it down to Warren due to the repeating past encounters he had with the victim. With little solid proof to go by, however, they're unable to hold Warren accountable for the murders, which got our killer feeling cocky as he starts targeting Kesller's daughter with obscene calls. Certain Mr. Stacy is the culprit they're looking for and eager to put an end to his terror as soon as possible, Kesller tampers with the evidence to frame him for the murders.

This nearly worked, riling up Warren into hysterics even, but it misfires badly when it comes to light that the evidence was planted, thus setting our killer free once more and vowing revenge against Kesller.

With the bulk of its story mostly a police drama, 10 To Midnight is only a slasher at the beginning and end of the movie, starting itself with a streaky double murder that got the plot rolling and concluding with a stalk-and-stab last act as Warren goes in the buff again to get even on Kessler by hunting down his daughter, taking along the lives of her nurse roommates in an effectively distressing home invasion scenario. These horror scenes are practically the movie's strongest points since the main meat of the plot, with all its legal talk and police procedurals, is your standard police story and courtroom theatrics copy-pasted from Dirty harry (1971), down to the questioning of lawful politics that have killers getting scoff free due to loopholes.  

This doesn't necessarily mean the crime drama aspect of 10 To Midnight is not entertaining, mind you, but it can get too bare-bone basic for its own good. Fortunately, the film still has its cheesier moments and a good abundance of sleaze to go with the murders, the latter being from the fact that Gene Davis have to go butt naked for all of the slasher sequences and that all of his victims are in various state of undress.

All in all, 10 To Midnight is a fair run of a horror hybrid that caters well to Bronson's fans, those who aren't expecting too much from their slasher flicks and those who aren't squeamish to see a killer's butt crack onscreen. It's all the makings of a classic 80s cop thriller with the right splash of teen bodycounting to boot!

1 male stabbed to death with a butterfly knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a butterfly knife
1 female gutted with a kitchen knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a butterfly knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a butterfly knife
1 female killed with a butterfly knife
1 male shot on the head
Total: 7

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Cuban Spine Crusher: Wrestle Massacre (2018)

Wrestle Massacre (2018)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Richie Acevedo, Tony Atlas, Julio Bana Fernandez

(Special thanks to Jeff for sharing this wonderful trash, intentionally or not! Haha!)

Back in 2006, low budget Rey Mysterio-starring slasher Wrestlemaniac proved to us the stalk n' kill potential of wrestlers. It was fun, silly and cheesy, and I'm gonna piledriver us back to the bloody ring with yet another wrestling themed bodycounter. Cheesier and lower budgeted, yet fun in the best Z-grade way! 

Awkward groundskeeper Randy (pro wrestler Richie Acevedo) just wanted to make a name for himself as a wrestler, but life has other plans for him; not only do most of his coworkers and family get out of their way to belittle him, but he's also constantly put down and alienated by his clients save for one Becky, who showed him at least a shred of kindness. 

After finding out there's a wrestling camp nearby looking for enrollees, Randy tries out but ends up getting humiliated in a test match gone embarrassingly wrong. Making matters worse, he learns the next day that he's being let go due to him skipping work to attend the try-outs, as well as other incidents including peeping on a bathing chesty home owner. Snapped, Randy vows bloody vengeance the only way he knows how: donning nothing but boots, wrestling underwear tights and a mean attitude that somehow grants him the wrestling prowess he lacked before.

Now, there's no covering the fact that Wrestle Massacre is a low budget production judging from its undoubtedly do-it-yourself quality, but its made with a lively and hammy personality in its direction and plotting that you can't help but feel entertained on how much this movie tries, from the uneven the acting to how cartoonish the killings can get for the sake of blood and guts. 

Story-wise, the horror bits is your standard "gone postal" type, with the main antagonist going axe crazy after life pushed him too far and the film really took its sweet time getting to the juicy bits, bulking up this story is a side plot involving Becky and her partner Erwin's little loan problem for the possible purpose of developing a final girl and proposing additional bodies for the eventual kill count. This is all, again, done with feisty cheese that doesn't promise anything else but guaranteed unintentional laughs, but it does hurt the pacing since it lagged the entire movie from what could have been a serviceable seventy minute story to a hundred minute slay-a-thon with a talky first half.

Thankfully, one Randy puts on the stretchy wrestling briefs and masters the art of wise-cracking, Wrestle Massacre doesn't hold out on the messy kills. Granted, it's not the most realistic looking visceral pile and, yes, some murders can get outrageous (ones involving a spine and a scalping via eating utensil got me laughing), but its in it to be fun and I happen to be the kind of guy who can appreciate that, especially if a chunk of it is done ala rock and roll montage and with a small side of sleaze! And to cater to the wrestling theme, a high percent of the kill here are wrestling moves so there's a good share of brawls before the murder blows. 

Then, for that sweet wrestling fan service, there's also the abundance of cameos from other wrestling stars like the late Manny Fernandez, The Sandman and, funnier even, Jimmy Valiant as some sort of satire of himself and his Boogie Wrestling Camp in real life!

Ending with an out-of-nowhere supernatural twist that frankly reeks of sequel baiting, Wrestle Massacre is a fair budget horror and nothing much else. It's too little of a production to make a mark, but it's entertaining enough to worth at least a single night rental. Try it out if you're curious and get ready to rumble with the Cuban Assassin!

1 male had his throat ripped
1 female had her face peeled off, beaten against a tree
1 elderly male strangled 
1 male had his back crushed against killer's knee
1 elderly male had his neck snapped
1 male killed offcamera
1 male had fingers and an ear torn off, killed
1 male bludgeoned to death with barbells
1 male tossed to a live fusebox, electrocuted
1 male killed via headlock move
1 male had his face shredded with a weed-whacker
1 female had her tongue torn out, killed
1 male disemboweled
1 female had her head stomped flat
1 male scalped with an eating utensil, killed
1 male strangled with his own guts 
1 male had his eyes thumbed
1 male had his head torn off
1 male beaten to death with his own severed leg
1 male stabbed on the throat with a garden shear
1 female had her face flattened with a folding chair
1 male had his spine ripped out 
1 male stabbed on the gut with a stake, head crushed in half with a rock
1 female had her head torn apart by the jaw, shot
1 male shot on the head
Total: 25

Monday, June 8, 2020

Pridesploitation!: Make a Wish (2002), Killer Unicorn (2018) and Into The Dark: Midnight Kiss (2019) Triple Bill Review

As of writing this, it's June again and for our queer brothers and sisters, that means its pride month! And what better way to celebrate this time of openness and love beyond boundaries than some slasher flicks aimed for gay audiences? 

(Well, that or take your partner out for a romantic day out. Maybe cook dinner together. Play Twister. Pretty much anything else if you want to be more productive...)

Here be three hand-picked titles in which bodycounting and homosexuality get to be salty-sweet bedfellows, treating us to a birthday camp gone wrong, a vengeful fellow dressed as a rainbow maned fantasy creature, and a stalk n' stab shindig caused by a New Years game. Can these slashers be worth a gay old time? Or do they deserve the bottomless bottom of shame? Let's find out starting with:

Make a Wish (2002)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Moynan King, Hollace Starr, Virginia Baeta

The premise is as basic as it comes with a group of friends getting together in a forest reserve to celebrate a birthday. Susan, our butch celebrant, holds this annually with her gal pals of lesbian cliches, consisting of hardcore vegan Chloe, tomboy Monica, formerly queer Linda, Dawn who's into mantras and candles, and newcomer Andrea, Monica’s new girlfriend. 

Trouble rears it ugly head early on when Linda's aggressively possessive boyfriend arrives to confront Susan before the rest got there, almost getting into a scuffle until a redneck hunter intervenes and threatens him away. (For now) The hunter, in turn, takes a liking to Susan despite her showing little interest for a male fling, lumbering away only after she puts her foot down and shoos him away. (Also for now)

As tents get set and nearby lakes get swam on, the girls start to get a bit heated in more ways than one as, if they're not busy snuggling with one another, drama stirs on who dumps who and for what reason. It isn't long before night falls and while the gang tries their best to make the most out of the slowly intensifying state of their love life and friendship, there's a psycho on the loose killing people at random and setting up traps. 

It isn't hard to hide Make a Wish's minuscule budget looking at the mostly static hand-held video quality, nearly wooden acting and the lack of special effects. In fact, as a slasher, Wish is very light on the blood work, thrills or even scares, with the groundwork greatly focusing on the melodrama surrounding our group's relationship with one another and their former swing with the birthday gal, Susan. Scripting on this case is dead centered on developing the girls as far as the pen can go, but it couldn't really gotten that far with cheesy banter and lackluster wittiness tainting its direction, leaving the movie hobbling forward with one-dimensional dyke stereotypes spewing hammy gay in-jokes clutched on its wheels, which may or may not work well depending on how one could take the humor.

If anything, Make a Wish is simply an okay backwoods bodycounter for what it is; essentially progressive for its lesbian-centric cast, it doesn’t force anything of the girl's gender orientation and preferences and they simply act like regular horror film fodders. There are some T&A of the girl-on-girl nature, but it's very tam, hardly exploitative. It all goes on full ante in the last act, making way to a reveal in the end that I honestly didn't see coming both for the twist and the nature of how it ended.

The hunted-lesbians-in-the-backwoods plot will eventually get revisited and, on my opinion, improved upon in 2018's stoner slasher 4/20 Massacre, a film that pits another gang of likable girls against what appears to be a Big Foot-like creature with a thing for weed. Until then, Make a Wish (2002) swings an okay gay themed stalk-and-stab jab, just not enough to actually consider itself a must have. Makes an good rental for a single night, though!

1 female strangled with a crowbar
1 female had her neck cut with a hunting knife
1 male had his chest burnt off with a blowtorch
1 female shot and pinned to a tree with a crossbow
1 female stabbed to death with a tent spike
1 female drowned
1 male shot repeatedly
1 male hit off a cliff with a car
Total: 8
Killer Unicorn (2018)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Dennis Budesheim, Alejandro La Rosa, Markus Kelle 

A nameless fellow remembers that one time nearly a year ago, when a group of drag queens left him for dead after beating him for almost raping one of their friends. Now donning nothing but a pair of hot pants and a giant unicorn mask, he embarks to hunt them down one by one in revenge.

As a slasher-comedy,  Killer Unicorn is very high on camp, quite fitting considering a large deal of the cast here are made up of drag queens in all of their heavy make-up and flamboyant glory. That being said, the film basically dims down the story to your typical revenge-driven stalker-type, only the victims involved are walking gay stereotypes and it's kinda hard to follow through a plot wherein almost everybody couldn't be taken seriously, let alone for an hour and fourteen minutes.

Pretty much anyone you will encounter in this movie are sex-starved and/or so self obsessed and you can only have so much of that sleaze and ham until it gets uninteresting and boring, borderline unlikable and annoying. The only highlight I can see here is that the titular Killer Unicorn does look interesting, a campier take on the topless Satan figure stalking hot boys in Hellbent (2004) if you will. We do get an ample slice of good gore, as well as some gross-out deaths like an acid enema and one guy drowning on force-fed urine, but apart from that, Killer Unicorn (2018) just doesn't cut right enough for me.

1 male had their throat cut with a knife
1 male found decapitated
1 male stabbed in the eye
1 male gets sodomized with acid-filled enema, guts spill open
1 male choked on force-fed urine
1 male snorted tainted drugs
1 male had an arm cut off with a knife, killed
1 male strangled with a severed arm
1 male set ablaze
1 male slashed with a knife
1 male bludgeoned with death with a lead pipe
1 male knifed to death
1 male axed on the neck
Total: 13
Midnight Kiss (Into The Dark Episode 4/Season 2 (2019))
Rating: ***
Starring: Scott Evans, Adam Faison, Lukas Gage 

A joint effort between horror movie company Blumhouse's television branch and video-on-demand subscription service Hulu, Into The Dark is a monthly horror anthology web series where each episode is a feature length film inspired by a holiday from the month it is released. For their second season, December 2019 gets a second episode helping at the near end of the month with a slasher set around New Year and hot gay men.

Longtime best friends and former lovers Joel (Scott Evans) and Cameron (Augustus Prew), along with Joel's fiance Logan (Lukas Gage) and their wing woman Hannah (Ayden Mayeri), head to Palm Springs to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Staying in Joel's isolated family estate and with plans on clubbing til' midnight, the gang invites Logan for a game of Midnight Kiss, where the rule is to hookup with a stranger, bring them home and get freaky until the next morning, which by then they can choose whether to depart with no strings attached. It's mostly fun, games and smooches until someone in a gimp mask and leather suit shows up, targeting the group and taking their sweet time to thin their numbers down. 

The general plotting of Midnight Kiss can be narrowed down to it being small parts holiday bodycounter and greater parts gay drama, thus lacking a higher kill count and sturdily focusing more on developing its casts for a good helping of melodramatics. We see and hear about these boys' relationships and how it have strained over the years between them through a generous portion of dialogue, a fact that would normally put me off in a slasher movie if it wasn't for the layers of intriguing history these characters have.

The writing for this movie crafted the characters as organic as possible past all the shower butt shots and male-on-male snuggling, their plight and insecurities from implied controlling partners and pressured relations made worthwhile investing our time to for how human these characters can be. It isn't until the last act wherein the horror elements kick into full gear an by then, it's no short of being the typical stalk-and-prowl with a reveal that only half worked because of the glaringly obvious red herring.

As a slasher, it's serviceable enough despite the, again, low death toll and from what we got on the effects department, half of them were generous with the bloodletting, one of which a nastier spin on classic wine bottle murders. The only drawback here is the motive of the killer which boils down to a mix of jealous rage and scarred ego and, coming from a guy who dons an imposing BDSM leather suit, it's unimpressive and pathetic to say it lightly.

A production sleek in sharp colors, fresh camera shots and some awesome techno scores, Midnight Kiss (2019) may have its slow bits and overly talky sessions, but the overall end product is still something to admire, at least as a plot-focused horror/thriller. Its heart and mind is in the right place, next to a sharpened knife that's ready to surprise open horror fans with a bittersweet script and a fair run of blood. 

1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male gets a broken wine bottle shoved down his throat
1 male smothered with fabric
1 male stabbed in the eye with a syringe, shot
Total: 4