Thursday, July 27, 2023

Voyage of The 'Duh': Moon In Scorpio (1987)

Moon In Scorpio (1987)
Rating: *
Starring: Britt Ekland, John Phillip Law, William Smith

I remember the day I first saw Moon In Scorpio (1987). It was years ago and I was coming home from work, a storm just hit my country so it's heavy rain and strong winds throughout the afternoon. Foreboding, ain't it? As if the universe was giving me all of the signs to call it a day then and take a break. Sleep it off. Well, dear readers, if the idiot writing this review was a tad smarter then, he should've saw the fucking signs and doze off like the dead instead of wasting a perfectly fine evening being bored off his arse by this shipwreck of a movie.

Word around the grapevine says that this movie didn't start out as a slasher during its production and it was more of a Lovecraftian supernatural horror flick about soldiers in Vietnam encountering an evil snake goddess and something about a child hunting down the men years later in revenge. But the big wigs producing the movie got too involved and wanted it to be more stabby-stabby, so reshoots, rewrites and editing came in the way and butchered the entire thing into this incohesive travesty of plot holes, lousy directions and overcooked cheese, all under the cheap leftover budget of another film.   

Told as a flashback narration by the only survivor of the eventual murder spree (which means we get to see and hear what's going on in the movie technically twice), Moon In Scorpio (1987) follows three Vietnam vets and their partners taking a yacht pleasure cruise, unaware that one of them just broken out of a mental asylum and has armed themselves with a knife and some weird spearhead weapon that would have been cooler in another slasher film. Insert Nam' flashbacks of the veterans fighting in the jungle and one of the gals in the boat spouting psuedo-Astrology about the moon being in Scorpio (which according to her meant that the cosmic force of vengeance is acting upon them or some shit like that), the yacht population soon starts to dwindle as our killer hunts them down one by one, sparking an intrigue of paranoia and distrust that's dulled down by the droll narration accompanying it and the hammy acting from its casts.

Any means of tension is dead on arrival given the lifeless pacing and paperthin story clashing horribly with the hodge-podge production behind the film, making Moon In Scorpio (1987) just unbearably tedious to follow from the start. The sheer ridiculousness of the plotting and its execution is more insulting than entertaining, so much so that not only was the identity of the killer damn obvious (not hard to figure out seeing there are only six of them aboard that fucking yacht), but the motive behind their murder spree also had shit to do with anything this movie was building on so there's little to no reason for the damn psycho to be there anyway, fucking up what little attempt remains on making the whodunnit angle interesting!

The only good thing about this movie is that its tone is so weird and over-the-top, those with the stomach for the odd (and/or just plain masochistic) could still find something entertaining out of this rancid mess. Moon in Scorpio (1987) is, without a doubt, tailor-made for their strange taste. For me, however, I'm better off abandoning this sinking ship of a war time trauma meets boat-set bodycounting and those who value their time and brain cells should consider doing the same.

1 male knifed in the back
1 male knifed in the gut
1 male stabbed in the gut with a spearhead weapon
1 male shot (flashback)
1 male shot dead (flashback)
1 female shot (flashback)
1 male shot dead (flashback)
1 male shot (flashback)
1 female shot, left for dead (flashback)
1 male knifed, throat cut with a spearhead weapon
1 female knifed in back and hacked with a spearhead weapon, eye stabbed
1 male shot with a harpoon
1 male knifed in the back, throat cut with a spearhead weapon
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 female stabbed in the back with a spearhead weapon
Total: 15

Friday, July 21, 2023

Grit and Split: Slice (2009)

Slice (Cheun) (Thailand, 2009)
Rating: ****
Starring: Arak Amornsupasiri, Sonthaya Chitmanee, Jessica Pasaphan

Raw, intense and exploitative. Everything I can ask for from an Asian slasher murder mystery.

The scene begins with a convict being interviewed by the prison psychologist concerning his recurring dreams about a red suit case that's big enough to stuff a body inside. This is interjected back and forth by what appears to be a figure in a red rain slicker prowling an American man staying at a hotel where we see him creepily feeding a naked Thai boy on a leash. We can pretty much tell what kind of scum this fella is and the figure in red knows this as well, thus the next thing we see is the man getting knifed to death, his body dismembered and stuffed in a single red suitcase which is later found near a beach.

This, as it seems, is an ongoing case of serial killings happening around the city as men in high position and power are getting targeted and murdered, soon to be later found in pieces and stuffed inside red suit cases, as well as revealed to be sexual deviants. Things get awry when the killer strikes once more, this time crashing an orgy held by the city's prime minister's son and, in a rather spectacular display of sleaze and chaos, goes on a shooting spree on all of the fornicators before taking the prime minister's son and butchering him elsewhere, his lingerie-clad body later seen castrated and draped over a billboard.

Outraged by both the death of his son and the scandal the massacre has caused, not to mention the lack of development from this entire investigation, the politician gives the city police an ultimatum to solve it in 15 days. Feeling the pressure of all of this, chief of police Papa Chin (Chatchai Plenpanich) has no choice but to turn to a man he's really hoping not to bother with, a former cop-turned-prison "cleaner" named Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri), who also happens to be the convict who's having the red suitcase dreams. It seems Chin and Tai has some history together and a lot of dirt between them, though Tai is mostly willing to help out as he suspects the killer might be Nut, a childhood friend back from his home town who he hadn't thought of for a very long while now.

This is when Slice (2009) delves into lengthy flashbacks ala Slumdog Millionaire (2008) (only horrifically more troubling to watch) and for a good dose of the movie, we get to see what went down with Tai and Nut; with a drunkard for a father and a prostitute for a mother, Nut lived a hellish childhood life of constant abuse and bullying from a gang of boys targeting him for his effeminate personality and his constant seizures attacks. Young Tai, taking pity, decided to befriend the lonesome child and, for most parts, it's a rather happy friendship until the bullies caught wind of the two hanging out and they decided to up the ante of their harassments, practically going criminal as one scene have them raping Nut with a toy boat. The horror of it all worsens when Nut starts getting assaulted by his teachers and even his own father, but Tai eventually comes in to try rescue his friend from all of this, but an incident involving Nut's father getting stabbed to death forces the two boys to leg it to the city and attempt a sense of normalcy working cheap labor as they go in hiding.

However, even in this new living arrangement, Nut couldn't escape his horrible fate as, no soon after, a group of sex traffickers have taken an interest on the boys. Tai continues to try fending them all off, but the exhaustion of looking after Nut eventually gets the better of the boy and when given the opportunity to pawn off Nut to save his own skin, Tai guiltily agrees to the deal... 

Cutting back to present day and Tai is piecing together everything that happened to Nut after he was taken. This leads to a familiar yet still shocking revelation that spells more victims to the slaughter and genuine heartbreaks for everyone who matters.

Structure-wise, Slice (2009) has less in common with the typical kill-in-every-fifteen minutes slasher flair and more with investigative serial killer thrillers like The Silence of The Lambs (1991) and SE7EN (1995), as well as coming-of-age dramas like Stand By Me (1985) albeit uncomfortably darker. The murder horror elements were practically used here to jumpstart the plot and the film did this spectacularly by treating us with a giallo-inspired Grand Guignol of knife violence and shoot-out massacres perpetrated by a figure in striking red, stylized with chaotic video effects, unnatural lighting, colored tinting and eerie camera work. The direction eventually makes its way to the real meat of the story, the childhood life of our lead, wherein the movie dives into a depth that deals greatly with betrayals, heartbreak and the unrelenting nature of abject cruelty and hate in which anybody regardless of age, gender and status can fall into should the fates decide it to be. It can get pretty heavy, especially when it sickeningly juxtaposes small idyllic town life of simple games and school days with horrifying scenes and implications of severe bullying and sexual abuse, but it is briskly paced so it doesn't drag itself down with the weight of the drama and instills a sense of urgency in its mystery.

The final twist in the movie more or less sets everything back to slasher horror grounds as the killer gets revealed and starts one last murder spree, leading to a couple of gruesomely splashy deaths and a few deserving victims getting what's coming to them. The reveal here is nothing new, though its execution is where it made its worth as after the bloodsoaked rampage, it found a way to slow down and have a truly melancholic moment between our protagonist and the killer before ultimately topping it off with an ending where no one really wins. It's simplistic and well-acted, allowing the tragedy of the situation to sink in and feel its weight without any exploitative distractions cluttering it. 

If there are any flaws I can scratch out of this movie, it would be that the slasher scenes often bring out the cheesier side of Slice (2009) as the idea of a killer in a red cloak gets rather silly when this fella can easily stroll down building units, busy streets and private orgies without anyone ever batting an eye on the suspicious sight. It's baffling and sets a few of the the murder set-pieces a tad too convenient, though it does little to none to dent the overall spectacle of the movie's more visceral elements.

Browbeaten and devastating, yet bearing a sense of heart in the midst of its grime and barbarism, the film is a true work of exploitation cinema that doesn’t hold back with its taboo subjects and exploitative carnage to give us one heck of a ride. If you think you have the stomach for an upsettingly bogging yet intriguing murder mystery, then dare to see it! 

1 male stabbed to death with a knife, later found dismembered
1 male had his throat cut with a disposable razor
1 male castrated with a knife, later found dismembered
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot on the back
1 male shot
1 male shot on the head
1 female shot
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 females shot with a shotgun
1 victim had their leg shot with a shotgun, killed
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 female had her arm shot off with a shotgun, killed
1 male had his head blown off with a shotgun
1 male found castrated, body hung over a billboard
3 males shot dead (flashback)
1 male shot (flashback)
1 male stabbed to death with a knife (flashback)
1 elderly female dies of old age offcamera
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 male stabbed to death with a razor
1 male had his neck cut with a razor, castrated
1 male repeatedly shot, stabbed to death with a razor
1 female shot on the head
Total: 26

Friday, July 14, 2023

Yankee Doodled: 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (2010)

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (2010)
Rating: *
Starring: Bill Moseley, Lin Shaye, Christa Campbell

Ah, god, how did I even survived this shit?

Look, I love 2001 Maniacs (2005), Eli Roth's teen slasher remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis Southern-fried splatter classic Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964). And I also love Bill Moseley, a beloved character actor who don the roles of many horror faves such as Chop Top from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and Otis B. Driftwood from Rob Zombie's Firefly Clan movies. Seeing Moseley leading in a follow-up to one of my fave early 2000s gorefest should be a match made in heaven for me, but not if the resulting movie is like watching a ten year old trying to paint a replica of Van Gogh's The Starry Night while drunk and high at the same time: simply horrifying and concerning.

For those who are not in the know, the story of Maniacs follows the ghoulish undead denizens of a small Southern community called Pleasant Valley and their macabre celebrations involving the luring, torturing, mutilating and then devouring of unsuspecting motorists as revenge against the Northerners. 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (2010) follows on the events of Eli Roth's re-telling as we see the folks of Pleasant Valley preparing for another round of their annual "Guts N' Glory Jubilee" celebration, only to learn that the local sheriff is putting a stop to the Jubilee since the feds are starting to catch on to the disappearances around their neck of the woods over the years. Town leader Mayor Buckman (Bill Moseley) doesn't take kindly to this news so, after killing off the sheriff by rolling him down a hill inside a barrel driven with nails, he devised a plan to take their macabre celebration on the road, turning the jamboree into a traveling circus of sorts.

In comes our group of stereotypes that happen to be the cast and crew of a brain-rotting reality TV show Road Rascals (practically The Simple Life), driving around in their tour bus when they came upon the maniacs' lil' cavalcade of crazies and sees an opportunity to film an impromptu episode for their show once they're invited to join Mayor Buckman's traveling party of Southern hospitality, games and barbecue! And as you would expect, the folks from Pleasant Valley are just delighted to have these suckers around for their fiendish and cannibalistic fun, picking them off one by one...

Almost everything about 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (2010) is terrible. Flimsy. Embarrassing. Excruciating, even. I say almost since there's a good deal of messy gore effects done for some of the kills which pleases my inner gorehound, as well as Moseley being a definite treat in this movie, playing the gruesome yet infectively charming and hilarious mayor of Pleasant Valley with much wry Southern humor and tongue-in-cheek hamminess. Past that, too many of the jokes missed than hit as the writing often devolved into cheaply throwing shots at horribly dated pop culture and politics, the victims are devoid of any real character apart from being tired offensive clichés played by barely talented folks and the production definitely took a nose dive down the cheap shithole. Seriously, throughout the movie, you'll see uninteresting camera work, audio quality dropping randomly and hack job editing. It's bad enough we have to sit through rotten cheese, terrible jokes and yawn-worthy shock gags, but to have it executed half-assed simply shows how much this movie just dragged itself into failure from the moment it started.

No, good gentlemen and fair ladies, I am not impressed by 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (2010)! It's hard to praise a film that can make the idea of a black comedy about evil, murderous and cannibalistic confederate towns this boring and I would rather chuck myself down a nailed barrel rolling down a hill than to subject myself to another viewing of this garbage. Dump it!

1 male rolled inside a nailed barrel, impaled on wooden planks
1 female sliced through the groin with a buzzsaw
1 male electrocuted in an electric chair
1 male had his back broken, heart torn out
1 male had his head decimated with a stick of dynamite
1 female hoisted and hanged on a noose
1 female had her face torn off with a clawed chastity belt
1 male shredded against a bus engine
2 female ran over with a truck
Total: 10 

Friday, July 7, 2023

Bikini Bods In Peril: Pool Party Massacre (2017)

Pool Party Massacre (2017)
Rating: ***
Starring: Cameron Lee Vamp, LeeAnna Vamp, John Molinaro

A young, dumb and spoiled socialite is left to watch the family home (and the prized dog) while her parents fly out of town. She takes this opportunity to go wild and invites her equally bitchy friends over for a pool party, though it soon goes from poolside fun to murdered one-by-one when a random killer starts stalking the party and arming themselves with various tools from the garage workshop.

Shot within a single location and taking cues from the cheesier side of old school 80s slasher flicks, Pool Party Massacre (2017) is simple, nothing new and done through a noticeable low budget of only a few grands, though the intentionally cheesy, raunchy and over-the-top execution meant that it's never to be taken seriously and, if you're not asking much to begin with, that could make this bodycounter a worthwhile watch. 

For a bargain slasher, it has a decent bodycount and an impressive set of gore effects given how little was used to bank this production, plus the film sports a few decent camera work and the story is easy to digest seeing not a lot is going around its plot other than bikini-clad busty gals being, well, bikini-clad busty gals and the face-obscured maniac bumping them, the neighbors and a pizza guy dead with powertools. The only matter of a problem here is that most of its characters are obnoxiously unlikable and dumb, a range of personalities as deep as a flattened cardboard box, making some scenes annoyingly tedious to sit through. Very little do I find the dialogue genuinely hilarious, but very often I do find them hilariously bad and I guess that has to count for something.

There's a decently fun reveal in the near end regarding who the killer is and what their motives are. It is, again, nothing overly new, though the tongue-in-cheeck nature of their banter and a good dash of meta-humor do make it an interesting and waggish twist, even more so when the whole point of it basically boils down to the villain just wanting more attention to themselves.

All in all, Pool Party Massacre (2017) is a flawed but agreeable little slasher, a fair enough throwback to the simpler, paint-by-number campy horror days of naked girls and messy kills! 

1 female had her throat cut with a tree limb cutter
1 male killed offscreen, later seen stabbed in the eye with a screwdriver
1 female gets a hammer claw to the jaw
1 elderly female hacked on the head with a pickaxe
1 female had her neck chopped with an axe
1 male hacked on the head with an axe
1 male eviscerated with a sabre saw
1 male powerdrilled through the back
1 female slaughtered with a weed whacker
1 female stabbed through with a machete
1 female hacked on the head with an axe
Total: 11

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Water Wants You: Smiley Face Killers (2020)

Smiley Face Killers (2020)
Rating: **
Starring: Ronen Rubinstein, Mia Serafino, Crispin Glover

From the late 1990s to the 2010s, a total of 45 young men were found dead in bodies of water across several Midwestern American states and it is theorized that these men were not accidental drownings, but were in fact victims of a possible serial slaying. Dubbed as the "Smiley Face Murders" after police discovered smiley face graffities near locations where the bodies were found in at least a dozen of the cases, the idea stems from the fact that the supposed victims collectively appear to resemble a serial killer victim profile, all popular, athletic, and successful students, mostly white and were leaving parties or bars where they had been drinking. This theory, however, is often met with skepticisms by responding investigators and experts due to little to no evidence of actual serial killing activity, nor did it have enough strong support linking the tragic deaths altogether.

What this hunch lacks in proof, it makes up for being morbidly fascinating, thus becoming the inspiration behind Smiley Face Killers (2020), a psychological slasher penned by screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis, who also wrote the controversial splatter novel American Psycho.

The plot follows one university student and college football star named Jake who decided to stop seeing his therapist and disregard his psychiatric meds in favor of living a more carefree life of parties and recreational drugs. This, to no one's real surprise, leads to him acting more depressed and paranoid, concerning his girlfriend and friends, even more so when he's starting to suspect his girl is cheating on him with her ex, as well as believing that he's being stalked. Truth be told, though, he is indeed being stalked and a figure in a hood is doing whatever they can to freak Jake out like sending weirdly cryptic text messages, messing up his electronics, leaving bath tubs and faucets running until they're filled with water, and too leaving a map littered with smiley face markings.

It does all this for a good hour and this is where Smiley Face Killers (2020) falters; the story around these parts is basically one long wait to Jake's eventual encounter with the titular killers and it passes the time toying around the idea that Jake may or may not be imagining the worries eating him. This could've been an intriguing plot to follow given that the movie didn't opened with a small taste of what our killers are up to and what they're capable of doing, thus very well killing off whatever mystery and sense of dread this movie is going for and instead acting more like an avoidable teen drama, a terrible direction to take when the leading character leans heavily on the unnecessarily and unsympathetically dumb side. We do get one decent kill scene in the midst of this, but it is around the last fifteen minutes when, thankfully, the movie remembers that it's a horror thriller and things go crazy the right way.

After losing it at a party where he blames his girlfriend's ex of all the insane shit he'd gone through for the past few days, Jake gets abducted by a trio of miscreants operating in a white van decorated in the inside with occult symbols and rituals. They're the kind of last minute craziness I can warmly welcome after a long dull stroll and they didn't disappoint with their bizarre practice of draining "pure" blood out of their victims and their decent run of gory killings in which they massacre everyone attending a gas station after Jake gets a streaky chance to escape there. For some, though, this is understandably a little too late to salvage what's very much a dying story dulled down by the wasted minutes focusing on the misadventures of a very glum boy.

Smiley Face Killers (2020) could have benefited more if it took a different angle other than a teen slasher with a psychological twist, or at the least went with a better story than this. I will give it credit for making the last act as insanely fun as they can with the short remaining time, but I cannot deny the film for being a really tedious test of patience for a slow burner. Not much will be lost if you skip this one.

1 male abducted, corpse later found washed ashore
1 male abducted, corpse later found washed ashore
1 male brained to death with a hammer
1 male shot on the head
1 female hacked on the face with a hatchet
1 male shot to death
1 female repeatedly hacked on the gut with a hatchet
1 male shot on the head
1 male knifed through the neck
Total: 9

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Don't Disturb Evelyn, She Already Is: Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983)

Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983) (AKA "Horrors at Mountaintop Motel", "Mountaintop Motel")
Rating: ***
Starring: Bill Thurman, Anna Chappell, Will Mitchell

Ah, the backwoods in a horror movie. Filled with spiders, snakes, the usual doomed victims of a sickle-wielding maniac and a looney old bird who happens to be said sickle-wielding maniac~!

Middle-aged Evelyn, a former mental patient, runs and lives with her daughter, Lorie, on the eponymous Mountaintop Motel, a cabin-in-the-woods motel property off a local highway. It's only been a few years since Evelyn's release from the ward and Lorie believes her mum isn't really all that well still, presented to us with Evelyn going stabby on a pet guinea pig after she caught it eating some of the vegetables she's growing. On a very macabre turn, Lorie holds a séance of sorts with rabbits and goats in the catacombs underneath the motel, attempting to communicate with her late father for some guidance. Evelyn sees the ghoulish practice and, not being a big fan of it, goes on a sickle fit hacking everything she could hack. Including, accidentally, Lorie.

Distraught, Evelyn props her dead daughter's body up in a staged gardening accident and phones in an ambulance. The local sheriff accompanying the paramedics doesn't believe the death happened as Evelyn described it, though, but decided to let it go for now as he has little to no proof to indict Evelyn for any serious charges. As Lorie gets laid to rest, Evelyn's psyche reaches voices-from-the-void level and starts thinking everybody is out to get her, a breakdown that gets worse by the time she returns to the motel.

As night falls and a storm rolls in, a variety of guests arrive to check in at the Mountaintop Motel, consisting of Evelyn's alcoholic pastor friend, a old black carpenter who needed a spot to rest, a pair of young newlyweds in their honeymoon, an ad executive and two cousins who are aiming to hit high as singers. A fallen tree would soon block their only way out and kill off the lights and phone line, trapping these hapless ladies and gents for a night of not only Evelyn's dirty little pranks and surprises, but also her unraveling mental state and the blood-soaked sickle that comes with it! 

Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1983) isn't a great movie, though it's not entirely a bad one neither; the most notable eccentricity of the film is the fact that for almost an hour after Evelyn got away with accidentally murdering her own kid, the story simply drawls through the old hag's short reign of mischief as she places snakes, roaches, and rats in the guests' rooms through a handy system of underground tunnels and trap-doors in the cabin floors, allowing Evelyn access to all of the tenants and inconvenience them without anyone detecting her. (Though inconvenience is putting it lightly to the fella who got bit in the face by a venomous snake. That's straight-up assault!) Not exactly the kind of horror one expects from a movie that has massacre in its title and I do see how this can get tiring to sit through, although most of the characters at play here do add some life and intrigue towards some of the duller moments, mainly the two old fellas sharing an engaging talk about church work while swigging booze and the two cousins who are having a conflict of moral grounds as they argue about sleeping with a sleazy con pretending to be a music agent. 

The hokey yet eerie atmosphere of the direction and plotting is also greatly encapsulated through its dilapidatedly macabre set-designs and 60s B-movie inspired score. Once Evelyn got the word from her dead daughter's voice to go kill, her massacre is gloriously bloody and savage with a few excellent-looking gore make-up, working as much splatter as they could with the little bodycount to go around. This leads to a climax that's kinda awkward to watch but hilarious for the corniness of it all as two middle-aged folks struggle around with a gun and a sickle, thankfully paid off with one last kill and a decent shot of the resulting gore effect. 

As lumbering as the story's stride is, there's a honest cheesy charm to Mountaintop Motel Massacre's simplistic plot and nutty exploits and I can't help but appreciate the effort given, even more so when it tries to break the typical slasher formula for something a tad different yet fun. Far from the finest, sure, but an enjoyable 80s slasher nonetheless! 

1 female hacked with a sickle
1 female slashed across the face with a sickle
1 male hacked on the chest with a sickle
1 female repeatedly hacked with a sickle, sliced through the cheeks
1 male had his throat slashed with a sickle
1 male had a hand hacked off with a sickle, hacked
1 female gets nearly decapitated with a sickle
Total: 7