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indistinguishable, and the editing done here looks like it's been made with some shlock's basement computer running on outdated software, something that doesn't help improve the lackluster camera work and uneven pacing.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, Sanday├╗ Dokumamushi and Yoriko D├┤guchi

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