Sunday, January 31, 2021

A Massacre By Ritual: Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (2020)

Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (AKA Skull: The Mask) (Brazil, 2020)
Rating: ***
Starring: David Wendefilm, Tristan Aronovich, Thiago Carvalho

From tame strangle-a-thons like Shock: Diversao Diabolica (1984) to gory splatterfests like The Ritual of Death (1990) and Satanic Attraction (1990), Brazil has its fair and fun share of slasher flicks throughout the years and it appears we're given the good grace of another worthy modern entry going by Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (2020), a supernatural slasher neo-noir!

Splitting its focus throughout many plot threads including a cop drama, a prophecy thriller and a gory monster/slasher hybrid, Skull opens with a prayer that summons Anhangá, a being depicted here as the murderous servant of the pre-Columbian god Tahawantinsupay. We then shift our attention to a prologue set in the 1940s Amazon, where a dude in a supervillain get-up beats and murders his way to retrieve a dangerous artifact known as the Mask of Anhangá, which his Nazi clients proceed to use in a military experiment involving a religious ritual. Something went wrong and the scene ends up with one guy on fire, another gutted, and another having his head explode.

Flashforward to the present and an archeological dig uncovers the Mask of Anhangá once again, now brought to São Paulo, Brazil where Tack Waelder, the shady head of a foreign company, plans on secretly using its powers for his own gains. However, before he could get his hands on the item, the mask somehow finds a way to murder a few people before eventually possessing a worthy body, unleashing Anhangá and its insatiable bloodlust under the guide of its god.

Caught in this trail of murder and mayhem is one Manco Ramirez, a simple laborer whose family happens to belong in a long line of protectors who battled and stopped Anhangá from unleashing his god to our world. With the help of his own father's mummified severed hand that directs the demon's whereabouts and the Femur of Tahawantinsupay, a blunt weapon that can harm the god's servant, he prepares himself to honor his family's duty and fight a good fight against Anhangá, even if it means his own demise.

In the midst of this, Beatriz Obdias, a detective working on a missing children’s case, sees herself looking into the increasingly bizarre and gruesome murder spree now plaguing São Paulo. Complicating this matter, unfortunately, is Waelder forcing her to join him in getting the mask back and eliminate some troublesome individuals in the way, blackmailing her with a few skeletons in her closet and promises of keeping quiet about them should she accept his proposition. With the killings getting more visceral by the day, she may have no choice but to agree with the offer, but at what cost?

A tad overambitious with the number of story lines intertwining, Skull occasionally feels like two to three different kinds of movies playing all at once, thinly interconnected through varying plot points that do little to help with the overall hodge-podged tone and pacing. One moment we're looking into a cop's dark past involving framing children for murder, the next has us watching a masked slasher raid a drug house to slice its occupants into pieces. That said, the film is still worth its while by being chaotically fun with its slasher/monster attacks, cheesy badassery and misplaced seriousness, all the working traits of a good B-grade horror and a noir crime drama that aren't far off from the ones you would encounter in old pulp fictions and EC horror comics given they have the chance to be written this exploitative and messy.

Delivering greatly a barrage of awesome practical and visual effects on screen despite its limited budget, Skull has the blessing to be full of splatter in its purest form whenever it dives into the slasher segments; with a hulking man-monster that looks like a blood-soaked Hatchet (2006)'s Victor Crowley in a skull mask, armed with wriggling tentacles that wields its bladed weapon and unleashed at an unsuspecting city, you can bet that blood flows like rivers and chest cavities are pried open in pure carnal display in what are perhaps this movie's strongest and most macabre scenes. Highlights would include a dance bar getting the nasty case of a spree killing and a priest, drawing a hidden sword from a crucifix, dueling our masked slasher to the death.

Clashing urban decay with gore-filled mysticism, Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (2020) earned its title from the Chattanooga Film Festival as an "insane midnighter" for just how manically enjoyable it is, so long as you don't mind limping through a conjoined serving of evil businessmen being shallowly evil and tidbits of action drama, slow cooked for an attempt for originality. It doesn't always work, but the final product has heart. One that's ripped out of a fresh body just for our grim sense of entertainment which I wholly appreciate!

1 male decapitated with a crescent blade
1 male had his throat cut with a crescent blade
1 male caught on fire
1 male knifed on the gut, disemboweled
1 male had his dead explode
1 female had her chest cavity pried open
1 female murdered offscreen
1 male had his chest cavity pried open
1 female had her chest sliced open with a window shard
1 male strangled with a victim's innards
1 male had his throat ripped open
1 male gets a machete hacked and repeatedly pounded into his side
1 male had his face sliced with a machete
1 girl seen shot dead
1 male hacked on the head with a machete, face peeled
1 female gets a machete to the neck
1 female gutted with a machete
1 male hacked on the head with a machete, spine torn out
1 female gets a spine stabbed into her forehead
1 male hacked on the gut with a machete
2 males and 1 female seen murdered
1 male crushed with a statue, bled to death
1 male had his head stomped on
1 male stabbed through with a wooden plank, heart torn out
1 male shot on the face with a shotgun
1 male shot on the head
Total: 28

Friday, January 29, 2021

Tough Love and Tough Breaks: Masked Mutilator (2019)

Masked Mutilator (2019)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Christine Appino, Brick Bronsky and Chet Cole

Originally a lost and unfinished 90s slasher, unearthed and reworked with a wraparound shot and taking place in the present year of 2019, Masked Mutilator is as cheap as a multi-generational B-Grade horror flick can get, but it isn't without its good points. Reeking cheesy good points, but good points nonetheless.

The scene starts with a present day podcaster interviewing people who went through group home tragedies and he invited a few who happen to be survivors of a rather unusual yet devastating incident back at 1994 dubbed as the Home of Horror. Here we cut to the 90s where Vic Mangino (Jeff Sibbach), a rather infamous professional wrestler who went under the name Masked Mutilator until he accidentally killed an opponent in the ring, is working as a house parent at a group home, handling the rather troublesome youths with his brand of tough love and be the kind of imposing authority figure needed to discipline them to the right track.

Problems arise when the state starts to waver its support for the home despite handing Vic more kids to look after, which meant the home is steadily losing funds to support everyone staying there. No soon after, a masked man starts to show up and brutally beat the teens dead one by one. Perhaps it's Vic? Finally losing it after struggling with his own personal demons? Or maybe it's one of the kids? Tired of living under a strict household and getting their butts handed to them on a regular basis? 

In all honesty, there's nothing that groundbreaking about Masked Mutilator as a story and much of the movie's interest is from the fact that this was a forgotten film brought to life for the modern audience in a Frankenstein monster-esque fashion. Because of the way it's shot, edited and re-written, what we have here a rather short film that skips from one point to another, breezing over character development and plot details for a hammed up direction tainted in really janky acting. It can be laughable for the unintentional hilarity despite the plot dropping deep matters like the state of foster systems and its effects on troubled wards, so you could say that it is darn entertaining even if it's stumbling and missing a lot of opportunities to better itself.

Wrestling-themed slashers are a very very few bunch and observing familiar titles that fall into this category such as the equally fun Wrestle Massacre (2018) and Wrestlemaniac (2006), the running theme of this slasher breed is that they focus more on "tooth-and-nail" murders, as in they limit the use of murder weapons as much as possible and prefer to fill the kill count with more physically-inclined slayings. At that, the kills here involve a lot of beatings and smack-downs and Masked Mutilator makes it work by bloodying it all up and throwing in a few wrestling moves into the slaughter. The climax itself even packs a brawl-out that sits comfortably within vintage WWE programs, with Sibbach clobbering up a slasher who, in turn, is also ready to deliver a pile-driver or two against whoever stands against them or is in the way. Eagle-eyed wrestling fans could also spot some familiar faces from the industry such as Brick Bronsky as a buffed-up kid who likes to work out (and is also this film's director), and Doug Yasinsky as the cook of the house who suspiciously disappears around the last act.

To simply put it, if you're not looking for an overly gory, extravagant bodycounter and is simply in the mood for something silly, fairly bloody and moderately fun, then Masked Mutilator is waiting for you in the ring. Come on by and give it a round!  

1 male had his neck snapped
1 male repeatedly beaten, neck snapped
1 male had his face beaten against a support beam
1 female strangled to death
1 male bearhugged to death
1 female kicked on the head (flashback)
1 male had his neck snapped
1 male strangled with a chokehold
1 male killed, method unknown
Total: 9

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Something Big, Mute And Stupid: Camp Slaughter (2004)

Camp Slaughter (Sweden, 2004)
Rating: 1/2
Starring: Christian Magdu, Karin Bertling, Michael Mansson

(Why didn't I heed Bengt Wallman's review of this movie back at Hysteria Lives? Oh, dear gods, why?)

Not to be confused with the awful yet trying, low-budget time-loop slasher Camp Slaughter of 2005 (AKA Camp Daze), this is a Swedish teen horror flick that aims to be a tribute to old school backwoods slashers and the resulting product is definitely a textbook example of teens going to the woods and dying horrible deaths at the hands of a large (and dumb) man-monster. 

A problematic example, but an example nonetheless.

As the plot puts it, deep into the woods of a Scandinavian countryside resides a family with one too many screws loose in each member's heads, all of them living inside a crumbling manor with little to no contact or interaction outside. The matriarch of the house is particularly the nastiest of the bunch as she berates her braindead husband for not giving her a daughter and orders her adult son around to fetch her food at the ring of a servant's bell. She also happened to have birthed another son many years ago, who she ordered to be kept inside an earth cellar nearby, fed with rabbits, forced to wear a dress and have his head hidden in a potato sack.

This boy, unsurprisingly, grew up very mentally impaired and eventually escapes his captivity as a grown murderous mute, right around the same time a loud group of teens settle in at a nearby cabin. (not a camp as the title suggests) Some so-so killer stalking and skulking the grounds happen. The kids talk about beer, weed and the usual premarital sex before commencing on said indulgence of beer, weed and sex. Nightfall comes and our dress-wearing sack-masked loon finally attacks, out to hunt them down coz he simply has the madness. 

I would like to point out that all of this is done in very highly accented English, with the movie's casts poorly delivering the language in a manner similar to reading straight from their scripts. Double this with inept acting and a slug-worthy direction that paced the film to a lobotomized writhe, Camp Slaughter (2004) is just an unbearable experience to sit through with dwarfed touches of guffaw-inducing badness. Any endeavor to do genuine scares are laughable and the massacre the movie's slowly building up to is mostly littered with questionable visual effects of both practical and digital kind, not too mention lacking any sense of creativity or effective tension on the murders, too.

Looking also into consideration that hardly anybody from the characters are likable and the potato sack-masked killer crossdresser is just lame here despite the plot's venture into working in some Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)-inspired crazed family mess (which was only used for the first and last few minutes of the entire movie), there's honestly not a lot to like about Camp Slaughter (2004). It took me a while to find and see this movie in due time, and seeing the completely rotten cheese that it is, I can see why it's so damn obscure. Word to the wise: Skip this one! 

And maybe punt kick every copy of this movie off a cliff while you're at it.

1 female had her neck snapped
1 male stabbed and dismembered with a pair of garden shears
1 male axed on the chest
1 female killed in car collision
1 female knifed to death
1 female bound and buried alive
Total: 6

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Dark Minstrel Strikes!: Tuno Negro (2001)

Tuno Negro (Black Serenade) (Spain, 2001)
Rating: ***
Starring: Silke, Jorge Sanz, Fele Martínez

In this Spanish jab at an early 2000s teen slasher, music and murder goes hand in hand as a mythical slayer known as the Dark Minstrel is killing students at one Salamanca University, wherein campus boys occasionally dress up and perform as minstrels as a sort of tradition. Architecture freshman Alex (Silke) gets intertwined with the killings when she appears to have spoken with the Dark Minstrel themselves via dial-up age chatroom, hinting to her that someone will die in their gown later that night.

True enough, a newlywed bride had her brains beaten out with a mandolin before getting daggered to death and a few of Alex's coed acquaintances just happen to be performing that night as minstrels for the wedding, among other sultry businesses. As more students starts biting the big one and many of them being Alex's friends, she soon tries to figure out the motive behind these killings which may be linked to a 16th century legend about a group of poor minstrels who sang for money in order to pay for their schooling, only to be stricken troubled and murderous when wealthier scholars decided to be minstrels just for fun, basically taking away their livelihood.

All the while, a pair of inspectors are also looking into the recent murders, one of whom going by Victor (Fele Martínez) obsessing over uncovering the identity of the Dark Minstrel and has fallen in love with Alex, tangling himself into a love triangle with campus minstrel Eduardo (Jorge Sanz) who also has the hots for her. As the semester draws near its end, will the Dark Minstrel be stopped? Or will the cloaked-and-masked slayer succeed in ridding the campus of its undergrads?

For a decent bulk of the story, Tuno Negro can be a rather fun and engaging mystery that hams itself up with its attempts to sound serious and sophisticated talking about criminology and old century art and traditions. It boasts some fair stalk-and-chase scenes and murder set-pieces, a few including a claustrophobic murder inside a girl's bathroom's stall and a race against time with our leads trying to find a stalked friend using the killer's live footage feed, and I simply love the design of our killer minstrel and the concept of the legend their murders are centered on. 

On the cheesier side, there are some comic moments that had me smiling like a corpse dissection with gross results and one drug-dealing hippie guy (who looks like stretched-up Tom Savini, way too old to be a "college student") getting a handful of ass from the last lady he should be doing it to, and too his demise that somehow involves early CG blood serpents for reasons. In fact, Tuno Negro used a good bunch of these early day computerized transition cuts and visual effects, all of which I can say definitely didn't age well and can be a bit awkward to look at.

The fact that a lot of the characters surrounding Alex's clique are just annoying and most of the deaths felt relatively tame does hold me back from from enjoying this film any more, sadly, though none of them have the same mildly-frustrating sourness as this movie's finale; after all of that sleuthing, slashing and one softcore lovemaking, the payoff didn't feel satisfactory as the reveal to our Dark Minstrel's identity hardly made sense and why this killer managed to escape is just groan-worthy. Ignorance kills is a quote passed around more than once in the entire story, but they're definitely ignoring one to two plot points and loose ends in need of addressing and tying up before the film simply open-ends abruptly. I can't hate this final act completely as it still has a good dose of workable craziness, such as one of the inspectors going trigger happy on any dude in a minstrel suit because of a hunch he has of multiple Dark Minstrels working around the murders. (Even though you can clearly tell these minstrel boys are just running for their lives coz, I dunno, the fucking cathedral was set on fire?!

Tuno Negro (2001) is undoubtedly far off from being anywhere as smart or fun as the likes of Scream (1996) or Urban Legends (1998), but I'm not taking it against the movie and the people behind it for trying. It's understandably obscure, though if you see yourself as the easily forgiving type and you just happen to come across a copy of this film, feel free to ty it out.

1 female stabbed to death with a pair of dressmaker shears
1 female stabbed to death with a dagger
2 males and 1 female found slaughtered
1 male had his throat cut with a dagger
1 male stabbed to death with a dagger
1 female set on fire
1 male found murdered with a throat cut
1 female hanged
1 male set on fire
1 male shot
2 males shot
1 male stabbed to death with a dagger
1 male seen caught on fire
3 males shot
Total: 19

Friday, January 15, 2021

So I'm 29, now...

Happy Birthday to me, I guess?
But now that I brought that up, in a few months, this blog will be ten years old...

Now THAT is a countdown worth waiting for!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

It's a Dog Kills Dog World: Office (2015)

Office (Opiseu) (South Korea, 2015)
Rating: **
Starring: Ko Asung, Sung-Woo Bae, Eui-sung Kim

One night, after a long day working in his bureau, mild-mannered section chief Kim Byeong-Gook took a hammer and slaughters his entire family, disappearing not long once the unspeakable deed was done. Word spreads quickly at the office and investigating police, led by Detective Jong-Hoon, are hoping to find some form of lead as to what caused such a violent outburst.   

Matters are revealed to be rather complicated as Kim's colleagues don't appear very fond of the man and some even have their own little horror stories involving him, save one Lee Mi-Rye, an intern looked down by bullying coworkers and seems to know more about the suspect, though refusing to divulge further. Worse even is that CCTV footage shows Kim entering the office but never leaving since, which could mean that he's still around the workplace, hiding within the building and methodically killing off his co-workers one by one.
Playing more like a mystery thriller than a down-to-basic bodycounter, Office (2015) has the great grace of looking good and competent production-wise, though in terms of narrative, it definitely needs more than a good polish; it occasionally jumps back and forth to flashbacks of various accounts in order to work out its mystery, sometimes hinting events that could have triggered our person of interest to turn psycho, other times acting no more than red herrings, though the way this direction's handled drag out way longer than it is necessary, thus makes following the plot a little tedious and bogged down by too much dialogue. Add the matter that the mystery fails to be anywhere as exciting as it makes itself to be, nor is its satirical stab on office hierarchy really that clever, and you have a horror-thriller that's middling in its attempt to captivate. 

Office slow burns its way down to an eventual slasher finale, in which we get one good twist and a killing spree perpetrated by a killer with supernatural ambiguity. It's a massacre that is, in a sense, satisfying to sit through as the victims were these obnoxious people that had it coming for some time, but it feels cheapened from its lack of stronger onscreen carnage and the fact that it took so long to get into it. Nevertheless, it's a welcome climax that could have happened a lot sooner and I'm just thankful the movie rewarded our patience with a decently bloody send off. 

All in all, Office (2015) has a lot of misfires to make itself the pitch dark murder thriller it wanted to be, but I wouldn't completely call it a loss. It has its creepy moments, some workable jump scares and, again, a fine brutal finale, thus I rather find it okay enough to be seen at least just once.

1 female brained to death with a hammer (mostly implied)
1 elderly female had her neck broken with a hammer (mostly implied)
1 boy had his shoulder broken with a hammer, dies from internal bleeding (mostly implied)
1 male murdered, later found hanged with a throat cut
1 female knifed to death
1 male found dead from swallowed pills
1 male found slaughtered
1 female thrown off a building
1 male shot on the head
Total; 9

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Monday Morning Massacre: Kill Keith (2011)

Kill Keith (United Kingdom, 2011)
Rating: ***
Starring: Marc Pickering, Susannah Fielding, David Easter

A few years back, I took up Journalism as a college major and one of the many activities we did as a class was visit media stations to see the on-goings behind radio and TV shows. Fortunately, none of them involved lovelorn misfits and murderers armed with cereal boxes.

As the morning show program Crack of Dawn readies itself to bid goodbye to its arrogant co-host Cliff in order to swap in a celebrity replacement, young dim-witted newbie runner Danny aspires to be the show's next presenter in order to work with the other co-host half, Dawn, who he's in love with. This is easier thought than done as his attempts to earn his way to the top are not only hampered by Cliff himself, but also Danny's own stupidity and other weird encounters and mishaps around the studio. 

One of these mishaps, unfortunately, involves a mystery loon who starts targeting the potential replacements, threatening comedians, radio DJs and titular on-the-road co-host Keith ‘Cheggers’ Chegwin with an early grave courtesy of various food products and then some. Could Danny find a way to stop these murders in time to save his awkward clutter of a sappy love life before it gets messier? Or will he face a grisly soggy end at the hands of a demented Breakfast Cereal Killer?

Kill Keith (2011) is, in the whole of it, simply weird; from the marketing alone, it has little reference to Kill Bill (2003) in the actual movie despite the title alluding it for some reason, nor has it anything in common with Saw (2003) plot-wise in response to one of its tag lines. It does have the Richard & Judy shtick right in a way that it tries to satire early morning programs and the industry behind it, albeit clustering along a nutty sense of black comedy, a mad murder mystery and a hit-or-miss romantically cheesy subplot with a bumbling fool as a lead. It doesn't mix entirely well as the direction can get too over-the-wall in occasions, but the sheer absurdity of its tone and atmosphere does warrant a genuine chuckle and a fair intrigue from our part.

A few highlights include a gag wherein the audience are given the multiple choice questions to answer in exchange for cash prize, only no one ever gets it right despite the incredible easiness of it all. (The guy who writes them, Mr. Stokes is also a gem for how he curiously finishes one's sentences and how he eventually breaks into this adorkable feller who really values his job) Danny's daydream bits also have their little case of wonderment for how child-like they can get, which can be randomly amusing. And then there's the absurdly hilarious scene of one of the replacements, fearing for their safety, hiring a supposed look-alike that looks nothing like them (Like, really. The guy has grey hair and looks suspiciously like Tony Blackburn...), only for it to actually work as the killer starts targeting them!

The horror elements, in turn, are mostly pushed aside for the cheesy, low-brow comedy elements and I do have a feeling this may turn away audiences who are looking forward to a more slasher-centered story. I personally find little to argue about this as whatever kill scenes we do get have a decent splash of gore in it and the comedy it breeds still caters to my impish taste, but I wouldn't hold it against anyone who just doesn't get Kill Keith's brand of weirdness or its lack of promised solid horror. (Again, why compare this to Saw?) It's more or less a low-budget yet effortful, faux Edgar Wright-esque B-flick of varying genres, romantic exploits shining brighter compared to the slasher murders and tongue-in-cheek mystery on that sense and if that's something you can get by, then feel free to try this out! Not overly good, but entertaining enough especially when paired with a nice cold one by a pint.

1 male force fed with milk and porridge until he explodes
1 male had his head shredded with a cereal box full of razors
1 male electrocuted to death
1 male blown apart by a bomb
1 male caught on explosion
Total: 5