Saturday, July 17, 2021

Happy 10th Birthday, StickyRed!

Ten years. 

Ten years of all things hacking and stabbing. Ten years of filling up this compendium of bodycounts from slasher movies and its kin. I never really thought I could make it this far! 

It kinda feels like it was just yesterday when I finally decided to start writing about my favorite horror sub-genre after visiting sites like Hysteria-Lives, Slasherpool and Retroslashers. (Dang, who remembers the last two?) I wanted an outlet and this site gave me that opportunity to do just that so, thank you. 

Thank you for those who dropped by to see what this little man has offer in insight regarding your favorite and/or new slasher titles out there. (I sure do hope I didn't spoil any movies considering the bodycounting I do here! haha) Thank you for tolerating my grammar, which I swear I check and re-check, over and over. Thank you for commenting and sharing a few suggestions for me to watch and read. (You know who you are, you good people!)

Thank you, to all the little friends I made here. Knowing you take a time off your day to see what I write about simply puts a smile on my face. (What can I say? I'm a man of simple pleasures!)

So ten years has passed since I started this blog. Here's to another ten years and more! So long as evil walks on two legs and there are final girls and boys to stop them, I will power on to see what this fine subgenre has to offer! So here's to StickyRed: Bodycount Compendium! So now, dear readers...

The Witch Forever Lives: Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)
Rating: ****
Starring: Kiana Madeira, Ashley Zukerman and Gillian Jacobs

Previously on Fear Street; After learning through a fellow Shadyside massacre survivor's own harrowing account back in 1978 that they can end the curse afflicting their town by reuniting a dead witch's severed hand with the rest of her remains, siblings Deena and Josh find the witch's hand and head forth to her suspiciously misplaced grave. But when Deena bleeds unto the remains, however, she begins to see things in the past through the witch's eyes...

It's the early 17th century, at a settlement called Union; Sarah Fier is just like any other youth around the community, spending her days helping around with her family's chores and enjoying whatever free time she has left with her friends. But when one night of festivities under the full moon had her confessing her love for her friend Sarah Miller and got intimate, it somehow kicked off a curse that spoiled the town's harvests, poisoned the water and possessed the settlement's pastor Cyrus Miller into murdering a dozen children. As the town's grievance boils into blaming rage, they set their eyes on hunting down Sarah Fier and Hannah Miller as many claim to have seen the two practicing witchcraft. 

Now on the run and blamed for the mysterious plague, Sarah Fier looks for a way to save not only herself, but her beloved Hannah, this including striking a deal with the Devil himself. But not everything is what it appears and Sarah, along with our present day Shadysiders, will find out the horrible truth about the darkness befalling them...

Much like the first two Fear Street movies, 1666 subverts expectations by practically handling a story that is its own rather than a homage to a popular slasher plot; running around nearly two hours, the film is split into (further) two parts, with the first being a folk horror story taking place during the fire-and-brimstone era of colonial America. This is where the trilogy bring forth its most intriguing and strongest plot point as it plays with the idea of forbidden romance, paranoia and religious fanaticism through a twisty mystery as a mean to flesh out a workable overarching story even more. The unexpected turns within these parts work fittingly well with the overall tone of the story as a whole, keeping us on our toes as we watch Fier and Miller (both played by the two main casts from the previous two films, a nice touch that gave their characters a bit of legacy) figure out what's causing the misfortunes, all the while surviving an extremist mob on a murderous witch hunt. Through its gloomy camera work and suppressive score, this half is simply evocative and intense down to the expected yet still shocking and surprisingly bittersweet end that leads us back to the present.

Without giving away the big reveal, the second half of 1666 follows up on where the events of 1994 left off so far, now with a stronger sense of urgency and tighter atmosphere as a surprise villain is made aware that their secretive exploits have been compromised and is now willing to do anything to make sure it stays hidden. The whole second act just ties neatly to everything that been happening, made better with the fact that it brought back the spunky energy of the first movie which was noticeably absent from the second. This means more creative Scooby-Doo friendly plans to stop yet another small army of stabby, masked and not-so-masked villains (I swear, these killers better get their own movies!), ending with a satisfying finale that tug heartstrings and a last shot implying some possible mayhem in the future. It perfectly balances out the bleak and gloomy first half, a cleverly entertaining way to wraparound the entirety of the story.

With the story straying away from the typical hack-and-stab film plot, this leaves Fear Street 1666 a bit of an oddball within the interconnected slasher trilogy with its lack of sizeable onscreen kill count or recognizable teen horror tropes. It does earn points here, however, as a general horror flick with its bold moves of having the first set of slayings involve children (done offscreen and it's only for a single scene, but the shown aftermath of the carnage is still unnerving) and Sarah Fier's own hanging being effectively distressing considering the twist. It further makes up for its lack of solid slasher build with a very engaging story and character development and this  is something I personally see as not only this movie's winning factor, but the entire trilogy's; there's respect for the slasher tropes we all know and love here, addressing it before giving it a spin of its own. This fresh take on the subgenre is exactly the kind of welcome creative response we need and is why each film works.

A strong last chapter to a trilogy of slasher throwbacks and then some, Fear Street 1666 is as good as it can get when it comes to a fun mystery, intense thrills and ghoulish cavalcades of masked killers and traitorous spellcasters. It certainly has its little flaws (I find it kinda hard to buy that puritan teens sneaks out for parties, drinking the fruits of the land and take berries as drugs but, eh!), but for all the good it has to offer, I can honestly say this is a one gratifying entry for a of a kind slasher event!  

12 children found murdered, eyes plucked out with a horseshoe hook pick
1 male stabbed in the side with a pitchfork
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female hanged
1 male stabbed through the neck with a knife
1 male knifed in the gut
1 male knifed in the eye
Total: 18

Thursday, July 15, 2021

No Talking. No Texting. No Breathing: Al Morir La Matinée (2020)

Al Morir La Matinée (Uruguay/Argentina, 2020) (AKA "Red Screening", "The Last Matinee", "Bloody Matinee")
Rating: ****
Starring: Ricardo Islas, Luciana Grasso and Franco Duran

Sometimes you don't have to flex a high concept to make a fun horror movie. Sometimes you could just work it out with some guy with a bag full of tools, a fairly sizable bodycount and set of gnarly kills, all taking place in a old school movie theater. 

It's a rainy day in 1993 and young projectionist Ana (Luciana Grasso) is taking over her emphysema-stricken father's shift at the Cine Opera downtown theater, which is mostly empty that day. The few patrons who are staying, though, are treating themselves with a showing of Frankenstein, The Monster (With clips taken from Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011)) all the while going on with their own shenanigans of hooking up with girls, giving their dates a hand and, for one kid, sneaking in to brave a movie that might be too scary for him. Unbeknown to them all, a gloved maniac is staying in the very same theater and he has set his eyes on killing them all.

While it isn't new to have a slasher film set in a movie theater seeing we have titles like The Meateater (1979), Movie House Massacre (1984)Anguish (1987), and Matinee (1989) already, as well as a few horror titles opening with a murder taking place in crowded theaters such as He Knows You're Alone (1980) and Scream 2 (1997), none of them really took the sleek and gory approach as good as Al Morir La Matinée (2020). Basically, the film's direction is to have the hack and stab elements stripped down to its very core, a throwback of sorts with a simple premise and somewhat okay characters being themselves while a killer picks them off one by one. It never strays away from this approach. No twists or curveballs. Just have a psycho stalk the cinema and murder away anyone he can grab hold on to.

This, in turn, means that the characters can be lacking a bit of depth or personality, but the interactions between themselves and others do have their subtle, cheeky and cheesy moments, thus keeping their scenes far from being boring whenever the film focuses on them. It also helps that the group isn't that big so the focus isn't all over the place, as well as the fact that the plot is paced nicely between the horror and non-horror scenes, giving us enough time to take a quick breather before our killer decides who to stalk and stab next.

And speaking of which, Al Morir La Matinée (2020) will undoubtedly make a gorehound's day as not only is it very bloody, but there's also a strong Italian giallo influence in its cinematography so expect outrageous murder angles, evocative tinted lighting and stylized brutality that would make the likes of Argento or Bava proud. (Best of which being a smoker's demise when the killer went for their throat!) What further works here is that there's a sense of tension and creepiness to the killer's massacre, utilizing the nearly empty cinema setting to give our maniac all the darkened halls and rooms to sneak and prowl around, as well as use the screams from the movie playing to drown out the sound of his weapons and distract unsuspecting moviegoers from the murder happening just a few rows next to them. There's definitely a reason behind all of these methodic killings, but who this killer is or how did he ended up this way is something the movie's keeping to itself and I'm frankly okay with that.

Smoothened with a beatastic synth soundtrack and a strong finale involving a trio of potential survivors, Al Morir La Matinée (2020) is a real winner in my eyes as an old school-style slasher done right. It doesn't beat around the bush with too many layered side-plots and its brutal enough to keep a horror fanatic excited, all the makings of a bonafide slasher experience in my book! So whenever you find yourself a chance to see this, I guarantee you a keeper here!

1 elderly male brained with a hammer
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male and 1 female had their heads skewered together with a broken long iron hook
1 male had his face bashed against the floor, stabbed with a knife
1 female had her chest and eye stabbed with a knife
1 male knifed to death
1 female had her head repeatedly crushed with a projector's lamphouse lid
1 male ran through with a broken long iron hook
Total; 9

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Bad Things Always Happen To Shadysiders: Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021)

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd and Ryan Simpkins

Previously in Fear Street; in the cursed town of Shadyside, teen siblings Deena and Josh Johnson, along with Deena's girlfriend Sam Fraser, found a way to stop a trio of resurrected killers after seemingly disturbing a fabled witch's grave, losing their dear friends in the process. Unbeknowst to them, the curse is far from done as Sam gets possessed with a murderous frenzy. Desperate for a solution, Deena and Josh turn to the only person who can help them now, a fellow Shadyside resident named C. Berman who dealt with the witch's curse before.

As the siblings manage to restrain Sam and travel to Berman's house, much to the latter's uneasiness and reluctance to get involved with the curse again, they try convincing her to at least share what she knows. Giving in eventually, Berman recounts her own tragedy during that one night at Camp Nightwing.

It was 1978, when the rivalry between the prosperous town of Sunnyvale and the downbeaten Shadyside gets put to the test once more through the camp's annual color war. Shadyside sisters Ziggy and Cindy Berman, polar opposites of one another personality-wise, will see themselves caught in an alarming situation through their own encounters with the camp nurse, Mrs. Lane, whose own daughter Ruby Lane became one of Shadyside's spree killers. Ziggy, the rebellious one, notices Lane's distressed ramblings about the nature of her daughter's murder spree whilst getting her wounds treated, while Cindy, the uptight one, gets a far more harrowing experience when Lane attacked her and her boyfriend, Tommy Slater, after claiming she saw the boy's name on a wall.

Fortunately, Lane gets dealt with before any further damage can be done, prompting the campers to bring up the supposed Shadyside curse and Sarah Fier, the supposed witch responsible for damning the land. Being the ever rational person, Cindy doesn't buy any of this and goes snooping around the nurse's office with Tommy, looking for proof that she may just be high on something during the attack. Crashing in to join them is Cindy's former friend Alice and her boyfriend Arnie, and they find not only a bottle of unlabeled drugs, but also Lane's journal full of notes and details about Sarah Fier, her deal with the devil and the curse itself.

As Cindy and her group goes deeper into the woods looking for Fier's house to understand Lane's obsession over the witch, Ziggy deals with a group of Sunnyvale bullies and gets an unexpected help from a fellow Sunnyvale teen, a counselor named Nick Goode who, more or less, is smitten with her. It would have been a typical Summer night of misadventures for the two groups, but little do they know that the curse is real and it has taken another soul that evening. A soul damned to commit murder under the name of Sarah Fier...

Clocking for almost two hours, about an approximate two-thirds of Fear Street 1978 have us watching more heart-to-heart moments between the doomed teens as they discuss their troubles and outlooks in life through the eyes of troubled youth, as well as dive deeper into the hints and details as to who and what Sarah Fier could be and how the curse works. This means that, although influenced by backwoods slashers, particularly the Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp movies, the film subverts expectations by primarily focusing more of its narrative on the characters and the mythology behind the witch's curse, leaving the slasher elements to run its course in the background for the killcount and, frankly, very gruesome shock value. This can be a relative drawback as the approach may not sit well for those expecting full on backwoods-set hacking and stabbing through and through, especially with its comparably slower pace than the first entry and the abundance of lore talk (most of it taking place inside a cave, mind you), but the movie does make up for these with its stellar performances, inspired scripting and genuinely bleak atmosphere.

Much of the development stems from the two lead actresses Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd as Ziggy and Cindy Berman respectively, sisters who hadn't seen each other's desperation for love and acceptance for quite some time, now thrown in an otherworldly massacre that's both human and supernatural. The writing for these two and how they were acted simply flesh out the uneasy and tense history between them, giving the girls time to develop and open up with their troubles to further establish themselves as individuals and sincerely grow as family. Sad to say, as it is established early into the film, one of them will bite the big one and the impact of the demise is still no short of tragic.

When Fear Street 1978 does show its slasher side, it is mostly what you would expect from a backwoods slasher set-up featuring a mad axeman, with people getting chopped left and right with explicitly strong gore. The shock factor here, though, is that almost half of the victims were preteen children and albeit it's mostly offcamera, the fact that this massacre included young kids is pretty ballsy. It undoubtedly shows the kind of serious mood they're setting for, at the price of the camp and snark which does make the first movie memorable, sadly. The supernatural-tainted finale does also call for some fair word about it for how dark it was despite, again, knowing the outcome.

Acting as a solid midway between a planned trilogy, as well as a competent standalone campsite slasher, Fear Street 1978 is a treat for backwoods slasher enthusiasts who doesn't mind a fair bit of teen drama and witchy threats tagging along the bodycount. It may lack the vigor of the first film, yes, but I'll give it points for attempting something fresh out of the typical backwoods teen horror and for being a consistent narrative within a bigger story.

1 male repeatedly axed on the face
1 boy hacked to death with an axe
1 female hacked to death with an axe
2 boys and 2 girls axed to death offscreen
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 male knifed to death
1 female hacked on the chest with an axe
1 female hacked to death with an axe
Total: 11

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Where Your Worst Nightmares Live: Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)
Rating: ****
Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch and Benjamin Flores Jr.

Like many horror-inclined kid growing up in the late 90s and the early 2000s, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books were a staple reading for me during them past lazy weekend afternoons, that was until I elevated my taste for horror novels by reading my first Stephen King work. (Cujo, for those who are curious) From that point, I kinda associated R.L. Stine with kiddie horror for a while and never really bothered with the author until I started looking for slasher novels during college and rediscovered Stine through his other literary series, Fear Street, about teens living in a town called Shadyside and their deadly encounters with the paranormal, the murderous, or sometimes both!

In this first entry of a planned three-parter movie event inspired by the books, we start off in a small town mall during its closing hours and one "Shadysider" teen named Heather Watkins, clocking off from her bookstore cashier job. A figure in a robed skeleton costume suddenly shows up and starts a deadly cat-and-mouse chase with her, hunting knife at hand and a couple of other unfortunate folks littered outside already murdered. "Skull Mask" here eventually catches up on Heather after an intense stalk-and-stab act, knifing her to death just as she uncovers that Skull Mask is actually her friend Ryan Torres.

The killer then gets himself snuffed out with a bullet to the head when a responding sheriff finally makes it there, thus ending another Shadyside massacre...

As the following morning comes, news of the spree killing have the entire town talking once again, among them being the students of the local high school who some believe this to be the work of a witch who cursed the town centuries ago, leading to murders like this being an unwanted norm for Shadyside. Young Deena Johnson doesn't believe in this, however, nor does she have the time to; still bitter about a recent break-up, she just wants to get the day done and over with so she can quit the school band and go back home to sulk. Her fun junkie friends Kate and Simon, though, convince her to stay and join them in a memorial service over at the neighboring town of Sunnyvale, whose football team they'll be fighting in a later game.

The problem, of course, is that Deena's ex-girlfriend, Sam, just happens to be now living in Sunnyvale and attending the same school opposing Shadyside's. The meet-up gets as awkward as it can get when Deena starts going off on Sam for breaking her heart, made worse as a fight breaks out during the service when a Sunnyvale teen made some very unsavory remarks against Shadyside.

It all escalates for the worse when a group of Sunnyvale punks, along with Sam as an unwilling participant, decided to harass the school bus Deena and her friends are at while heading back to town. Their attempt to retaliate ends in a car crash, which lands Sam in the hospital and her boyfriend threatening Deena that he'll get her back for what happened.

And wouldn't you know it, at the night after the incident, someone in a Skull Mask get-up begins stalking Deena and the gang, lurking around and breaking into houses, seemingly preying on something or someone. Could this be, perhaps, a pissed-off boyfriend's sick and twisted attempt to get even? Or is there something far more dangerous and deadlier at play here? Something involving a witch's curse and a town's dark legacy as America's murder capital? 

With its fast pace, fun characters and captivating lore, not only does Fear Street 1994 captures the feel and tone of the book series it is adapted from, but it also twists a refreshingly creative take on throwback slashers that simply delivers; rather than being a straightforward bodycount mystery, it delved into other elements such as witchcraft horror and a bit of survivalist thrills as the middle run of the plot becomes a chase flick with not only one, but three slashers on a hunt and its up for our small troubled group to think up plans to stop them, these being the best bits of the film.

The key point that makes this direction work so well is that it gave us a chance to know our characters a bit more and see their interaction with one another despite not altogether meeting eye-to-eye at the beginning. They start out as typical slasher victim labels of junkies, nerds, cheerleaders and an obviously marked final girl, but their development during the plot's downtimes made them closer and I genuinely love the writing done for them, may it be for laughs or feels, so much so that I worry the outcome of their predicament. And, seeing this is a slasher, they eventually have to chance a gruesome fate and when it happens, it's purely cathartic.

The supernatural theme, thankfully, didn't overly complicate matters as it remains pretty easy to follow and is used to greatly fair effect here through the slashers; without spoiling a lot, the three killers are basically henchmen working under the influence of a curse and it is through this power that keeps them ticking and going. What I love about these killers is that they're pretty diverse in their theme and the lore behind them do make me wish Fear Street 1994 isn't going to just contain itself within three films as the mythology behind the curse hinted more slashers at work from the past and we don't often get slasher concepts taking place during periods of times away from the 90s, 80s, or 70s. (We got a brief look of a 1950s milkman slasher and a deformed boy on a bashing spree in 1920s. How often do we get that?!) 

When it comes to the kills, Fear Street 1994 remains generous with the bloodletting, though a good bulk of the numbers are from offscreen murders and quick carnal flashbacks. Whenever they do decide to show some serious onscreen carnage, its mostly practical with one memorable murder involving a supermarket's electric bread slicer that I doubt will leave everybody's minds as soon as the film ends. (Eat your heart out, Intruder (1989)!) Other highlights include evident homages to classic slasher scenes such as Scream (1996)'s opening act of murdering a big star like Maya Hawke of the Stranger Things fame, as well as Kate's babysitting fiasco as a possible throwback to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978).

It's a pretty strong start for Fear Street's trilogy of supernatural slasher terror and I, for one, cannot wait to see where this entry's cliffhanger ending will lead us to in terms of lore, twists and, hopefully, bodycounting. A strong love letter to slashers of old with a witty witchy twist, whether you love the books or slasher in general, I highly recommend not missing out on this unexpectedly entertaining chiller, or be damned by the witch's curse forever!

1 female repeatedly knifed, bled to death
1 male shot on the head
6 victims seen and mentioned murdered
1 male ran through with a knife
1 female found with a cut throat
1 male knifed in the throat
1 female had her throat cut with a razor (flashback)
1 female seen knifed to death (flashback)
1 boy seen with his head being bashed with a bat (flashback)
1 victim seen being drowned (flashback)
1 female had her head ran through an electric bread slicer
1 male axed on the head
Total: 17

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Tony Todd...

I... um... just gonna go over there... in the corner... to geek about this for a minute... Eyes

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Stick A Pin In An Understudy's Eye: Opera (1987)

Opera (Italy, 1987) (AKA "Terror At The Opera")
Rating: ***
Starring: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini

In a way, I understand the cult following this late 80s Dario Argento giallo made for itself as the film is a lowkey mad masterpiece visually, but this isn't to say I have my own set of reservations about it.

Taking cues from Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of The Opera, the film sets off when the leading lady of a production of Macbeth gets into a car accident after ranting about the opera's experimental direction. (Apparently she's not a fan of ravens. Or laser beams) This leads to a young understudy, Betty (Christina Marsillach), to step into the role, something she's not entirely thrilled about as she sees this as an omen of terrible things to come. The Macbeth curse, if you may.

And surely enough, as Betty sings her part that night, we see a gloved individual sneak into one of the closed off opera boxes to get a better view of the show and we know this creeper is up to no good when they start to reminisce about that one time they attack a woman while another is bound and forced to watch. Their little impromptu private viewing gets interrupted, however, when a staff finds them, leading to the gloved fella to brain the man dead against a coat hook, their struggle causing a set of stage lights to go hurling down.

Despite this fiasco, the show is a somewhat success, much to Betty's and the rest of the production team's delight, though the incident with the lights did lead to the police and an attending inspector to investigate and find the murdered staff. Freaked out by this, the young starlet opted to cool off by hanging out with her stagehand boyfriend and make love with him at his apartment later that evening, only for it all end with Betty getting tied to a pillar and have pins placed under her eyes by the gloved and now-hooded prowler, forcing her to watch them brutally dispatch her lover before simply cutting her loose and exiting the scene.

In shock, Betty wanders off into the rainy night and gets picked up by the production's director, Marco (Ian Charleson), who happens to be driving by. As she confides with him of what just happened, Betty also vaguely recalls a nearly-forgotten childhood memory of the same hooded killer murdering her own mother some time ago, which may mean that the killer knows her and it won't be long before they target her once again, killing anyone who gets in the way.

By the 1980s, a decent lot of Italian giallo films start to resemble less like crime pulp fiction as much of their focus swayed more on keeping up the splatter and kill count high, a response towards the rising popularity of American slashers around that decade. This is evident in Opera's vividly bloody murder set-pieces, which is undoubtedly among director Dario Argento's most memorable contributions in giallo horror for their nightmarish nature and strikingly creative execution. While not overly gory, the bloodletting is generous and the attacks are simply ferocious, done with the key extravagance of a creative eye only the likes of Argento possess as his signature visuals of color tints and expressive camera work make their way into brutal close-ups of a stabbed jaw or an amazing gun murder involving a slow-mo shot of a bullet going through a door's peephole, through an unfortunate victim's head and finally to a nearby phone, destroying it.  

What doesn't work, however, is the overall quality of the film's mystery; with the way the plot flows through its run, Opera indefinitely shows little care about the suggested whodunits as there are hardly any police presence and very little of the characters introduced got any further development than a single (and often strange) note. (Though, I got to say I love the fact that we never saw the original leading lady's face. Makes me chuckle for reasons) This meant that our killer could have been anyone among the crowd, which cheapens the story halfway into an exploitative slasher flick, all the way down to its ridiculous climax of using vengeful ravens to out the killer and a mountain of mad ramblings and expositions in an attempt to piece things together and look smart or dramatic. 

I'm also not a big fan of some of the murders being clashed with heavy metal for what I take is symbolic chaos. It's too obnoxiously on-the-nose and it just doesn't work for me, but even that's vanilla compared to my biggest gripe about the movie; you see, Opera could have ended in, well, the opera, as Betty is forced at gunpoint by the killer to enter a room filled with paperwork. The killer ties her up, locks the room and douses everything in gasoline, intent on ending both of their lives in what's best described as a lovelorn murder/suicide. A fire broke, an intense escape happens and then we're suddenly in the alps. The fucking alps. Weeks later. Without spoiling much, we have ten to fifteen minutes to spare (depending on which release you got), the killer is still out there and then we're treated to one of the most convenient endings I've seen in a giallo, ruining whatever gruesomely gothic atmosphere this movie had before we're in the fucking alps.

Opera is as standard as any late 80s bodycounter is and I'm willing to accept it as a flawed cult classic seeing all the best things about it is undeniably enjoyable. what it lacks in intrigue and a satisfying ending, it makes up with an eloquent aesthetic and carnal display of brutality and madness. See it if you like and maybe you'll enjoy it enough to compel somebody else to see it, hopefully without taping pins under their eyes...  

1 male repeatedly beaten against a coat hook
1 female killed, method unknown (flashback)
1 female killed with a dagger (flashback)
1 male gets a dagger through the throat, stabbed to death
1 female strangled, stabbed in the chest with a pair of dressmaker shears
1 female shot through the head
1 male found knifed in the gut
1 female mentioned strangled
1 female shot
1 female found knifed on the chest
1 male knifed to death
Total: 10

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Eulogy For Euphoria: Sound of Violence (2021)

Sound of Violence (USA/Finland, 2021)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger

Remember back in 2013 when Canada introduced to us Discopathe? That trippy slasher movie where a guy is somehow triggered into mad serial killings whenever he hears disco music? Well, this Finnish-American production explores a similar aspect of musical madness, albeit on a more psychodrama approach with a small taste of exploitative murders ala SAW sequel-inspired machinations and sonic-based body horror. 

The scene begins in 2002, as we watch ten-year old deaf girl Alexis finds her PTSD-suffering, Vietnam vet father in the middle of butchering her mother and brother with a meat cleaver. She strikes him dead with a vengeful swing of a meat tenderizer, an act that not only miraculously restores her hearing, but also makes her experience a euphoric sensation unlike any other.

Now as an adult, Alexis works as a music teacher’s aide and is deeply interested (or, rather, obsessed) with experimental music. She hides her past well enough, though she still longs to feel that same sensation she felt during the night she murdered her father and, with her deafness apparently making a haunting comeback, Alexis sees herself growing desperate to replicate that high. She soon piece things together that the sound of pain is what sparked both her hearing and the otherworldly euphoria, thus setting her plan to explore the joy of pain-based music and create an orchestral masterpiece out of the suffering of others. 

Less of your typical paint-by-number bodycounter and closer to a descent-to-madness character study, Sound of Violence (2021) tackles the meaty subjects of re-occurring childhood trauma and creative addiction behind the sympathetic eyes of a troubled individual slowly being consumed by her commitment to an unexplainable elation. It is an idea that's handled in a manner that gives our main character an intriguingly solid motivation and, with the source of her needed jubilation stemming from torture and death, this ingeniously gave the film ways to ensure the finesse of the narrative doesn't overshadow the horror-tainted entertainment value of the film.

Working well with this approach is Jasmin Savoy Brown's performance as our disturbed yet inspired murderous musician Alexis Reeves, giving the role a sense of normalcy at first rather than overworking the brooding psychopathy head on. This hands us a window to look into and understand the situation our soon-to-be killer finds herself in and what she's going through because of it, as everything she built for herself gets threatened to be taken away by fate unless she does something drastic about it. This, of course, does not excuse her for the murders, but we see her plight and genuine remorse after each deed done, thus we couldn't completely paint her as a monster but, instead, as someone who is sincerely losing control of her own life and is willing to do the extreme to keep whatever good left she sees in her life.

Said extremes are the horror aspects of the plot, wherein Alexis pushes the boundaries of her mental stability, as well as the warm living flesh of her victims, just to feel a sensation of color and lights that's never really explained. People, in turn, gets kidnapped, tricked and/or drugged into participating in her symphony of pain and torment, resulting to outlandish deaths and murder scenarios including a chair rigged with moving knives and hammers that syncs up to a synthesizer keyboard and a plot involving drugging a harpist into playing a harp with razor-thin strings. At times, the extravagance of these murder scenes clashes with the implied seriousness and drama of the story (wait til' you see the beach finale. The cheese levels were a little high there), but it does help put Sound of Violence on a more memorable light as a horror feature and it doesn't stray away too much from the tone of the movie.

If there will be anything I could nitpick about this film is that the fact it felt lacking on some parts introduced, like the police procedural that's more of a red herring than an actual plot point with how little time we get to spend with these scenes and how flat they are whenever we do get them. I do get much of the focus is supposed to be through Alexis' perspective, but these procedurals had enough appearances to warrant some form of conflict, but alas they're just there to imply somebody is made aware of the bloody mess our killer's leaving behind and that's it.

Still, I see a lot of potential from this movie to be a B-flick favorite for those who love their horror weird. It's undeniably posh in some parts, but it has enough madness and bloodshed to satisfy a horror hound's craving for a modern psychodrama!

1 female and 1 boy found hacked to death with a meat cleaver
1 male brained with a meat tenderizer
1 male hit by an incoming car (flashback)
1 male stabbed and beaten to death in a weaponized chair 
1 male had his head cooked with electric shocks through theremin-rigged electrodes, explodes
1 male bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer
1 female had speakers ran through her body via impromptu surgery, dies from her wounds 
Total: 7 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Foul Faculty Fatalities: Teacher Shortage (2020)

Teacher Shortage (2020)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Brinke Stevens, Debra Lamb, Julie Anne Prescott

While the common set-up of campus slasher movies is that it deals with teenagers getting hunted down by a loon, producer, director and writer Troy Escamilla’s Teacher Shortage flips this trope around to have teachers getting the stabbing end this time.

Ryan Billings (Chris Jehnert), the young new addition to Prescott High School's English department, sees himself tagged along to a mandatory team building weekend of booze, bitter retirement talk and table bingo with his fellow teachers. Unbeknowst to every one of them, someone in a cloak and devil mask is making slim pickings out of the mentors and it isn't too long before only a handful of them are left to fend for themselves. Could this, perhaps, has anything to do with a bullying incident ten years ago that led to a tragic end?

Well, yes. Yes it does.

Albeit the gimmick of focusing the bodycount carnage unto the teaching staff, Teacher Shortage still runs a very basic slasher plot of people gathering at a location for insert reason here, only to be carnally bumped off by a masked maniac with an obvious beef with either one or all of them. This makes the plot mostly predictable and some scenes tedious to sit through, especially since the acting can be a bit stiff (a lot of sitting and talking here, folks) and, due to the movie's crowdfunded budget, audio quality is lacking at times. Though, the inclusion of a gay sub-plot and a few jabs at the state of modern American school system do add a small layer of thought and drama that works well enough for a low budget horror movie.

On a stylistic sense, Teacher Shortage isn't all that bad either as it does boast a decently creepy looking killer, as well as a good set of bloody eye-candy murders lensed in Italian giallo-inspired red tint. The short end of the stick, however, is that there are moments where the color gets a little intense in its saturation, so much so that it can be arduous to look at, and the editing done for some gets a bit uneven. Still, there are a couple of fun sequences here that showcase the director's well-maneuvering eye on stalk-and-stab scenes, particularly the first murder of a teacher set in a nearly empty school building and the climactic bar murders.

The last act could have been better, though; we're basically treated to an uninspired reveal and an exposition monologue as to why they're killing off teachers, while the remaining living character just sits bounded, mostly sobbing. It goes long enough that by the time we get to see a fight, it wasn't too far into the run before it simply ends the moment our killer got dispatched brutally. Not particularly all too exciting, but it wrapped all things up fairly and it certainly could have done so much worse.

Despite all its shortcomings, Teacher Shortage is still a fair watch if you like your indie slashers simple yet doable, with the right amount of carnage and commentary. Predictable and clunky it may be, its ambitiousness crafts a rather enjoyable effort that earns a worthwhile watch.

1 female had her throat cut with a mirror shard
1 female stabbed through the mouth with a sharpened ruler
1 female stabbed to death with a pair of scissors
1 male stabbed through the back with a machete
1 female stabbed through the temple with a screwdriver, exits to an eye
1 female had her throat slashed
1 female ran through the back with a pitchfork
1 female stabbed in the eye with a skewer, knifed on the gut
1 male hacked on the face with a meat cleaver
1 male stabbed in the face with a shovel 
Total: 10

Thursday, May 13, 2021

TV Terror: Another (2012)

Another (Japan, 2012 Animated Series)
Rating: ****
Starring: Natsumi Takamori, Naoko Sakakibara, Atsushi Abe

When it comes to anime and manga, I mostly keep myself grounded within the casual and lighthearted side of the geeky interest, meaning I tend to veer towards light-hearted comedies and/or slice-of-life titles a lot more than story-heavy, multi-season franchises. This is out from the fact that I'm not patient enough to sit through five hundred episodes of a single series, nor do I have the capacity to care about a plot that's as thick as ten Bibles when materialized in print. I simply prefer to take it easy when it comes to my Japanese comics and animation, which is why slice-of-life comedies and gag shorts cater best to my taste.

As a slasher fan, however, I wouldn't pass the opportunity to read a manga or see an anime that borrows heavily, if not entire structured around my favorite horror subgenre just to try it out. This leads me to watching one of the more intriguing horror anime titles I've seen in a long while; a supernatural murder mystery that's one part high school drama and one part Final Destination sequel, simply called Another (2012).

In its single season run of 12 episodes, the series tells the story of one 15-year-old Koichi Sakakibara, the new transfer student of a rural junior-high school who finds himself assigned to a particular classroom that's rumored to be cursed. As soon as he settles in, he's drawn to Mei Misaki, a weird and quiet eyepatch-wearing girl in his class whom both teachers and students seem to ignore as some sort unspoken rule that Koichi, understandably, finds odd. Curiosity eventually takes over the boy and he begins to look into the mystery surrounding the school, which in turn triggers a methodic series of fatal accidents and violent deaths befalling unto not only everyone in the afflicted class, but also their loved ones.

Visually, Another (2012) is a commendable work of animated horror drama that undoubtedly has its gloomy and suffocating feel made with an art direction that greatly focuses on dim lighting, twisty angles and a minimalist approach. The atmosphere these visuals create, in turn, goes heavily well with the show's plot considering how much it prompts an isolated feel drawn from not only the story's rustic small town premise, but also from the matter that there are hardly any other characters outside the class circle. This approach meant that the show's very mystery-centered, doing its best to hint and weave all the necessary red herrings and clues to what is happening to Koichi and Mei's peers and friends, working the concept of the curse first before slowly branching it out to shocking onscreen deaths that interestingly increases in number the further the series goes, and too putting cliffhangers to good use in each episode's end.

It is, however, hard to ignore the series' slow start courtesy of some mishandled opening exposition which made the first two episodes not only feel sluggishly paced, but redundant by the fact that we have to sit through our protagonist discover things we may already know from the start. It does this dance until the near end of the third episode, wherein we get out first kill and it was a spectacular one at that. 

On that note, I fully appreciate the balanced amount of gore, brutality, shock and suspense done for the deaths here in Another (2012); while the bloodletting is generous and carnally striking, I like the fact that the story tackles the subject of grief and loss during the series' slower moments. It gave the characters a lot more depth and it helps make the murders feel more cathartic and tragic even in their manic and occasionally exaggeratedly twisted moments. At most, the deaths featured fits wonderfully within the Final Destination franchise as we get a set of both subtle and not-so-subtle accidents taking out the cursed students one-by one. Highlights among these are the first death involving the wrong end of an umbrella and a terrifyingly claustrophobic end through a malfunctioning elevator. 

Around the last two episodes of the show, the chaotic tension finally breaks and the students go on a frenzied survival mode as they try to murder one another in hopes of ending the curse. It's around here that the show delves into superstition and paranoia, molding it around the supernatural and resulting to bountiful onscreen murders and free-for-all accidents that ends on a somewhat decent twist that's as heartbreaking as it is purgative after all that madness. 

With modest character designs and talented voice actors bringing a sense of groundedness and intrigued flair to their roles, Another (2012) is simply one of the better horror anime entries a curious cat can try and rightfully enjoy. While one may have to work through a number of who’s who of characters involved in the plot (even more once we get around the second half!), it doesn't completely overcomplicate itself much and the mystery is fascinating enough in its twists and turns, dishing even bloody ends at the side to satisfy one's exploitative need for bloodshed. Animated supernatural murder mystery fun with a bodycount, what else could you ask for? 

1 female lands neck first unto an umbrella's tip (Episode 3)
1 female implied killed in car crash (Episode 4)
1 female mangled in a dropping elevator (Episode 4)
1 male suffers a heart seizure (Episode 5)
1 male suicide, repeatedly gouged his own neck with a knife (Episode 7)
1 female seen murdered, method unknown (Episode 7)
1 male dismembered through boat propeller (Episode 8)
1 male struck by lightning (flashback) (Episode 9)
1 female slipped off a cliff, mangled in fall (flashback) (Episode 9)
2 females and 1 male drove off a cliff after a rock hits their car (Episode 9)
1 male found crushed by a crashed excavator (Episode 9)
1 male impaled through the mouth with a branch (flashback) (Episode 10)
1 male found pinned to a wall with spikes (Episode 11)
1 female slips and snapped her neck (Episode 11)
1 male incinerated by flames (Episode 11)
1 female caught on wires, hanged (Episode 11)
1 female gets a thrown knife to the back (Episode 12)
1 female knifed on the back (Episode 12)
1 male crushed by a falling pillar (Episode 12)
1 female gets a thrown knife to the neck (Episode 12)
1 male brained with a steel rod (Episode 12)
1 female impaled by flying window shards (Episode 12)
1 female killed with a knife (flashback, Dead A) (Episode 12)
1 female hacked with a pickaxe (Death B) (Episode 12)
Total: 26

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Only Grue Can Prevent Forest Fires: The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2011)

The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (Canada, 2011)
Rating: ***
Starring: Michael G MacDonald, Samuel MacDonald LeMoine, Colleen MacIsaac

This is the kind of movie you would get when the overall production was funded with cheese and beer. A lot of cheese and beer.

The premise isn't far off from your casual backwoods slasher as we follow four buddies out driving to the mountainous woods to celebrate their last days out of school. Seeing most of the gang are hardly the responsible mature-type and they barely packed for their trip save for a cooler full of beer, it isn't long before they're trailing down the road by foot later that night because they didn't bother giving the car a full tank of gas. Fortunately there's a seemingly unoccupied house nearby and, judgement and legality be damned, our gang breaks in to seek shelter.

After a series of false scares, awkward sleeping arrangements and an encounter with a random forest ranger who warns them of a prowler who's out lurking in the woods recently, the foursome double in numbers by morning as another group of teens show up hoping to party in the house, apparently keeping an eye at the place for some time and making sure the owners left to avoid trouble. All's fun and dandy, until one of them didn't return from gathering firewood.

Decades ago, you see, there was a priest-turned-forest ranger who died in a forest fire after trying to fight off some troublesome hooligans, swearing vengeance in Satan's name as he roasts. Some say he's gone, others will find him hunting down anyone unlucky enough to end up in his way, looking the least threatening until he's hacking his victims down to size and assaulting their ears with terrible puns and one-liners about forest safety. For our unlucky shmucks, they will find out this supposed legend's all too real and the unholy abomination that is a tubby, giggling, psychotic forest ranger will be their doom!

Now, understand that the bare bones of The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2011) is that it's cheesy. Like, from the title alone, its high grade fromage should really go without saying. For anybody expecting something deep, new and unexpected, this film isn't gonna bother with any of that and it will just run its course as a homage of sorts to bad, late-80s cheddar horror and do-it-yourself movie magic with the enthusiasm of a so-bad-it's-good parody. For a low budget production, it isn't that badly made aesthetic-wise and it even scored some decent enough make-up effects for a few of the kills, but the predictable plotting and intentional bad acting and writing might turn away some folks who are looking for a more straight-faced affair in their horror movies. But if you know ahead what you're getting into and don't mind a ton of ham and tongue-in-cheek in your dead teenager films, then this has more than enough cartoonish campy fun (pun intended) to give around the bonfire, from the annoyingly hilarious victims and the cheesy Satanist axe-murderer in a ranger's uniform, to the paint-by-number slasher tropes and outrageous dialogue.

Breezing through its plot modestly paced and having silly shenanigans between each kills that have their moments of being giggle-worthy (at least, those that hit their marks), The Legend of The Psychotic Forest Ranger (2011) is just simple fun. Hardly a grand display of what a modern throwback slasher could be, I still find this as an entertaining mess that could have done worse!

1 male stabbed on the face with a broken bottle
1 female stabbed with a stick
1 male gets a bear trap snapped over his neck
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male hacked in half with an axe
1 female stabbed to death with a car key
1 male impaled with a thrown log
1 female beaten with a pot
1 male gets a police baton ran through his head, dies later
1 male and 1 female immolated in car crash
Total: 11

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Six-Fingered Hand of Bloody Redemption: The Redeemer (1978)

The Redeemer (1978) (AKA "The Redeemer: Son of Satan!", Class Reunion Massacre")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Damien Knight, Jeannetta Arnette, Nick Carter

Oh, Lordy. This movie. This wonderfully horrible movie.

It starts with a shot of a hand punching out of a clear lake after a tedious run through the opening credits and a sacrilegious quote, revealing a boy with a very dated haircut casually walking out of the waters and boarding a bus headed to the town church. Elsewhere, a shadowy figure grants a sleeping fellow an extra thumb on one hand because spoiler-related reasons. And, yes, it's kinda gross-looking. One tiny thumb on top of an elongated one.

Urge to poke it with a stick... Growing...

We then we see that the soaky lil' dude is one with of the (more bullied) choirboys and the sermon is your typical fire-and-brimstone type about sins and whatnot, yelled by an equally typical Bible-thumping priest. This is where we get our character introductions interjected through out the righteous Gospel ramblings; John, a lawyer who values money more than a fair trial; Cindy, a party girl with multiple failed marriages; Terry, the eater of burgers; Jane, one who shoots at pigeons for fun; Roger, a vain actor who walked out of set because someone spilled a drink on his pants; and Kristen, a lesbian. Just, uh, just a lesbian. The six happen to be part of a small clique back at their highschool years and they all recently received an invitation to attend a reunion back at their alma mater.

Unbeknownst to them, they're the only ones who got the invites, which could've have just been weird, amusing even, if it wasn't for the loon out stalking and prowling around the campus killing them one-by-one. A loon with a penchant for hammy disguises, life-sized weapon-wielding puppets and Biblical tirades. A loon who calls himself- The Redeemer!  

Now, see, as much as I want to decimate this movie and make a mockery out of its flaws, I can't. I just simply can't. I have a soft spot for dumb cheesy movies, particularly those that are done with the right amount of unintentional humor and have made odd spectacles out of themselves, something The Redeemer here manage to do and a little more. For one, the atmosphere is just befittingly weird coming from the story's dream-like logic and semi-creepy direction, straight from the shot of a random choirboy rising out of the cold waters and the random double thumb appearing at one's hand, to the villain's unusual gimmick of donning random costumes and his somewhat supernatural nature. It plays well with the movie's good eye on expressive cinematography and, too, the villain's warped morality which can be best described as very shallow at best (or worst), yet strangely entertaining leaning on the fact he's going through all of this trouble of dropping swords and setting up blowtorch-equipped mannequins to attack just because the clique is guilty of things like eating too many fast food or loving themselves too much. That said, despite the absence of strong grue or a high count, I also came to like the murders perpetrated by our Redeemer here all for the sheer unusualness of it all, may it be the execution of the scene or the imagery itself.

Character-wise, it's hard to hide how regular the victims can be, unfortunately; don't get me wrong, the actors tried (and I mean, tried) to milk out any seriousness and talent they can muster to act their respective one-note meat bags, but writing and scripting are hardly this movie's strong points so they go against creating any real solid casts unsurprisingly. You could say the same for our titular killer with his holier-than-thou horror trope psychosis, but he at least has the thankful joy of being exaggeratedly bad, to the point that I can't really take him seriously despite the murdering business and all. (Like how can you? This guy can't even get the number of sins right. It's seven deadly sins, shmuck. Not six. Unless we're pulling a Se7en (1995) here and the killer is the seventh sin?!)

Yes, The Redeemer (1978) is no real gem, but it's a personal treat that keeps splitting my sides with its ludicrous ham, as well as captivate me for just how absurd it can get. Perhaps you can say I find it so bad it's good, so much so that it deserves to sit proudly next to other lovable bad trashes like ThanksKilling (2008) and Nail Gun Massacre (1985). If you see yourself a wee bit curious enough to try it out then I say, go for it! Just remember to dim the lights in your noggin and not take any of it as high art as much as possible and you'll do mostly fine!


1 male shot on the neck
1 male set on fire with a blow torch
1 female shot with a shotgun
1 male gets a sword dropped unto his head
1 female drowned in a handwashing sink
1 male shot on the head
1 female hacked to death with a sword
1 boy seen dead from throat cut
Total: 8