Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Some Bloody Nights Deserving of Silence: Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013) and Revival (2015) Double Bill Review

An unsung cult classic, Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) is a proto-slasher that spells a weird yet intriguing mystery plot tagged along with gothic tones, solid performances and a series of brutal murders set around Christmas time, more or less setting grounds to a few staple slasher tropes. It's a fun little number despite its flawed production value and I guess we have a few enthusiastic folks out there who thought the same, which led to not only a 2013 British redo, but also a direct sequel to the original released at 2015.

Oh, how I wished these wanks just didn't bother with them.
Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (United kingdom, 2013)
Rating: *
Starring: Adrienne King, Sule Rimi and Lee Bane

As a modernized reboot, The Homecoming mostly follows through the 1972 original's plot with a few liberties here and there; a rich man named Wilfred Butler dies flaming and falling through his house's second story floor back in 1987. Cut forward to the present and Butler's last living relative, Jeffrey Butler, returns to the house to settle an offer with the townsfolk, selling the abode for a sizable sum. A few locals ponder over this as they just want the house demolished, hopefully taking down with it a dark history that has been tainting the town over the years.

Trouble arises, though, when a maniac murders their way out of a loonie bin and heads toward the town, settling in the Butler house to lure people in and killing them. It appears this murderer has some ties to the house and it isn't long before Jeffrey, along with the mayor's daughter Diane, discovers the horrifying truth behind the Butler's legacy.

Considering the quality of The Homecoming as a product, I dare question the point of even making this film when everything in it is yay-close to being a joke. The acting, for one, has so little life and flair to them that we have scenes where people just walk in and talk before switching over to another scene which may either repeat the process or involve them being killed off by an axe-wielding loon. The audio is mucked up, making half of the lines indistinguishable, and the editing done here looks like it's been made with some shlock's basement computer running on outdated software, something that doesn't help improve the lackluster camera work and uneven pacing.

I did admittedly find the lengthy flashback scene here a tad interesting for at least attempting to bring some character and solid story, but once that song and dance is done, The Homecoming slugs its way through a lifeless finale that has the killer trying to enjoy Christmas dinner with a reluctant survivor, accompanied by corpses and random twists that don't add up at all.

Not really hard to say little else about this movie seeing how much it lazily half-assed its way into existing. Don't bother with this one, mates, as it's a bloody night better off silenced.

1 male suffocated with a plastic bag over his head
1 male had his head repeatedly crushed with a car door
1 male strangled and garroted with fairy lights
1 female had her face jabbed with a chair leg
1 male hacked in the back with an axe
1 female axed to death
1 male hacked through the head with a shovel
1 female had her throat cut with a razor
1 male slaughtered with knives (flashback)
1 female dragged away, killed (flashback)
2 males killed, method unknown (flashback)
1 male gets a wine glass to the eye, killed (flashback)
1 female killed offscreen (flashback)
1 male shot
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male strangled to death
Total: 17
Silent Night, Bloody Night 2: Revival (2015)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Julia Farrell, Luc Bernier and Jennifer Runyon

Okay. Who asked for this? Tell me. I have a large crusty chunk of coal ready to shove up their a-

The story here follows siblings Angelica and James traveling to the small town of East Willard to pay respect to their deceased brother, Max. They then head to stay at a bed and breakfast where things get strange as not only did Max apparently sent the house a VHS recording of himself giving cryptic messages for his siblings to watch, but there's also a creepy caller phoning the place, looking for a Jeffrey Butler and warning whoever is staying there that a Peter is out and that there will be blood by Christmas morning.

Angelica eventually learns through a not so hidden hidden journal of Jeffrey Butler that the town has a bit of a dark past one Christmas time ago back at the 1970s and now, a new festive fear figure is terrorizing it; Black Peter, the vengeful brother of Santa Claus. 

Now, see, I have no problem with sequels taking place decades after the original. Hell, one of my top fave slashers happen to be Psycho II (1983), the direct sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece Psycho (1960). The key is to make the sequel's story work with character developments, intriguing plot pieces and a little bit of fanservice, a craft that can be mastered with skill and respect to the original film. And these are lot of things this garbage that calls itself the sequel to Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) lacks of and failed to do.  

When about two-thirds of a sequel is just the original movie re-edited as sepia toned flashbacks and its scored with free-to-use internet music, you know there's barely any story to go by here and you can smell the cheap glue holding it together from miles. The over-cheesed bad acting that's as atrocious as the writing certainly isn't going to help elevate things ("Who's outside?", one character questions as mad door pounding fills the room. "Someone who wants inside.", answers another. Riveting), so does it comes as a surprise that the effects here are distractingly bad, too? (Yeah, uh, when you have that much of a snow shovel hacked all the way into your back, I highly doubt you can still stay in once piece and do semi-snow angels during your death rattles) 

In a way, it's kinda amazing how so much of this movie just doesn't work, even in a so bad, it's funny outlook. I guess this movie's trying to be something like the 1987 sequel to the infamous-for-kinda-understandable-reasons holiday slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), wherein the follow-up film hams its tone, acting and script further up and pushed the ante for economically tight movie making by recycling footages from the original as "flashback scenes", not very unlike the approach Revival did. The only difference here is that Deadly Night's sequel has a lot of manic energy in its approach that it's kinda fun to watch in a cheesy ironic way, while Revival just drags on for a lengthy while with its supposed mystery only to reward our patience with cheap kills and insultingly horrid onscreen talent. Fuck. That.

 Again, who asked for this?

1 male implied dead from a car wreck
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 female hacked through the back with a snow shovel
1 female stabbed in the chest with a fire poker
1 male beaten to death
1 male found dead on a cross
1 elderly female strangled with fairy lights
1 elderly male shot on the face
1 female poisoned
Total: 9

Saturday, December 11, 2021

T'was a Naked Scream Queen Christmas: Santa Claws (1996)

Santa Claws (1996)
Rating: **
Starring: Debbie Rochon, Grant Kramer and John Mowod

While many of us remember John A. Russo as the writer behind Night of The Living Dead (1968)'s screenplay, those skittering about the lower, lower depths of the horror trash bin would also remember him for directing one of the many horror stinkers to exist, Santa Claws (1996).

As a child, Wayne never got over his father's death and hates just about anybody who would try to take his place. So when he finds his mother and uncle canoodling one Christmas night, the boy lost it, picked up his uncle's handgun and emptied it on the two adults.

Flashforward to the present, scream queen Raven Quinn is in the midst of a troubled marriage when she agreed to star in a shlocky softcore horror feature, "Scream Queen Christmas". Her in-laws disapprove of this and her husband is out elsewhere on a photoshoot (and an affair) so no full support on his part, which leads us to the now-adult Wayne who just happens to be her neighbor; secretly, Wayne is Quinn's biggest fan and whenever he's not worshipping her through a creepy shrine decked with her memorabilia (including a life-size bust that he smooches), he's doing his best to feign normalcy and tries anything he can to win her over.

And by anything, I mean apart from being a supportive friend, he's also out killing anybody he deems unworthy of Quinn's attention and love. Like, duh.

Frankly, Santa Claws (1996) doesn't work as a genuine horror effort; it's painfully obvious in its low-budget straight-to-VHS production, treading through a soggy, paper-thin story littered with atrociously bad acting, zero scares and a dry kill count. The pace is bogged down by too many skin scenes featuring characters that aren't particularly likable (or mattered at all considering the writing quality here), so I'm sure as shit thrills won't be a thing in this shlock as well. Still, the badness of it all at least reaches a form of high point as an unintentional comedy and I do find myself laughing at this mess from start to finish; the awkward shots, the inept line delivery, the clumsy murder sequences, there's a sense of corny weirdness to them that I just can't help but grin and chuckle. 

And, yes, if you have to count it, I guess the movie's multitude of eye candy stripteases can be a treat for some people. But if we're just in it to see some tits and ass, then one should know that the outtakes from this movie, along with additional topless footages were actually compiled into a real video titled Scream Queen’s Naked Christmas (1996). From what I heard, it's just as terrible as Santa Claws (1996) but, hey, Boobs Ahoy!

Obviously the worst choice you would make if you're looking for a good, good Christmas-themed slasher, but if you're open for a weirdly goofy and cheap holiday horror trasherpiece, then drink that bourbon and watch away!

1 male and 1 female shot to death
1 female hacked to death with a garden claw
1 male hacked to death with a garden claw
1 female strangled to death
1 female hacked on the gut with a garden claw, strangled
1 male strangled to death with a choke-hold
1 male hacked on the throat with a garden claw
Total: 8

Friday, December 3, 2021

One Long Family Squabble: The Toybox (2006)

The Toybox (United Kingdom, 2006)
Rating: *
Starring: Alexander Abadzis, Russell Barnes and Suzanne Bertish

The flying fuck of fuckery did I just subjected myself to?

As youngsters, siblings Berenice and Brian Usher face imaginary foes, tell grim fairy tales and act out fantastical adventures in their cozy little cottage home down in the countryside. Whenever things go South (like accidentally making a smoothie out of a beloved pet hamster, I shit you not), Berenice locks Brian up inside a toy box while she fixes the mess. 

Years passed and Berenice is now in college. She's about to go home for the Christmas holiday, tagging along her boyfriend who is understandably nervous about meeting her family for the first time, and the stay is, well, terrible; her jokester of a father is thinking of retiring soon, her mum is starving for intimate contact of the hanky-panky kind, granny's obsession over her dead husband adds to the awkwardness of it all and then there's Brian, now older yet still into the fantasies he and Berenice played as children.

For the next hour, The Toybox slow burns itself with a hell lot of family quarrels interjected with flashbacks of the siblings' misadventures, talks of being an incarnation of a witch, awkwardly acting like said incarnation of a witch, red-eyed black dogs, some guy who may or may not be a serial killing mid-folker who chops up people for meat pies and a few seconds of a random clown in a toilet. The whole thing just reeks strangeness even when it's not edited loopily or done as a mid-2000s 2D computer animation, and I'm sure as shit my patience was tested to the point I can feel myself zoning out to a better plane of existence, like, more than once. 

The main beef here is that Brian, ever so emotionally dependent on his sister, is left feeling betrayed and lonesome when Berenice brought home her boyfriend. After stomaching so much of the family's bullshit through out the years living with them, the lad eventually snaps and embarks on a killing spree which is, sadly for us who are wishing for some excitement out of this excrement, mostly made up of offscreen murders. As if making us sit through all the dysfunctional family drama crap and warped-up visuals weren't annoying enough, the fact that this movie has nothing worthwhile to show for in the end is just a whole new wad of low. 

The Toybox simply fails in every aspect you could think of; the story is incoherent and random for the sake of random in not a fun way, the writing is atrocious and the acting is nothing to go home about. There were some interesting ideas played around but the execution itself is just overplayed with so much surrealism that it's too chaotic to enjoy, cluttered further with a surplus of other shenanigans going about like magical amulets, psychic visions, a grandfather's ghost milling around, vicars confused for zombies and that stupid clown in the toilet. Why is there a fucking clown in the damn toilet?!

What could have been an interesting psychological horror ruined by its approach of throwing things at random on the wall and working with what sticks, The Toybox is just so problematic it physically hurts. Vile grot in film form and nothing else.

1 male killed offcamera
1 elderly female killed offcamera
1 male hacked with a hook
1 female killed offcamera
1 male had his throat cut
1 male stabbed through with a drill
Total: 6

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Robokill Bloodbath: Mikadroid (1991)

Mikadroid (Japan, 1991) (AKA "Mikadoroido", "Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Discoclub Layla") 
Rating: ***
Starring: Hiroshi Atsumi, Sandayû Dokumamushi and Yoriko Dôguchi

From Japanese film, theater production and distribution company Toho, which many of us would know best as the producer and distributor of kaiju and tokusatsu movies, comes this relatively interesting yet clumsy scifi horror flick about killer cyborgs and mutant soldiers.

Opening in 1945 Japan at the near end of World War II, we see an underground research bunker assigned to create armored super soldiers getting violently shut down under the orders of the Japanese army. When the scientist in charge of the project retaliates and gets shot for his defiance, he spends his last moments setting two test subjects free and activating Mikadroid, the only finished armored cyborg of the project. Allied bombers eventually rains down on Tokyo and the bunker gets destroyed, burying the lab and everyone in it. Years later, a disco club is now built over the bunker's remains, unbeknownst to its patrons that Mikadroid, pretty much still alive and functional, would reactivate one night due to the club's faulty generator and starts massacring anyone that happens to get in its way. 

The history behind Mikadroid (1991) is that it's originally a horror film titled Mikado Zombie, in which an undead WWII soldier rises from his grave to continue fighting the war by pretty much killing anybody on sight. The film was only in talks when Japanese serial child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was caught and, thanks to the shmuck's massive collection of splatter films, horror movies went through a bit of a witch hunt and production for Mikado Zombie was put to halt. The concept was soon redeveloped with more scifi outings by replacing the zombie with a war android and the resulting product would become one of Toho's lower budget films made for the direct-to-video market.

The first half of Mikadroid practically shows the story's horror origins, with the cyborg returning back to life after decades of being buried, making its way to a disco club's parking garage and killing people left and right in a manner not unlike a maniac in a slasher flick. Teens gets stalked and shot down with a submachine gun and/or hacked down with a sword, with one kill going a bit artsy by having a victim repeatedly slashed with a sword until their clothes get sliced away, leaving them bloody and swirling around like a naked ballerina before ending the scene with a darkly comic sight gag. The fact that these slayings are all done by a uniquely designed killer cyborg fittingly resembling a 1950s robot adds a welcome cheesy charm to the carnage, which is fortunately balanced out by the movie's atmospheric visual direction and creepy location choices.

After a while of people getting chopped and gunned down by a manic mechanical man, the film shifts gear into a slightly more action oriented second act once the two freed test subjects, both rendered ageless by the experiment, arrive armed to the teeth to stop Mikadroid after sensing its revival, in turn saving and tagging along a young repairman and a distressed clubgoer. This is where the movie hobbled in its run as while the gunfight between the mutated soldiers and the cyborg do boasts some energetic fun with all the pyrotechnics and the underground ruins set is pretty impressive in its details down to the giant tank machine left to crumble in dust, the pacing here often lacks momentum with some characters either just standing there amidst the gunfight or them spending a good chunk of time wandering around, looking for an escape. It also doesn't help that all of this leads to a lackluster finale that may have gone way better if it didn't went a tad too far on the random twists but, little mercies, it could have done worse.

For a movie made with relatively small budget, special-effects connoisseur-turned-director Tomoo Haraguchi put a lot of good work around the production's monetary restraints, mainly utilizing odd camera work and editing to emphasize the somber yet hammy tone of the film. At most, Mikadroid's serviceable special effects managed by Shinji Higuchi of the Heisei Gamera trilogy make up for most of the film's flaws, treating us with fair highlights of an impressive looking design for the Mikadroid, savage kills and explosive firefights against a killer bot. With the film's short running time of just 73 minutes, the acting is fair and decent for most parts though really isn't much to speak of in terms of character development, a point I'm fine with considering the net result is still a fun little guilty pleasure flick that delivers grue and gunfire. All in all, an underrated yet spiffy scifi horror tailor made for lovers of kitschy fiction.  

1 male shot, bled to death
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
3 males killed in bombing
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
1 male shot dead with a submachine gun
1 female shot with a submachine gun, slashed with a sword
1 female slashed to death with a sword
1 male beaten to death against a water fountain
2 males shot death with a submachine gun
1 male succumbs to injuries from a gun fight
1 male stabbed though with a sword, caught in explosion
1 male destroyed in an explosion
Total: 15

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Cannibal Pilgrim Traditions: The Last Thanksgiving (2020)

The Last Thanksgiving (2020)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Amanda Arrants, Jake Balser and Annie Collins

When it comes to holiday themes within slasher movies, Thanksgiving doesn't get as much love as Christmas, Halloween or even Easter. Not only do they lack in numbers, but only a handful of them really stands out such as the cheesy killer twin flick Blood Rage (1987) and the infamous cult classic homicidal turkey movie ThanksKilling (2008). Fortunately for us, we have folks out there contributing to the slowly but surely growing number of Thanksgiving frights. Folks like writer/director Erick Lorinc who graces Turkey Day with this rough little gem about small town diners getting terrorized by cannibalistic families.

In The Last Thanksgiving, the entire staff of Derry’s Famous Fish and Grits find themselves working during Thanksgiving with the rickety promise that they can go home early if no other customers would come in that evening. As luck would have it, not only does a customer (Horror icon Linnea Quigley! Nice!) show up to order dinner, they also have to entertain a man named Kurt Brimston who walked in looking for work, forcing the diner gang to stay a little longer. Unbeknownst to them all, their night's about to get worse as there's a family of psychotic cannibals cruising around town, looking for victims to hunt and eat as a part of their own twisted Thanksgiving family tradition. Conveniently for these creeps, Derry's just happens to be still open that night... 

Although it has the usual low-budget production pitfalls of awkward acting and dodgy writing, The Last Thanksgiving holds enough of a nifty premise and, too, a competent amount of gore and cheese to be at least a serviceable effort as a manic holiday slasher. The plot is simplistically straightforward, with us following a small group of troublesome diner staffs and the members of a deranged yet normal-looking cannibal family going about their day during Thanksgiving before the two parties eventually clash and the bodycount begins. Its as formulaic as most slashers tend to be, though its creative do-it-yourself aesthetics and the interesting directions it took to work the holiday theme into the story rather than mindlessly shoehorning it in do come off rather charming in their peculiar ways.

The only matter to mind here is that there isn't a lot of likable characters within the diner group, not with their paper-thin douchey motives and stereotyped personalities meshing horribly with subpar onscreen talent that involves a lot of annoying, aimless yelling, thus reducing most of our supposed protagonists down to standard kill count meat one simply cannot wait to get snuffed. Now I say "most" as a few did get a little better (or at least more tolerable) over the course of the film, particularly our lead heroine Lisa-Marie Taft who spend the first half of the film being basically a cynical big bitch to just about everyone within radius. Once the killings starts and she gets a bit of an emotional meltdown, the gal eventually mellowed down. Still stereotyped personality-wise though, but agreeable nonetheless. 

Thankfully our villains fare a little better albeit the low rent Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) persona they're trying to emulate, complete with that one dumb, mute and deformed big brother who is always wearing a mask and is the muscle of the family. They're the more memorable bunch as the casualness in their interactions while plotting and acting out their massacres often comes as cheeky as it is creepy, befitting the tone of their entertainingly maniacal backdrops as, according to the film's last act monologue, descendants of a pilgrim girl who murdered Native Americans and served them as food to her fellow starving settlers. It's silly and over-the-top but, as a fan of cheesy B-flicks, it all just works for me, especially when these villains can still dish out a range of decently gory kills, from the truly gruesome to the hilariously strange. (Like, if you think a pit of boiling gravy-like liquid to throw people in is too random of a murder method, how about decapitating the still-moving bony remains of a poor fella to ultimately kill them off?) 

As a potential Thanksgiving piece for one's seasonal horror pickings, I say The Last Thanksgiving sits dang well as a holiday guilty pleasure with a bit of personality. It may not be that polished, but this little movie slayed and served a satisfactory amount of Turkey Day horrors and bodily carnage for one's enjoyment. 

1 male gets a bread knife through the jaw, stabbed to death
1 female set ablaze
1 male gets a whisk stabbed into his eye
1 female had her scalp torn
1 female hacked in the back with a meat cleaver
1 female jabbed to death with a broom handle
1 male had his head split in half with a meat cleaver
1 female decapitated with a commercial dishwasher door
1 male dismembered with an electric knife
1 girl had her throat cut with a meat cleaver (flashback)
1 female gets a thrown hatchet to the head (flashback)
1 male ran through with a hedge trimmer (flashback)
1 male and 1 female electrocuted in a bath tub with a live radio (flashback)
1 female had her head crushed between a sliding door (flashback)
1 male decapitated (flashback)
1 male stabbed through the head with a fire poker (flashback)
1 female knifed (flashback)
1 male had his throat torn out from his gun shot-mutilated mouth
1 female gutted with an electric knife
1 male boiled in a pit, decapitated with a hatchet
1 male gets a pitchfork through his head
1 elderly female burned inside an oven, left for dead
Total: 22

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Rotten Cranberry: ThanXgiving (2006)

ThanXgiving (2006)
Rating: 0
Starring: Ari Lehman, Suki Peters and Jaxon Stanford

...The flying fuck did I just watched here?

I heard about ThanXgiving all the way back at 2008 and I recall wanting to see it very badly then, thinking it's a rarity as it has barely anything about it online. Welp, I finally have my chance recently thanks to some shady video sharing site and I think I now understand why this shit has little to none online presence and how that's for the better.

As far as I can tell, the "story" of ThanXgiving is about a group of filmmakers going into the woods around the Traunton Riverbend camp grounds to shoot a horror movie, but the production is as problematic as this film's very existence as everybody seems to have some beef with one another and one of them even bled to death during the project when his leg got caught on some spikes and had to be amputated because...

Any way, filming continues (?!) and during an evening around a campfire, a local played by Ari Lehman (Yeah, Friday The 13th (1980)'s "lil' Jason Voorhees" Ari Lehman. I'm just as surprised as you are) joins the crew and tells them that a lot of people have been disappearing into these woods and many suspect it's the work of a deranged group of killers. And sure enough, our troubled filmmakers soon encounter a family of hillbillies who are hospitable at first until, that is, all the weird shit starts happening and everybody is getting in touch with their murderous side.

Mixing documentary and standard filming presentation with an obnoxiously surreal amount of editing effects, horrendous audio quality and truculently grained picture format, ThanXgiving is probably one of the hardest horror movie to sit through for the dumb reason that it's nearly incomprehensible as a whole. Its direction feels a lot like just random horror shit happening left and right, with a sense of structure that's one random home invasion footage away from falling atop the "Am-I-on-acid-right-now?" tree and hitting every branch on the way down. Nobody here acts normal too, so it's hard to figure out which crap is happening for real and which is just footage from the damn movie the characters are supposed to be filming, thus further adding to the overall aggressively confusing nature of the film.

It's disappointing, really, as I can tell this should have been a very easy plot to follow with a generous helping of blood and gore to boot. Perhaps the people behind this film wanted to make something more than just another backwoods killer-on-the-loose type and if that is the case, I wholly respect that, but the level of ineptitude done in this movie is just too much that it ain't even hilarious. In fact, it makes me mad! So MAD that someone out there thought this indecipherable garbage is good enough to be called a movie! Like, dude, ThanksKilling (2008) is more intelligible compared to this and that movie is a slasher with fucking killer turkey! Killer! Turkey!  

All in all, I'm thankful this Thanksgiving that I'm able to muster enough brain power to still write this review after the blow ThanXgiving did to my brain. Heed my warning, do not give this travesty a time of your day. Don't. Just don't.

1 male had his chest flayed open
1 female had her throat crushed with a tree branch
1 male had his leg amputated with a machete, bled to death
1 male brained to death with a hammer (film within a film)
1 female ran neck-first through a line of barbwire, presumably killed
1 female seen dead in a lake
1 female hacked to death (film within a film)
1 male dismembered with knives 
1 male knifed in the head, disemboweled
1 female had her throat cut with a sickle
1 male had his throat cut with a sickle while being drowned
1 male falls into a lake and gets electrocuted with live cables
1 female had her neck crushed
1 male strangled with a line of barbwire
1 female seen hanging dead, gutted
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 male dismembered with knives
Total: 17

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Sog and Clog: Terror At Tenkiller (1987)

Terror At Tenkiller (1987)
Rating: *
Starring: Michael Shamus Wiles, Stacey Logan and Michele Merchant

Wow, I think I owe the grade school drama group back at my younger years an apology: anything they made then is gold compared to this.

In need of a break from her increasingly abusive hubby-to-be, Lesley joins her friend Janna for a vacation down at Lake Tenkiller where they relax, swim and enjoy the scenery. They also apply for Summer jobs there as waitresses at a local diner that's constantly short on servers, a problem that has everything to do a knife-wielding loon prowling around at night, offing girls because reasons. It ain't long before the killer spots Lesley and Janna and care to even fancy a guess what he's planning to do with them? 

A tired mess, Terror At Tenkiller (1987) is really nothing more than long padding scenes of people talking, people talking to the phone and a killer being a terribly acted creep, with streaks of murders here and there. The entire thing feels and looks cheap seeing the movie's limited budget, thus the myriad of production hiccups such as dim lighting, atrocious pacing, an annoying electronic musical score among a few. Any notion of excitement in its direction is absent as the movie's horror elements basically trashed any sense of mystery and suspense by barely bothering to hide the killer's identity at all (Like, they revealed it about 30 minutes into the film. Heck, the victim even shouted his name!) and Summer-stock acting from every party involved simply doesn't cut right no matter what angle you look at it.

Kills are also mostly dry, with the only semi-decent gore effects done being one dude getting his arm cut off post-mortem and another involving someone's back getting stabbed in close-up. Past this, Terror At Tenkiller (1987) is just inane. Ridiculously inane. Other people might get a chuckle out of this (heck, I sure did at some moments) but for my patience and insanity's sake, one viewing is enough. Please.

1 female had her throat cut with a hunting knife
1 female stabbed in the gut with a peeling knife
1 male stabbed in the gut with a hunting knife, arm cut off
1 female knifed in the back
1 male found with a throat cut
Total: 5

Friday, November 19, 2021

Hippie Grounds of Horrors: Camp Utopia (2005)

Camp Utopia (2005)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Jessica Jordan, Collin Stark and Alexandra Westmore

Shot in 2002, released in 2005, Camp Utopia is everything you would expect from a low-budget, do-it-yourself backwoods slasher from start to finish. It follows five teenagers roughing it out in the same woods where in 1969, a commune of hippies lead by musician-turned-guru Timothy Bach set up a small refuge called "Camp Utopia", only to be slaughtered one night by Bach himself after he took some very bad acid. That was 30 years ago  and the horrors of that massacre is about to happen again upon our doomed campers...
There really isn't much to deal about Camp Utopia (2005); the story is a carbon copy of your basic madman-in-the-woods slice and dice, willed into existing through a nearly-absent budget, inept writing and questionable acting. Its direction is predictable to no one's surprise (like, you can really already tell who the killer is from the beginning of the movie) and as a slasher, it's mostly dry when it comes to its kills with the exception of the somewhat decent flashback showing a drug-infused cult leader massacring his own followers. Basically, the movie is a cheap mess, but it is a cheap mess I find hard to completely dislike.

Despite the production looking, sounding and feeling like it barely bothered at all, the unintentional hilarity it brought along at least helps lessen the awkward blow of the movie's low budget. Camp Utopia (2005) is entertaining in its badness in turn, especially whenever the movie tries to be deep and thoughtful with its talks of how the modern generation, with its obsession with technology, is trash and everything is better back in the old Hippie days, only for the bad acting and writing to ham it all up. For many, this might not be enough to make up for the film's majorly uninspired run but if you're not in a demanding mood and would like to see something easy enough to digest and poke fun at, then this a workable saving grace. 

Not really going to win the entire crowd over, but the movie is endearing in its crazy bad way and I'll leave it at that.

1 female decapitated with a machete (flashback)
1 male seen hacked on the head with a machete (flashback)
1 male had his throat slashed with a machete (flashback)
1 male dies from a machete wound (flashback)
1 male dies from throat cut (flashback)
1 male brained with a rock, fell off a cliff
1 male shot to death with arrows
1 female brained with a branch
1 male found decapitated
1 female seen dead
1 female stabbed in the chest with a hunting knife
Total: 11*

*Note: Despite the number of hippies seen getting hacked, stabbed, sliced and dismembered by Bach in the flashback scene, I'm only counting those we clearly saw die as the film itself confirmed only five fatalities from the massacre.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Of Glamor and Gore: Crystal Eyes (2017)

Crystal Eyes (Mirada De Cristal) (Argentina, 2017)
Rating: ***
Starring: Silvia Montanari, Anahí Politi and Erika Boveri

Buenos Aires, 1984. At a back alley runway show, supermodel Alexis Carpenter shows how much of a rotten diva she is by verbally abusing other models, scalding her make-up artist's face with hot coffee after a confrontation about her primadonna attitude, and then finally assaulting the audience with spat champagne as she jugs an entire bottle while strutting a wedding dress. This display of limelight meltdown would soon become Alexis' own undoing as the wasted wine spills unto a nearby fuse box, causing it to spark and igniting the egotist model to a blazing death in front of a shocked audience.

One year later, Lucia L’uccello, editor-in-chief of the country's top-selling fashion magazine, is about to run an issue dedicated to Alexis and her legacy on the anniversary of her death, thus she organizes a photoshoot starring her top models Eva Lantier and Irene del Lago in Alexis' original dresses. But on the night before the shoot, the dresses got stolen and from then on, those involved in the magazine are getting slaughtered one by one at the hands of a sinister mannequin-like femme fatale. Has Alexis come back from the grave somehow, seeking revenge? Or is somebody else equally depraved responsible for the increasing bodycount?

Written and directed by Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, Crystal Eyes (2017) is a simple yet dedicated love letter to stylized 70s Italian gialli and crazy 80s slashers under the backdrop of haute couture's glamour and grit. Its relatively basic plot is virtually a barebone stroll through the usual hack-and-slash murder thriller, paced quickly enough to get the action flowing between its few slow moments and filmed vividly with as many Mario Bava and Dario Argento-inspired cinematography, particularly taking cues from Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Suspiria (1977) as lurid tints of blues and pinks, expressive editing and solid camerawork dominate the film for that fun, macabre arthouse look.

The direction does stride on a campy note, paired with a script that has its tongue firmly in its cheek and onscreen talents ranging from okay to overacting. Its a factor that basically held the film's supposed murder mystery back from being anywhere effective or deep, but the romp of entertainment this kitsch approach brings is fortunately not lacking, especially with its crazy, neon-colored murder set-pieces involving a killer that not only dresses and masks up like a showroom dummy, but also moves and poses (yes, poses) like one while killing! The predominantly female casts are also a real treat to watch, all brilliant in managing a wide variety of performances from sympathetic menaced models to fame-obsessed despite the hammy writing done for these characters and the overall tone of the flick.

Top it all with catchy 80s disco beat and retro-recognized hairdos and clothes, Crystal Eyes (2017) is, at the gist of it, a playful and substantial homage to both giallo and slasher cinema that highlights the good, the bad and the outrageous from both subgenres through an enjoyably undemanding plot. If you like shlocky yet stylish, giallo-lensed bodycounters like Stagefright (1987) and Murderock (1984), then you ought to give this Argentinian horror vogue fondue a try! 

1 female caught on fire
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 female repeatedly stabbed with a hand drill
1 female killed offscreen, later seen beheaded
1 female stabbed to death with a glass shard
1 female drowned in a bath tub
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male bled to death from a wounded throat
1 female impaled on a crystal bird ornament
1 female found strangled with an IV chord
Total: 10

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Deadly Habits Down At The Colorado Rapids: Savage Water (1979)

Savage Water (1979)
Rating: *
Starring: Gil Van Waggoner, Ron Berger and Bridget Agnew

You know you more or less fucked up when the horror movie you're watching opens with a foreboding voice monologuing about the beauty and savagery of the Colorado river, only for it to start singing what I assume is the movie's own opening country song, guitar twangs and all. 

I'm going to need the bottle for this one...

In this rarity (cannot imagine why) of a slasher title, we follow a group of tourists from both in and out of American soil in a white water rafting holiday and, I stress you not, a big chunk of this movie is just these folks enjoying the soggy tour through the rapids. Their guide prep talks about the dangers of the rapids and its surrounding wilderness, they raft, camp, talk, eat, talk, sleep, talk, did I mentioned they talk? Like, we literally have a scene where two dudes in short shorts is just standing next to a portable toilet tent, talking about the lady inside using it. It doesn't help that the dialogue here are also poorly written, ineptly acted and ran through low quality audio, further numbing my senses until I begin to ponder if the "horror" of this horror flick may have more to do with it existing.

We eventually got our first kill about halfway or so into the plot, with one poor sap getting pushed off a cliff and landing as a bloody mess in a pool being used by some bathing girls. Even then the endlessly tiresome conversations and now awkward camping scenes never ceased, taking more of the movie's precious time away from properly building up any workable tension towards the murder spree and the mystery behind the identity of the killer hiding within the group. It's just bad low-budget celluloid all the way, bearing little excitement with its lackluster kills and overcooked "character development", with perhaps the only good things I can get out from all of this are unintentional hilarity and the worthwhile nature shots of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Rapids, minuscule points to clamor over when everything else about this late-70s grindhouse wilderness murder mystery is just one big gaffe.

I guess I should have heeded the signs that the universe was trying to protect me from seeing this film when my first copy of Savage Water (1979), released by Vinegar Syndrome, got scratched to hell by a malfunctioning disc player and that was around the time the company pulled the movie from distribution due to some issues with the rights. It wasn't until last year that I managed to get a digital copy of the film from a generous contact, only to lose that copy when the hard drive I stored it at crashed. Another digital copy was handed to me a few months later by a different contact, who also gave me the weird eye before wishing me "good luck, you sad strange little man". So many opportunities given to save myself from this fecal mound and I took none of them. Learn from my mistake and don't bother with this.

1 male pushed off a cliff
1 female falls to her death while mountain climbing (flashback)
1 male falls to his death
1 female knifed in the back
1 female fed with ginseng leaves, succumbs to a heart seizure
1 male shredded with a boat motor propeller
1 boy drowned in the rapids
1 male had his climbing rope cut, dropped to his death
Total: 8

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Sparrows Are Flying Again: The Dark Half (1993)

The Dark Half (1993)
Rating: ***
Starring: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan and Michael Rooker

In 1963, aspiring young writer Thad Beaumont finds himself under constant blackouts, headaches and seizures accompanied with, strangely enough, the sound of wild sparrows. As his condition worsens over time, he's soon set up for surgery where the doctors discover, much to their horror and amazement, the source of the boy's pain: a growing teratoma inside his skull, formerly a twin absorbed in utero. 

Decades after the removal of this parasitic mass of eyeball and teeth, Thad grows up to be a creative writing professor, a loving husband to his wife and a proud father of two infant children. It's a good life, though he further make ends meet by writing hyper-violent novels about a “high toned son of a bitch” named Alexis Machine under the pseudonym "George Stark", a dirty secret only his wife and agents know about. So when an opportunistic dink finds out about Thad's private life as a trash novelist and blackmails him for a large sum to keep it his mouth from flapping, the author ponders about and ultimately makes the choice: out himself out as "George Stark" and metaphorically kill off the persona as a publicity stunt, fake tombstone and all

Something "George Stark" isn't happy about.

No soon after the mock burial, those involved with the stunt starts to get killed off, starting with the photographer who gets bludgeoned to death with his own prosthetic leg and then the blackmailer who is later found de-tongued and de-groined. Investigating the killings is Sheriff Alan Pangborn who suspects Thad as the one responsible for the deaths seeing his fingerprints were found in the scenes, but is unable to completely pin the crimes on the author as Beaumont is able to give solid proof that he's elsewhere during the murders. 

Stranger things are abound, however, when Thad starts to think the killer hunting down his colleagues is none other than "George Stark" himself, describing him down to the mannerism and hairstyle which perfectly fits the eyewitness descriptions of the killer. Has Thad somehow willed the pen name into a murderous existence, now out for revenge for "killing" him off? Or is the author finally succumbing to his darker id?

Reading through most of Stephen King's horror novels, his 1989 outing The Dark Half, which was written in response to the time he himself was outed to be Richard Bachman, a supposed "real" author who wrote darker, more cynical horror novels compared to King's usual gothic, psychological style, is technically the closest to the man penning slasher literature with the book's macabre story of a murderous nom de plume out to torment and kill the people surrounding an author's life. The film adaptation, produced and directed by Night of The Living Dead (1968)'s George A. Romero, playfully maintains the duality of the book's tone, mainly the horrors of the unexplainable and the brutalizing slasher flick cynicism lensed with dark humor, done here with a mostly straight face that's occasionally cheesed from time to time. 

At most, The Dark Half (1993) is pretty well made as a production looking into its sleek visuals and adequate special effects, especially during the finale of the film wherein we get a gruesome death involving birds. Talent-wise, leading actor Timothy Hutton plays both Thad Beaumont and George Stark in a cheeky dual role, though I do find him more memorable as the psychopathic Stark with his Elvis Presley-esque get-up, drawl Mississippi accent and grimly fun lines, a far stronger presence compared to his approach on the Thad Beaumont character who predominantly feels like a walking stereotype of a mild-mannered yet awkward family man. Cult favorite Michael Rooker is also here, doing a swell enough job as the determined Castle Rock sheriff Alan Pangborn, though unlike in the book where he developed a much closer relationship with the Beaumonts, his character feels mostly removed from the plot and acts more like your typical horror trope law enforcer.

If there's any real issues to speak here, it would be The Dark Half (1993)'s problem with its pacing; while there is a good build-up towards and within Stark’s killing spree, the narrative soon falls a bit uneven when it comes to the ongoing investigations into the murders, as well as the last act leading to the eventual confrontation between Beaumont and Stark. It's mostly talks of psuedo-metaphysics regarding manifestations and will, implemented in time with Beaumont sitting it down with a decaying Stark in an attempting to literally write out the other from existence in a scene that feels too talky and drawn out than necessary. Fortunately, the supernatural aspect of this third act is a welcome take (albeit it lacks of solid explanation to how all of this happened to begin with) which I like further when it all ends with an impressively gory and creative demise to note.

On the whole, The Dark Half (1993) is simply an okay movie. A pretty good swing on a story that runs on basic slasher bodycounting and supernatural-lensed pop psychology, doing enough scares and thrills to be at least an agreeable watch despite the flaws. Though I won't mark this as one of the best Stephen King adaptations, nor is it a slasher title worth losing sleep over, it is certainly among the better horror titles out there that you can check out, nothing more, nothing less.

1 male beaten to death offcamera with his own prosthetic leg
1 male found slaughtered, castrated and his tongue cut out
1 female had her throat cut with a razor
1 male had his head kicked against a building heater
2 males found murdered
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 male seen murdered
1 male pecked apart by birds
Total: 10

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Drilling, Killing, Loving: Slumber Party Massacre (2021)

Slumber Party Massacre (2021)
Rating: ****
Starring: Hannah Gonera, Frances Sholto-Douglas and Mila Rayne

As a cult favorite, The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) is known by many slasher fans as a staple of the subgenre, a fine cheesy run on your typical bloody horror story of an escaped nut case terrorizing scantily clad girls while in their lonesome. It is slasher simplicity at its best, though that wasn't always the case as the film's original concept, penned and directed by women, was intended to be a parody of the horror subgenre until the producers had their way and had it filmed instead as a straightforward bodycounter. This 2021 reboot could've gone the easy route of just having the same ploy of partying girls and their boyfriends getting slaughtered by a maniac with a murder-ready powerdrill given that note, but I am glad to say Slumber Party Massacre (2021) went by a mostly different route that delivered promising results.

The movie opens in 1993, at Holly Springs where we see four teenage girls partying out in a lakeside cabin while their brownies bake and a creeper named Russ Thorne (Rob van Vuuren) lurks outside. Armed with a powerdrill, Russ makes quick slayings out of the most of the gals (and one stalker-ish guy) soon enough, leaving last girl Trish (Schelaine Bennett) to defend herself from the maniac and successfully does so by beating the man down into a lake with a boat paddle, leaving him there to drown. 

Cut to the present and we now follow Trish's teen daughter Dana (Hannah Gonera) and her friends Ashley (Reze-Tiana Wessels), Breanie (Alex McGregor) and Maeve (Frances Sholto-Douglas) leaving town to attend a party, only for them to run into a few mishaps including Maeve’s younger sister Alix (Mila Rayne) somehow sneaking in to their trip and the car breaking down in the middle of the ride. With no other means to travel, the girls decided to make the best out of their situation and rent a nearby lakeside cabin at (where else?) Holly Springs to have their own little get-together there. 

And as you would expect, Russ Thorne arrives later that night, somehow surviving his supposed drowning years ago and have been in hiding since. But little does he know is that these girls have been expecting him; as it turns out, Dana planned their arrival at the cabin to not only exact revenge against the man who terrorized her mother years ago, but to finally put an end to the driller killer's murderous madness as people have been disappearing around Holly Springs. It's a good plan for most parts until, of course, it gets derailed thanks to a nearby group of true crime fanboys getting in the way. Will the girls get to save the guys and themselves while ultimately killing off the serial slayer? Or are they all doomed to face the deadly drillbit of Russ Thorne?

Turning the slasher conventions around, Slumber Party Massacre (2021) tones itself with a positive "girl power" outlook to its story by making its leading female casts aware of the well known slasher clichés usually associated with their demises and utilize them to their advantage, all while still keeping itself grounded as a fun and gory dead teenager flick that doesn't take itself too seriously by healthily supplying us with copious gore, little slices of satire and some intense set-pieces. It's a direction that mostly works here thanks to the writing balancing the serious and the goofy, giving time to flesh out the situation and its characters through some effective dialogue and damn good onscreen talents, all before tossing them into the fray of a classic backwoods horror set-up of teens dying in the woods, courtesy of a maniac with a weapon.

It isn't until a good hour into the run that Slumber Party Massacre (2021), after being pretty open with the fact that Russ Thorne is our driller killer, decided to keep us on our toes with yet another fairly intriguing twist; without spoiling much, we're suddenly thrusted into a whodunnit ploy and everybody is suddenly fair game for the still increasing kill count. It's a whiplash on both the movie's tone and story, one that I openly welcome as it thickens the plot the right way and it eventually leads to a satisfyingly entertaining final fight between not one, not two, but four final girls against a surprise villain!

Granted that some of the satire here can feel too one the nose to be funny and there are moments where the mood can get a bit all over and clashing, the overall gist of Slumber Party Massacre (2021) is that it's still a fun, energetic little slasher that suits well as both a "modern reimagining" and a companion piece to the 1982 original! It's pretty much its own little beast albeit the nods and winks to the entire Slumber Party Massacre franchise and so long as it has gruesome gore, workable characters and a curious story, I couldn't ask for more from a great title like this! 

1 male powerdrilled through the chest
1 female found with a drill wound in the chest
1 female seen murdered
1 female gets powerdrilled through the neck
1 male found with missing eyes
1 male powerdrilled offcamera, body later found inside an icebox
1 male gets powerdrilled in the head
1 male had his face mutilated with a powerdrill
1 male had his throat cut with a machete, repeatedly knifed
1 male ran through the back with a sabersaw
1 female shredded through a car engine
1 female shot in the eye with a nailgun
1 elderly female stabbed through with a drillbit
Total: 13