Sunday, November 29, 2020

Trailer Crud of Terror: Dolly Deadly (2016)

Dolly Deadly (2016)
Rating: **
Starring: Justin Moore, Kimberly West-Carroll, Jay Sosnicki

What if we take the first half of Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007), stretch that into a feature film at the cost of as little funds as possible and focus more on the trailer trash life? Most of us would likely fear the results but here it is, Dolly Deadly (2016). Yeah.

We open this hicksploitation for the modern age with a chain smoking single mom trying out a new hair dye, not knowing that the chemicals in it are so tainted, it eats through scalp and skull until brain matter gush out. The end result is a dead mother and a newly orphaned baby boy crying his eyes out.  

Flash forward a couple of years later, Benji is now a preteen boy living with his trashy grandma and her freeloading boyfriend. His only friends are his mom's dolls who are alive in his imagination but this, of course, doesn't sit well for the rest of the neighborhood so lil' Benji is seen as a freak. Harassed and abused, it isn't long before his sanity starts slipping and he wants bloody retribution against those who crossed him. 

To be fair, as an indie production, Dolly Deadly has a lot of spirit in the sense that the people working around it really went all out with what they can use and do with a budget worth two potatoes and the result is admirable. The cinematography done for Benji's dream and imagination sequences, for one, works with their dark bubblegum color schemes and partial animation done in stop-motion which adds to the creepiness and craziness of the boy's slowly unhinging perspective. The plot doesn't dwell any deeper than a ticking timebomb of emotion and psychological abuse until the fantastically violent last act which sort of delivers, but I still really couldn't bring myself to give this anything higher than a lukewarm pat on the back due to its drawbacks.

The predictability of a lot of its scenes meant sitting through them can be a chore, especially when the acting involved dips down from mediocre to crass which the film does from time to time. In fact, with a large bulk of the film focusing greatly on Benji shouldering the weight of his trashy life, the pacing really dragged itself around the boy's suffering at the hands and tongues of his tormentors, thus perfecting the image of a dysfunctional childhood life a tad too well that it gets banally offbeat way longer than it needed to be and it's barely enjoyable. Add the matter that the amateur editing and obvious low budget can get very distracting when it actually hits you in the face and you got here a tired, tedious and overblown slow burn act that aims high, only to hit it a few steps down midway.

Now, the last act wherein Benji finally starts his murderous streak does earn some points for its hamminess as literal doll parts become lethal murder weapons, apparently strong enough to pierce through skin and flesh, or be used as a bludgeon to break open a hapless victim like a piñata. All of this committed by an eight-year old slasher boy in a drag and a papermache mask and, my gods, I'm loving it until the movie settles with a low murder count, thus leaving me with an unsatisfied taste in my mouth after sitting through all of that build-up.

If any of this dive down to low-budget psychological craft sounds like a keeper in your eyes then you definitely should try it out. Dolly Deadly (2016), again, has heart and effort in it, just not the kind that caters to my taste of revenge-fueled slashing, art house horrors or murderous kids. I'll leave all of that to good titles like The Children (2008) or Mikey (1992) while the rest of the world experience the effort that is this movie.

1 female got her scalp melted off and explode from a botched bottle of hair dye
1 female stabbed to death with swords (dream)
1 boy bludgeoned to death with a doll
1 male had his gut stabbed open with doll parts
1 female poisoned, face melted off with tainted face cream
1 female seen strangled with a belt
Total: 6

Monday, November 23, 2020

Spiked Teenagers: Spiker (2007)

Spiker (2007)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Carson Grant, Michael Fedele, Josh Folan

Serial killer Adam Brandis, AKA The Spiker, was to be transported from a local prison to a mental asylum when murders his way into escaping and makes his way to a house formerly owned by one of his early victims. Unknown to him, as a way to celebrate his supposed lock-up, three jocks and their respective cheerleader girlfriends crashed the place to party, have sex and, of all things, hold seances. One of the girls just happens to be the niece of the house's late owner, so it's not all too surprising she's suddenly seeing ghostly visions of an undead bride and Spiker menacing them. Can she figure out in time that their lives are in danger? Or will it all be too late by then to escape the serial slasher out for blood?

As a product, it appears Spiker (2007)'s purpose in existing is simply be one of many dime-in-a-dozen slasher movies you'll likely find in bargain bins. In all honesty, I wanted to enjoy this film a little bit more since I do like its gimmick of a tall, rail road spike-wielding, albino mute out killing people (because ghostly white skin and red eyes do look intimidating on a slasher, I guess), but there's not a lot else going on in the story aside from the standard dead teenager jig of bad dialogue, cheesy acting and hardly compelling plotting that are rather tiresome at their worst, and the production quality is distracting in its cheapness. 

Granted the story did try to twist things with a ghostly urban legend involving the Shaw house, thus the inclusion of a spectral bride and her cryptic history with the killer (and too one random hobo-looking dude that just pops out of nowhere from time to time), but its execution is still pretty weak as the ghost doesn't really do much but simply be there and look as mysterious as an afterschool play make-up and late-2000s low budget computer editing can afford, occasionally guiding our nominal final girl to some clues on how to survive Spiker's rampage. Basically, it's padding and not the good entertaining kind.

I will have to give the movie points for a pair of good scenes (Spiker emerging from the waters to do murder and another involving a wounded victim crawling to their friends while they nonchalantly talk), some of the gorier killings and bloody make-up effects, and too the surprisingly dark ending with its less-is-more approach. But apart from these little merits, I just find Spiker (2007) standardly forgettable despite still being watchable for its strive and tolerable amount of cheesiness. (The less we question where our killer's getting his endless supply of rail spikes, the better) Not much else to say but, eh, we can do worse. 

1 male electrocuted in the head with an automatic defibrillator
1 male shot dead
1 male shot dead
1 male stabbed in the back with a pair of rail spikes
1 male stabbed through the head with rail spikes
1 female stabbed in the back with a rail spike, bled to death
1 male stabbed to death with rail spikes, pinned to the wall
1 female attacked mostly offcamera, later found stabbed to death with rail spikes
1 male hacked on the chest with an axe
1 male found stabbed to death with rail spikes
1 male gets a thrown rail spike to the back
Total: 11

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Headless Hackers: Sleepy Hollow high (2000), The Hollow (2004) and Headless Horseman (2007) Triple Bill Review

It may no longer be Halloween as of writing this, but it is still Fall season and nothing spells Autumn ghost stories than The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a 1820s Gothic tale by author Washington Irving which tells the story of one headmaster, Ichabod Crane, and his encounter with a headless Hessian one ill-fated night in the titular town of Sleepy Hollow. Adaptations of this story are plenty, ranging from animated Disney shorts to Jeff Goldblum-starring TV flicks spots, and you can bet your cheeks we have slasher varieties from time to time, one of the more known ones being directed by Tim Burton with a supernatural slasher-fantasy feel, 1999's Sleepy Hollow

But if you're looking for trashier, sillier and cheesier rounds of headless horsemen hacking the hapless helpless, then head no further! Here are three slashers titles taking their own twist on the Sleepy Hollow story and, my god, aren't they something~


Sleepy Hollow High (2000)
Rating: **
Starring: Meagan Lopez, Ruben Brown, Antonio Benedict

After getting caught pranking a snitch one night, five delinquents from Sleepy Hollow Highschool (who curiously look like people in their 20s) are punished to do community service by cleaning up a nearby park ground or else they'll get expelled. A counselor aptly named "Mr. E" (*muffled screams*) accompanies the gang to the clean-up so he can keep an eye on them but, in the midst of yardwork, money-funded teen drama writing and supposedly captivating red herring-filled thrills, the group will soon find out someone is taking their local legend way too seriously as a pumpkin masked killer shows up to collect some heads.

But who could it be? The snitch who is subtlety (as in, totally on our faces) seen giving them the stink eye while packing away a headless horseman costume at the trunk of his car? "Mr. E" (*even louder muffled screaming*) succumbing to his collar-grabbing short-fused temper? Or perhaps it's the headless horseman himself? Twirling his sword around and looking like a dork in a medieval fair, itching to punish some terrible people?

Strongly resembling a student film project that somehow got home video distribution rights, Sleepy Hollow High (2000) tries its hardest to be comprehensibly entertaining and, through small hoops and loops of unintentional hilarity, this micro-budget Breakfast Club (1985)-meets-supernatural slasher hybrid succeeds. By a molecular thread. 

As a slasher, it inevitably fails to impress; the janky mess that is this movie's editing made all of the pumpkin killer's slayings and brief chases barely watchable. Its use of shaky cam, near-absence of lighting and early 2000s CG bits somehow cheapening every sword swing and flying Halloween décor body parts even more than it should be possible. The worse to come, however, is this movie's own conclusion in which it pulls a Slaughter High (1986) twist on us that doubles down with a rather pointless implication before the credits roll, which ultimately adds very little to the already generic backwoods slasher plot. These peeves trip and bog the movie down drastically and I would have trashed it as dumpster fire if it wasn't for some of the laughs I got out of it.

Granted the movie also suffers from characters being detestably annoying and unengaging in their bad boy/girl melodrama, and the movie's poorly composed production rivaling your annoying uncle's home grown vacation videos, Sleepy Hollow High (2000) still has the ludicrous saving grace of being as interesting as a lumbering flaming wheel rolling down heavy traffic; tragedy bound's to happen but you just can't look away, much like how this film's misplaced attempts of seriousness clash so horribly with its inept quality that it's comical. It's so bad it's forgivingly good in a way (?), but I cannot deny that's a statement true to only a few people and plenty would likely just skip this one over. And I wouldn't blame them. 

As much as I like some slasher titles with dangerously high levels of cheese such as ThanksKilling (2008), Nail Gun Massacre (1985) and Truth or Date: A Critical Madness (1986), I still have to draw the line somewhere and Sleepy Hollow High (2000) almost got past that line if only it didn't fell apart stupidly in the end. Better luck next time, movie!

1 female killed with a sword
1 female decapitated with a sword
1 female decapitated with a sword
1 male had his hand lopped off with a sword, hacked
1 male pulled through a sword, impaled
1 male sliced down in half with a sword
Total: 6

The Hollow (2004)
Rating: ***
Starring: Kevin Zegers, Kaley Cuoco, Nick Carter

This movie is just, for a lack of better term, cute!

In this made-for-TV cheapie chiller with a surprisingly large count of familiar faces, it's nearing All Hallows Eve in Sleepy Hollow and new-in-town high schooler Ian Cranston was just enjoying the festivities when he sees himself followed and pestered by the local graveyard's groundskeeper Claus Van Ripper, who calls Ian "teacher" (more often than one could stand, if you ask me) and believes he and his family are the latest descendants of one Ichabod Crane, thus the only ones who can stop the Headless Horseman upon his return.

Ian, of course, dismisses the ramblings, and the same goes for the rest of the town as everybody disregards the groundskeeper's fear of the Horseman's wrath and his consistent demands to call off the festivities. But as you would've guessed, the dark rider of the legends does arrive from the other side to hunt down horny teenagers and a few unfortunate bystanders around Sleepy Hollow, leading Ian to brave the night, heed Van Ripper's guidance and accept the role as the town's only hope for surviving that night. 

Despite the lack of gratuitous and exploitative elements likely to be found from its gorier slasher kin, I'm honestly surprised at how fun The Hollow (2004) got with its back-to-basics approach on awkward teen subplots and supernatural spookiness, both hardly that complex but appreciatively enjoyable nonetheless. Yes, it still has its cliched runs like Ian having a coach dad who's disappointed at his son for not embracing football, or how there's a love triangle between our hero, a pre-Big bang Theory Kaley Cuoco-lead cheerleader and her soon-to-be Ex played by a bullying Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys fame, but the main story of the Headless Horseman's hellish return and Ian's discovery of being the great great grandson of Ichabod Crane has the strong points of being a strange mix of seasonal coziness and late night popcorn movie silliness that knows it exists just to simply entertain.

Its lack of a high kill count, splashy murders and a more inventive look for the headless Hessian (Like, for real. Another literal pumpkin head?) may stray away slasher fans looking for a full-on hack-a-thon with chunky gore, as the Hessian doesn't really appear on screen until the last third of the movie and even by then, there’s not that much bloodshed committed and whatever grue we got is relatively tame. Overall, though, this doesn't detract how much I enjoyed this forgettable yet competently modest Halloween slasher and I think it deserves a few more genuine views from curious horror fans out there looking for a light fright flick.

Flawed but fun, The Hollow (2004) is far from a terrible pick; a mindless time-waster guaranteed to keep the Autumn spirits up and do a fair job bringing in the small thrills.

1 male killed, body seen dragged away
1 female attacked with a flaming Jack-o-Lantern, killed
1 male beheaded with a sword
1 male beheaded with a sword
1 female beheaded with a sword
Total: 5

Headless Horseman (2007)
Rating: ***
Starring: Billy Aaron Brown, Rebecca Mozo, Richard Moll

Everything you know about the story of Sleepy Hollow? Throw it out of the window because, according to this movie, it's all whitewashed! 

Seven teenagers driving to a party in Kansas make the unfortunate mistake of taking a shortcut down into the woods, which trail just so happens to be rigged with bear traps. As their car hobbles down with a snared tire, a young tow truck driver named Candy just happens to be around and agrees to take them to the small and nearly isolated town of Wormwood Ridge to have their ride repaired.

In there, the teens learn through Candy that the town's preparing for the Headless Horseman Celebration, which is held every Halloween since 1806, the year a serial killing Satanist horseman named Calvin Montgomery preyed on the town's children for his rituals until the residents caught and hanged him, body left to rot and his head torn away. But unbeknownst to our gang, Montgomery, now a headless specter called, well, Headless, cursed the town with misfortune and will continue to haunt and prey upon it unless the townsfolk help him collect seven heads for a pact he made with his dark master. 

Now trapped in a hexed town desperate to end the horseman's nightmare, the teens will find out the measures these townies will go to keep them from escaping, as well as the decapitating, supernatural threat that is Headless.

Basically Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and Wrong Turn (2003) with one headless killer with fleshy tentacles growing out of his neck stump, I find Headless Horseman (2007) completely bonkers in the right way; the characters are your typical B-grade horror fodder devoid of depth and acted clunkily (a few more annoying than the others), and the plot makes very little sense and even feels a tad too convenient at times, but the sheer amount of cheese, insanity and blood warped around its run and the admittedly creative take on a lore inspired by the Sleepy Hollow tale make this film a shred more tolerable to sit through than it should be.

It's nothing we wouldn't expect from a predictable and sleazy made-for-television SyFy shlock (back when it was decently called "SciFi"), bad early day CG, banal writing and all, but the movie doesn't shy away from embracing the outrageousness of its story. That said, expect a lot of genuinely fun and cheeky moments thrown in, like how Headless is one part eldritch abomination slowly growing its head back the more he decapitates his intended victims, or how he badassed his way out an exploding garage by riding a motorcycle!


The horror elements just work in the simplest sense; though the deaths mostly lead to decapitations, the kills have variety and the gore is surprisingly done with well enough practical effects. Headless also himself proves to be an efficient villain to dish out these murders and put up a good fight, and, again, the brazen Satanist-cum-Lovecraftian angle they went with his origin does warrant good points for how off-the-wall it is. The pacing does plod off whenever the film feels the need to dump some expositions, but it fortunately rewards our patience with a good climax trailing straight down to a nifty three-against-one final brawl.

As dumb this movie can get, Headless Horseman (2007) still has enough fun content to make up for its drag and slop. It's not gonna be everyone's humble horror pie, no doubt about that, but as a harmless slasher effort? I say track this down and give it a try! Could be worth some laughs!

1 male found headless
1 male decapitated with a thrown blade
1 male decapitated with a car's trunk
1 girl decapitated with a sword (flashback)
1 male attacked with a sword, hanged and pulled until decapitated (implied in book)
1 male shot a car's gas tank, immolated
1 female bashed with a flail, decapitated on a bear trap
1 male beheaded with an axe
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male decapitated with a sickle
1 male shot
1 female decapitated
1 female shot
1 male shot
1 male shot to death
1 male ran over with a truck
120 individuals disintegrated into dust
Total: 136

Friday, November 13, 2020

A 2020 Friday The 13th.

We're nearing the end of a very crappy year, so here's hoping we get a decent one after a month and a half! Until then, don't loose yer head, keep calm...


Happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Masakra Chunky Twins: Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight (2020)

Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight (W lesie dzis nie zasnie nikt) (Poland, 2020)
Rating: ***
Starring: Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz, Michal Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska

In this down-to-basics approach to backwoods bodycounters hailing all the way from our Polish friends, a group from Camp Adrenalina are on a hike to teach their technology-addicted selves how to let go of their electronics and experience life's worth through nature. Unknown to them, at a house deep in the very same woods, a weary old woman was feeding raw meat to something in her cellar when one small slip sends her tumbling in and getting killed by who or whatever's been hidden away there, now free to roam the woods that night for more food.

Next morning comes and Daniel, the group's wannabe playboy, is nowhere to be seen after a round of bumpin' uglies with pretty girl Aniela the previous evening. The only clue to his fate is a bloodied tree trunk nearby, so guide Iza decides to tag along avid gamer Julek and mysteriously solemn Zosia to leg back at camp with her and find help, while Aniela and soft spoken queer Bartek are left behind in case Daniel shows up somehow. Of course, in par to these killer-in-the-woods type, this plan only trails to nothing but bloody fiascos as not one, but two huge, grossly bulbous cannibals are out there hunting and killing as many people as they can for good munchies and these hikers, along with a couple of random bystanders, could fill their bellies good for days...

As a backwoods slasher, Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight is a serviceable little beast. The plot isn't anything new or grand despite its potential to exploit the backdrop of a technology-free camp detoxing its campers of internet and cellphone addiction, throwing this concept out no soon after it is introduced for a more standard kids-in-the-woods kind of story, but I will give it points for not overly complicating things and just keep it easy. Teens go to the woods, get attacked, survival happens, all standard in the core but welcome.

What Nobody Sleeps have that kept me watching is its awesome gore and make-up effects, with the killers' gross deformities being one of its highlights just for how detailed and stomach-churning they are to look at. The murders are an okay set, one of which doing a decent jump scare that actually caught me by surprise while many others pay tribute to other backwoods slashers such as Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007), The Burning (1980) and that one iconic kill in Friday The 13th Part VII: New Blood (1987). In fact, I kinda like the little movie Easter eggs here and there as other slashers like Castle Freak (1995), Just Before Dawn (1981) and Freddy vs Jason (2003), as well as iconic horror titles like The Evil Dead (1981) and even Creepshow (1982) get a nod and a wink which often got me chuckling, if not simply gleeful at how they're worked into the story. (Absolutely loving the The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill-inspired explanation for the killers' madness, which simply came out of nowhere!)

I also like the fact that the writing in this film tries to flesh out its characters a bit more than simply keeping them within the stereotypes they're portraying, though this inadvertently shows Nobody Sleeps' flaws in keeping a fair flow and consistency in tone; while a good deal of the story has this sullen yet youthful atmosphere that centers on teen insecurities and struggles, without a doubt to build upon cathartic demises for the group, the random bits of comic relief, wonky theremin-laced score and weird leeways at the near end just cluttered and hobbled what could have been an effective emotional run for the film, hence making the finale feeling uneven. 

And then there are the plot holes, such as one character knowing way too much dirt on what the killers are and were (and none of the doomed kids addressing this matter), and this film's obvious final character being in a camp that keeps you from using technology, though their background reveals they might as well be traumatized from using technology seeing what it did to their family. They're distracting, but fortunately few on my book so not as jarring or annoying as one might expect.

Marketed as Poland's first slasher film, Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight is a modest production for what is basically a homage to 80s bodycounters. (and then some) It's far from great, but for what it offers in bloody kills, monstrous killers and decent enough characters through an easily digestible story, I say it earns a viewing or two from good little slasher fans like you and me! 

1 male dragged away, killed
1 female killed offcamera, blood splash seen
1 male repeatedly swung and beaten against a tree inside a sleeping bag
1 female decapitated offcamera, head thrown out
1 female gets a dead branch ran through her mouth
1 male had his eyes thumbed, shredded through a wood chipper
1 male seen crawling out of a burning car wreck, killed (flashback)
1 female and 1 girl implied killed in car crash (flashback)
1 male gutted with a knife
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male split down in half with an axe
Total: 12