Sunday, May 19, 2024

Mukhayam Alshaati Aldamawii: Camp (2008)

Camp (Egypt, 2008) (AKA "Kamb")
Rating: ***
Starring: Yasmen Abaza, Amr Abdelaziz, Amr Abdullatif

It's not very often we see a horror film straight out of Egypt due to the country's strict censorship, so the fact that we even got this teen slasher from them is no short of a miracle and a real ham of a treat for us bodycount fans. 

The scene starts at a luxurious birthday party of one Wael, who we see having a bit of a talk with his on-again-off-again fiancé Shirin before she has to leave on the account of a family emergency. Right about that time, the rather beautiful Shaky arrives with her date Gamal to join the festivities and then the story jumps ahead a year later. And Shaky is now dead.

After visiting her grave, Wael, Shirin, Gamel and the rest of their gang (plus Shirin's kid sister for some reason) drive to the titular camp, which is less of a camp and more of a nearly-barren hotel manned by its owner and his promiscuous wife, a trolley guy with a case of sticky fingers and a mute cleaning lady who eyes the guests suspiciously. The group's there to celebrate their graduation by having a great time at the beach, dining fine and dancing around a bonfire to some spicy salsa music. Trouble comes bickering when talk of romance, cheating and doing the nasty out of wedlock gets brought up within the group, but that would soon escalate to more dire problems like random fires down hallways, creepy shadows looming across windows and their cars' batteries going dead. 

Dire turns deadly when a killer resembling a pale ghoul shows up to terrorize the doomed partyers, stabbing and hacking people to death, stirring up a whole mess of accusations and suspicions as the victims try to uncover who's hunting them all down...

Focused more on building suspense and intrigue rather than a high kill count or a messy spot of gore, Camp (2008) works its way through the interpersonal problems and relations of its casts for a good bulk of the plot, building enough drama and red herrings for the eventual killing spree to make it as twisty in its turns as possible. It's an approach that would've functioned better if it wasn't for the bits of comedic outings that clash with the movie's more serious moments, not to mention the sudden amount of overacting and breakneck editing around the second half which knocks off any earnest sense of chill or fright from the murders. Still, the film is shot with a modest quality and there's an undeniable fun factor to be found so long as you don't mind a dose of cheese and what's practically a run-fest of victims fleeing all over the hotel while the killer either legs after them or show off their parkour skills. It doesn't always fly well, nor does it make sense, but it's gorgeous to look at and it surely does help not to overthink how quickly our killer can change in and out of their cosplay-level disguise, among many other things.

The kills aren't too graphic and are mostly implied offscreen to appease Egypt's censors, not quite that big of a problem personally since the scenes around the attacks work well enough entertainment-wise. The finale is, shall we say, up for the audience's interpretation: it would have been your standard unmasking and reveal with a flashback to compliment the twist, only made just that complicated and confusing by adding one little detail that simply doesn't make any lick of sense at all. The film just threw it at us at the near end and left it at that, but the very gist of the whole fiasco's basically one big revenge plot and so long as that's clear at least, I can roll with it.

Camp (2008) undoubtedly could have been better, but for what it is able to accomplish, I can appreciate. It has the look and feel of an 80s slasher done right, one that isn't too coy on hamming it a bit with its thrills and spills. A neat little bodycounter flick from a different culture!

1 male hacked on the neck with a curved knife
1 female found dead from a cut throat
1 female hacked on the head with a curved knife
1 male stabbed in the back with a curved knife
1 female stabbed in the back with a curved knife
1 male found stabbed in the back with a curved knife
1 female killed offscreen, later found stabbed in the chest with a curved knife
1 male found stabbed on the back with a curved knife
Total: 9

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Beatnik Break'd: A Bucket of Blood (1959)

A Bucket of Blood (1959)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone

A black-and-white mini cult classic produced and directed by Roger Corman, starring cult movie icon Dick Miller when he was just 31 years young. Need I say more?

Working as a busboy at the trendy art-house coffee shop The Yellow Room, Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) wants nothing more than be socially accepted by the Beatniks he serves and he desperately strives for this by trying his hands on being an artist. His sculpting skills are, sadly, terminally lacking, but a strike of inspiration hits him after accidentally stabbing his landlady's cat in an attempt to free it from a wall: by covering the corpse in plaster (knife still sticking out), he crafts his first masterpiece, subtly titled 'Dead Cat'. The shockingly grim piece is an instant hit of 'realism' within the cafe, granting Walter the praise he have been yearning for all this time, as well as a newfound niche of murdering people in secret and showcasing their plaster-encased bits and pieces as art. 

The more merits Walter receives, the more desperate he becomes to continue his work. Thus, the more he needs a stable supply of bodies...

A rather amusing and functional send up to Beatnik culture, A Bucket of Blood (1959) reflects the time director Roger Corman and regular writer Charles B. Griffith started taking their work less seriously by the end of the 50s, playing a macabre yet identifiably whacky sense of humor into this movie's direction as it satires art scene pretentiousness and the ridiculous lengths people would go just for a little bit of recognition and attention. Made within the budget of $50,000 and shot in only five days, it's all told and done in an economically-restrained production that relied heavily on the performances of its casts and less on convincing movie effects to bring out the comically dark from its simple yet ghastly plot. True enough, the kills here aren't as graphic or well-crafted as most modern horror film murder scenes are, but the title entertainingly makes up for it with the grotesque yet hammy implications of our demented wannabe-artist's lunacy, who Dick Miller played with genial timidness despite being unhinged, crafting his Walter Paisley character as a sympathetic simpleton with a mostly relatable need to belong.

Its approach rather lighthearted despite the gruesome subject, A Bucket of Blood (1959)'s sentiments lean closer on being fun and hammy with a good dose of shock and violence, making it horror in small parts and a black comedy at most. Clocking only an hour and five minutes, it's a near-perfect fright flick quickie at that barely overstays its welcome and packs enough of an imaginative melting pot of the appalling, the humorous and even the melancholic to keep a horror fan happy and entertained.

Horrific and funny, this is one cult classic that you shouldn't miss!

1 male had his head cracked open with a pan
1 female strangled to death with a scarf
1 male decapitated with a buzzsaw
1 male hanged
Total: 4

That's The Way To Do It: Punch (2023)

Punch (United Kingdom, 2023)
Rating: ***
Starring: Kierston Wareing, Jamie Lomas, Alina Allison

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Oh I do like to be beside the sea
Oh I do like to walk along the prom prom prom
Where the brass band plays tiddly-om-pom-pom

For those who are not in the know, Punch and Judy is a traditional puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife Judy, following their often violent misadventures as Mr. Punch solves his way through various problems and foes with a beating stick. It's a staple attraction found at British seaside scenes and an occasional subject and inspiration for a few horror titles like Dolls (1987), Funny Man (1994) and a segment from an overlook horror anthology, Screamtime (1983). Now, we see good ole' Mr. Punch take the slasher mantle as an envisioned boogeyman stalking teenagers in this British bodycounter.

Wanting closure before heading back to university, Frankie (Alina Allison) decided to have one more night out with her friends as a bittersweet farewell to them and this uneventful coastal hometown life she's desperate to escape from. This evening of drugs, drunks and drama, however, gets tainted in blood when a local legend, a masked-figure known as Mr. Punch, begins creeping the seaside town for naughty people and giving them the business end of his bat. Punch spots Frankie and fancies on stalking her for the night, braining, breaking and burning as many victims along the way.

Much like its protagonist setting herself for more out of her mundane seaside life, Punch (2023) opted to do a bit more with the dead teenager horror plot by building its story around the dramatic discourse going on with its leading lady and the people she's surrounded by in her small town; some are with her in her plans of leaving the place despite feeling a tad sad about it, while others are simply downright opposed to the idea of her wanting out. This works surprisingly well as the writing actually gives the small main casts a noticeable level of depth and weight, even if they occasionally dip down into doing your typical slasher victim fodder of drinking, getting high and partying, not to mention the fact that the actors playing them gave a refreshingly subtle and modest performance, making the characters likeable enough compared to some of the tad annoying secondary casts.

On the slasher side of things, Punch (2023) does an admirable job doing its own demented little spin on the Punch and Judy puppet play aesthetic within its titular boogeyman and their kills; the murders are mostly bloody beatings with a bat while the killer spouts wise-cracks through a high-pitched voice mod, similar to how the Punch puppet deals with its foes and the little catchphrases it squeaks. This lack of variety may not do well for some slasher fans, admittedly, but I find the sheer craziness of Punch's manic clowning and playful brutality as he mocks and jokes around while shoving bats down people's throats bizarrely fun, even if the voice effect does make it difficult to work out what Mr. Punch is saying sometimes. The identity behind the mask was also a bit of a let down seeing it wasn't that hard to figure it out (clues were given early on the film), there's at least a nice second twist reveal in the near end which further ties into the puppet show lore quite nicely, in a small town folk horror way. (Do feel the film could have benefitted further from more night scenes around the empty seaside parks, though. More dread in isolation. Perhaps with a bigger budget...)

Albeit flawed, Punch (2023) is an okay Euro-horror flick that sticks to the basics; it's all evenly paced, generous with its bloodletting and, most importantly, features a freaky yet fun slasher villain with an effectively creepy look, all things any slasher fan can enjoy and appreciate. An easy slasher treat that packs a fair punch!

1 male brained with a baseball bat
1 female had her jaw broken with a shoved baseball bat
1 female had her neck broken
1 male brained with a baseball bat, stomped
1 male brained with a baseball bat
1 male had his face caved in with a baseball bat
1 female beaten on the face with an audio console
1 female killed offscreen
1 male brained against a sink
1 male beaten to death with a baseball bat
1 male had his neck crushed with a baseball bat
1 female thrown into a bonfire
1 female brained to death with a baseball bat
1 male beaten to death with a baseball bat
1 male knifed in the gut
1 female brained with a baseball bat
Total: 16

Monday, May 6, 2024

Terror in Tinseltown: Hollywood Horror (2005)

Hollywood Horror (2005)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Forrest J. Ackerman, Christopher Berry, Jimmy Bridges

A rarity and an oddity! We have ourselves a twofer here!

Differing groups of teens find themselves mysteriously invited to a horror-themed party way up somewhere at an old Hollywood building once owned by a socialite named Howard Hughes back in the 1930s, left abandoned and condemned all these years after a fiery accident. What they didn't know, however, is that the building's built like a maze, a perfect prowling spot for an enigmatic cloaked figure in a skull mask to thin down the attendee count one lost victim at a time, as well as for ghostly apparitions to haunt and taunt these hapless chumps. Who will be left alive by the end of this Hollywood Horror? Only time will tell...

Admittedly, this isn't a very good movie, but the reason for that leans heavily from the fact that this here is a lost slasher title; there are no posters or trailers for the film, nor any actual evidence of video releases despite a few online sources citing a US release date of 2005, which makes the plot taking place in 2007 just that stranger. By all means, Hollywood Horror (2005) looks like it was filmed in the late-90s, riding along Scream (1996)'s pop culture self-references ala dialogue and inside jokes, only to be seemingly shelved unedited and unfinished until it's leaked online via Youtube at 2022. 

We're basically watching a rough cut here, so I'm a tad more forgiving about its production flaws of missing reels and shoddy editing, and too its uninspired audio quality and shlocky camerawork. In terms of the movie's plotting and tone, it's a shoddy attempt of merging low-budget supernatural hauntings with the common slasher affairs of a costumed ghoul murdering people. The resulting work is an undeniably cheesy smorgasbord of ghosts and spooks menacing the casts, running gags of dismembered body parts expressing their annoyance of being killed off, and an overly ambitious twist that simply boils down to someone being bitter about money. It's all done in a hammy manner through its writing and actors for an intentional tongue-n-cheek approach and although it doesn't always work, it can be fairly funny, not to mention bloodily decent whenever it does. Where else, after all, can you find a slasher movie where a victims gets crushed and flush down a rigged toilet? That sure got a laugh out of me!

Intriguingly, there's a good line of familiar faces to be seen here, such as late-horror veteran Angus Scrimm as a curious psychic who warns some of the teens about the dangers residing in the Howard Hughes building and Diff'rent Stroke's Todd Bridges in a cameo as a weed-smoking security guard who gets a bad ending encounter with a forklift. Twins Tamera and Tia Mowry of multiple TV projects also show up here as a pair of fun-loving sisters looking for a swell time and, too, Natalia Cigliuti, Lindsay Warner of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, donning the obvious final girl role with a B-grade flair. A good deal of the casts are practically a walking time capsule and I'm all for it, frankly!

I can understandably see how Hollywood Horror (2005)'s unpolished mish mash of ghosts and killers  wouldn't fly right for most audiences but, as a guilty pleasure of sorts, I can dig it; the story has potential, the characters are fun, the killer looks alright and the gore effects are an okay mix of practical and hilariously dated green screen effects. Without a doubt, the film can definitely benefit from a couple more visits through the cutting rooms but, judging on what we have so far, not bad for a lost and unfinished late-90s/early-2000s find!

1 female set ablaze
1 male knocked out of a building with a forklift, falls to his death
1 male crushed against the ceiling by a camera crane
1 female decapitated with a guillotine
1 female crushed and flushed down a rigged toilet
1 male electrocuted to death
1 female decapitated with a battle axe
1 male hit with a car
2 females hit with a car offscreen
1 male thrown off a building, falls to his death
1 elderly male succumbs to gunshot wound
1 female crushed dead in a falling elevator
Total: 13

Monday, April 29, 2024

The Beast of Meteorite Acres: Splatter-Saurus (2023 Novella)

Author: Judith Sonnet
Publication Year: 2023
Chapters: 14
Rating: ***

A dinosaur-centered Youtube channel once covered this book and described it as 'dinosaur splatterpunk'. Seeing this is written by Judith Sonnet, whose stories often dip into Extreme horror, I'm not too surprised. What did tickle my curiosity, however, was upon further looking into it, some people also consider this a 'backwoods slasher'. And that, ladies and gents, is how I ended up owning this rather gruesome, exploitative novella about a random dinosaur on a feeding frenzy deep in some woods. 

The story does resemble a typical backwoods slasher plot of young adults visiting a cabin at Meteorite Acres for some rest and relaxation; drinks were drank, drugs were suggested, some hanky-panky time was considered despite some characters wondering how their partners would react if they finally decided to come out of the closet, but what these lads and ladies didn't come to account for is the orange-scaled dinosaur that's rampaging all over the nearby forest and pond! Devouring already the small family who owned the cabins and a few very horrible rednecks, this bipedal monster is now dead set on gorily sinking its teeth down on some nubile college kids...

In the afterword of the book, Sonnet wrote that Splatter-Saurus is a homage to cheesy dinosaur flicks one would typically catch on channels like SyFy or streaming sites like Tubi and, frankly, she is mostly on point; the book reads like the most hardcore creature feature exploitation piece involving a prehistoric theropod, one that the likes of the Carnosaur movies would have been if they delivered a bit more bad taste into their plots, such as overly-detailed traumatic deaths and a pinch of hicksploitation grindcore with a pair of redneck brothers who are into very disturbing and upsetting ideas of fun, examples of which apparently involve torturing lady hitchhikers and swiping babies away from mothers. 

This being a short horror piece, the story is straight-to-the-point and a quick read, barely diving away from the shallow plotting of a dinosaur brutally hunting and eating side dish cannon fodders before moving in to the main course chilling inside a cabin. Wordplay is descriptive enough to really really paint the gross gruesomeness of these attacks, as well as attempt a bit of layer and humor during the story's few lulling moments, making this a promisingly intense and intriguing B-grade horror read. The only qualm for me here is that the last twist and the resulting ending feels like it pushed the silliness a tad too far, making the conclusion overly random for the sake of cheese and shock, maybe a bit rushed as well. In all sincerity, it could work as the author did say she wanted this book to be stupid yet fun, but I personally think it could have been articulated and written better so it wouldn't be so janky.

Still, Splatter-Saurus done enough tooth-and-nail bodycounting to make it a good read, given that is you got the iron stomach for some extreme horror literature because it can get real nasty! This novelette is ridiculously wrong and splattery, but if you love a bad dinosaur creature feature, even more so a slasher with a generous offering of blood and body parts, then give this backwoods slaughter-fest with a prehistoric twist a go!

Bodycount: 13
Notable Kills: "...The bulky brute's body lifted Angus up and sent him spinning like an organic frisbee. Angus's scream warbled comedically before his body struck a nearby tree.

Paul watched in shock as his brother wrapped around the sturdy shaft of the tree."

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Mountaintop Cryptid Massacre: The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot (2021 Novel)

The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot
Author: David Irons
Publication Year: 2021
Chapters: 56
Rating: ****

Frequent visitors of this here little personal corner of the web would probably know how much I love my Bigfoot slashers! I love the splattery hamminess of Night of The Demon (1980). I love the Southern fried creepiness of The Wildman of The Navidad (2008). I love the found footage stylings of Exist (2014). I love the backwoods bachelor bash gone Bigfoot of Cherokee Creek (2018). I love this slasher/monster hybrid niche that much, I have now expanded my need to consume media where the big hairy fella slaughters teenagers one by one from movies to novels!

And here's where David Iron's The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot comes in! 

Taking place mostly in April 2nd, 1981, the novel follows the small cast and crew of an independent movie production as they drive to a rented construction site somewhere at the Oregonian mountains to finish filming the last few key scenes of their slasher flick, Mountaintop Madman Massacre. For the first half of the book, the story does a good job building itself around the filming as we get to know more about the bunch working in it; heading this production is director and writer Rob Lieberman, who technically conned his own father into funding this circus in hopes of making a quick and easy buck by cashing in to the cult success of slasher movies at that time; cinematographer Danny McLaughlin shares with his bestfriend and soundman Billy Zito his desires to do more than just commercials and low budget horror movies, thus accumulating a bit of jealousy towards the team's special effects wiz Tommy Bottin, who has doors of opportunities opening up for him after being featured in magazines like Fangoria and Cinemafantasque; Tommy, in turn, is considered a creep by some of the crew for crushing hard on the movie's leading actress, Adrianne Heather Curtis, who went from being household name famous to infamous after more than one unsavory articles written about her private life, resulting to a lack of work. 

The rest of the gang are Larry Lerner, Ben Tramer, Connie Conners and Laura Sommers, actors and actresses who all just wanted to get this last day of filming done so they can chill out, make the beast with two backs, or move on to the next acting gig. All the while Arnold Lebowitz, who's playing the titular Mountaintop Madman, is there to bring jokey vibes and be committed to his work as a lardy cannibal killer. And then there's Tony Reynolds. Stunt coordinator. In charge of the explosives to be used for the movie's explosive finale. Running a tad behind schedule and acting really sketchy and ominous by the time he finally shows up. Adrianne's lover.

In the midst of this movie-making misadventure, at a cave nearby the site, lives a family of three mythological beasts, the last of their kind; the adults know of the danger humans pose over them so they do their best to be left unseen and alone, but the youngest of them all have grown curious of the bells and whistles these interlopers brought along, luring it close to their set. Unbeknownst to the little one, as well as most of the crew, something wasn't right. Something was done to an FX shot that not only ends up with a charred body, but also the death of the male beast's loved ones.

And then, as the book said: 'All hell broke loose'.

From that point on, The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot goes full gear on the creature feature-cum-slasher flick thrills and spills as the now vengeful Bigfoot unleashes a torrent of pain and suffering towards the film crew, brawling with some, massacring the others. Intriguingly, this gruesome fiasco also brings out the worst from our doomed gang as Rob and Danny loses their marbles at the fact that Bigfoot exists and decided together that raw footage of a cryptid attack is better than no footage at all, thus paying it all in blood, while a few of the actors start to fight and betray one another reasons both sinister and petty. So the tension is written astonishingly high around this act, both from the brutality of the monster's attacks and, too, the uncertainty of who among the thespians are trustworthy or not; A LOT of the murders here have so much vivid gory details on them, my inner gorehound was more than just satisfied. It was quenched! Like, for real, it's like reading kills from any one of Adam Greene's Hatchet movies! And devolution of a once chummy film production down to a horrifying battle for survival simply spells a captivating read as the it does beg you to question where all of this is going now that almost every man and woman are out for themselves, with each chapter paced for a speedy read and ending on good hooks before jumping to the next one.  

My only qualms here is that a few twist reveals feel a tad unnecessary, especially one example which does fall into spoiler territories but I will at least say that it added nothing to the overall direction, just more excuse to pen down a gory demise. The cynical mean-spiritedness of it all may not sit too kindly for some readers as well, but, for me, there is something quite astonishing from fact that almost all of the characters were made into unlikeable douches at the end and the only one you get to feel for in some way is the killer Bigfoot as you do get to understand why he's this pissed off towards these humans. This stunt does cheapen a lot of the formerly fleshed out characters into meat bags deserving of being torn in half, yes, but when the payoff is a great read of mayhem and disturbing fates, I does help not to take this book too seriously and just enjoy The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot as the hammy, bloody horror novel that it is.

The story ends on an admittedly disturbing note, one that punches the right cards for shock and shlock, fitting right well with the absurd craziness of this Bigfoot attack /backwoods slasher story. That being said, The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot is a fun neat read if you love a bad creature feature and the bloodiest of bodycounter flicks, one that's packed with feisty fromage and a bitter streak on the side. Should you ever find yourself with some time to kill and read B-grade cryptid horror, why not give this page-turner a try? 

Bodycount: 15
Notable Kill: Honestly, it's hard to pick just one. But if I do have to pick one, it has to be that one guy who fought Bigfoot, only to be humbled by the creature not once, but TWICE! I wouldn't say much what happened, but all I could say is that after bearing so much of that guy's cockiness, I am just glad we got the hairy fella recreating a kill from Madman (1981), only with a few more muscles and organs strewn around~

Into The Woods, Down The Hill: Mercy Falls (2023)

Mercy Falls (United Kingdom, 2023)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Lauren Lyle, Nicolette McKeown, James Watterson

As a child, Rhona caught a glimpse of an incident involving her father and an injured horse, a moment in her life that troubled her so much that her relationship with him strained to the point she barely visited him as an adult. Now that her father passed away, Rhona learns that she inherited their old family cabin up in the Scottish Highlands, so she plans a hiking trip through the moors with her boyfriend and a couple of friends to visit the place and see what became of it. Along the way, they tagged along a lone traveler named Carla, who may or may not have a bit of screws loose after the horrors she faced back when she was deployed to fight a war at Afghanistan. 

As the day goes by, the would-be jovial hike begins to devolve into an intense stay when romantic and sexual tensions between the group have them arguing and quarreling with one another. When push comes to a literal shove, the gang soon find themselves in a situation they weren't prepared for as one of them ends up dying and someone's sudden spring of bloodlust have them hunting and hacking the rest of the group.

Looking past the gorgeously scenic camera work and the good enough acting talent presented here, Mercy Falls (2023) feels like it was robbed of an opportunity to do a better story seeing, prior to anyone from the group biting the big one, the narrative seems to be heading more on a direction focusing on the psychological horrors of trauma and distrust. It dances around the rising tension within the gang as they question the credibility of their friendship and love life, as well as the mental health of the few joining them after catching one too many suspicious activities the longer they stay outdoors, but that's eventually tossed away for a more traditional survivalist-type backwoods slasher run once one of them decided to give an unfortunate fella the knife-across-the-throat treatment after concluding he didn't have long to live with a big stick impaling his thigh. The mercy killer is then found out to have stayed at a mental ward and, just because they couldn't trust the group anymore, opted to hack and slash their way through them.

This unfortunately cheapens the rest of the movie since the killer's motive could have been explored further for better thrills but, rather, Mercy Falls (2023) went ahead with the usual simplification of PTSD equaling to homicidal tendencies, thus making the mad maniac here genuinely unremarkable. Pairing this misfire with a predictable and overlong stalk-and-stab situation, as well as murders that are barely captivatingly splashy or gory, and you would, in due course, get to climactic showdown that's disappointingly isn't anywhere as satisfying or impactful as it could have been due to its lack of tension and personality. Really underwhelming stuff here bearing in mind how well the movie starts.

If you're not in a very demanding mood, then Mercy Falls (2023) makes a suitable timewaster, I guess. It has enough production quality to look good and, honestly, I have seen worse backwoods killing sprees out there, but you can also do better than this downhill tumble from high ground to flat dirt. Good plot, terrible execution.  

1 male had his throat cut with a combat knife (flashback)
1 male stabbed to death with a combat knife (flashback)
1 male had his throat cut with a hunting knife 
1 female shot on the neck (flashback)
1 male hacked to death with a hiking pick
1 female hanged
1 male stabbed in the gut with a hunting knife
1 female set ablaze by a gasoline-doused flaming torch
Total: 8

Friday, April 5, 2024

Broken and Vengeful: Bedevilled (2010)

Bedevilled (Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal) (South Korea, 2010)
Rating: ****1/2
Starring: Seo Yeong-hie, Ji Seong-won, Min-ho Hwang

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

Hoping to escape the busy bustle of Seoul's big city life, as well as the troubles that come with it like a stressful office environment and being a witness of an assault, Hae-won decided to take a week long vacation at her home island, Moo-do, and spend some time with her childhood friend, Bok-nam, who have been writing letters to her. Little does she know, however, are the daily horrors Bok-nam suffer at the hands of the few remaining islanders living there as not only is she berated and shunned by the island women for not meeting their outdated norms of a dutiful and loyal wife, but she also physically and sexually abused by her brutish spouse and sleazy brother-in-law. Her only respite to all of her suffering is her daughter Yeon-hee and the fleeting chance of escaping her hellish island life to Seoul. A chance that might finally be at reach with Hae-won's arrival and help.

Unfortunately, despite Bok-nam's pleas and horrifying suspicions that Yeon-hee is being groomed by her own father, Hae-won turns a blind eye to the request, leading to Bok-nam taking matters at her own hands and attempt to leave the island with her daughter on her own. This only leads to a harrowing loss that finally breaks Bok-nam and, with Hae-won further refusing to help with the matter and the islanders' continuing maltreatment, a sickle is wielded and everyone will feel the wrath of a woman forever scorned...

Bedevilled (2010) is, without a doubt, one of the hardest movies for me to watch and I say that as a compliment to just how well it works not only a revenge-driven psychological slasher, but as a movie in general; for the first hour, it explores the extent of cruelty upon an undeserving party and the consequences of being a bystander, having us uncomfortably witness the full brunt of the abuse Bok-nam endures day by day, a matter that's actually encouraged by the aging island women whose mindsets are still stuck in the old gender norms of men being respected despite the stones they throw upon their spouses, and that a woman's job is only to be loyal to their husbands and do nothing but provide and serve. The film reaches to an extent that it brews a boiling sense of outrage from its audience, even more so when the film presented more than one chances for Bok-nam to be free of her horrible mistreatment, only for it to be swept away by hushed tongues, blind eyes and lies. It's a different kind of horror, one that hits a brand of realism all too well thanks Seo Yeong-hie's outstandingly heart-rending role and performance as the victim of all of these horrible deeds, and too the fact that despite Hae-won being presented as the main character of the plot, the direction and focus are mostly centered around Bok-nam's grueling hardships, making it quite easy to develop our sympathies for her plight.

Eventually, it all has to reach a breaking point and, after one irreversible act of violence, Bedevilled (2010) dives into a cathartic revenge-fueled murder spree as the islanders meet the bladed point of a sickle one by one. Necks hacked, heads decapitated, guts knifed, it's all as satisfying as it can get, a deserving pay-off filled with good gore, savage bloodletting and harrowing intensity after watching these villains haughtily justify their assault and persecutions for the longest time, reducing them to victims begging for their lives once the tables finally turn against them. And yet, in the midst of this eye-for-and-eye retribution play, there's an underlying feeling of misery and heartache as the film subtly reminds us that it didn't have to come to this bloodshed. There's no smile in Bok-nam's face as she murders these people. No quips. No fanfare. Just a stoic face, a broken spirit and pure methodic deaths that could have been prevented when the right people stepped in, a graze of complexity that has this bodycount achieving more in depth than just your regular horror film kill streak.

The final act is where Bedevilled (2010) works its emotionally-scarring character study into your typical slasher flick showdown as Hae-won sees herself trapped in a police station, the only officer there seemingly murdered, with a very maddened Bok-nam waiting there to finish what she started. It's the usual trappings of chase sequences, blows traded and a crazily gory last kill, but it's still punctuated with an emotional dour mood that's in line with the movie's cathartic development, ending on a bittersweet yet still devastating note that touches on the melancholic.

Admittedly, Bedevilled (2010) is not a movie for everyone. The brutality of the abuse shown can come to a point where it feels uncalled for, or at least have one welding a strong constitution to sit and bear it. At the end of it all, though, the promised conclusion is one to deliver and remember. One that rewards your patience and rage with a rush of psychological release through bloody sickle kills upon those who deserves it. If you think you're up to it, then see this unsung revenge masterpiece!

1 female murdered offscreen
1 girl lands head-first on a rock
1 female hacked on the neck with a sickle
1 female hacked on the back of the head with a sickle
1 female hacked with a sickle
1 elderly female jumped off a cliff and landed on rocks
1 male decapitated with a sickle
1 male gutted with a knife, hacked to death with a sickle
1 male shredded through a boat propeller 
1 male bashed to death with a sledgehammer
1 female repeatedly shot, stabbed in the throat with a recorder flute
Total: 11

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Some Bad Scrambled Easter Eggs: Easter Sunday (2014)

Easter Sunday (2014)
Rating: *
Starring: Robert Z'Dar, Jeremy Todd Morehead, Ari Lehman

A fat bloke has his throat sliced open with an axe and farts during his death rattles. The killer, in a voice pitched up as if his balls were being flagellated with an electrified flail, asks the guy if he just broke wind and proceeds to pick up a log to totally decimate the poor shmuck's head with, claiming that "All farters must perish".

All of this is just within the first five minutes of the film. Fuck.

Twenty four years ago on Easter night, Douglas Fisher went cuckoo for carnage, dons a rabbit mask and starts chopping down people dead with an axe, including his wife and daughter. He was soon caught and shot dead by the sheriff (the late Robert Z'dar of the Maniac Cop franchise) and the town he terrorized hardly celebrated Easter since then. Cutting forward to the present and we have the members of an indie band called The Heart Eaters visiting Fisher's hometown for a rockin' Easter weekend. One of the members just so happens to be the surviving son of the infamous bunny-masked killer and as a final 'fuck you' to his homicidal father, the dude decided to play around with a spirit board so he can say all the nasty shit he always wanted to against the fella.

And wouldn't you know it, this allowed the soul of Douglas Fisher to possess his son and start another killing spree. Well, shit, who didn't see that coming?

Easter Sunday (2014)
is a difficult movie to watch, in all honesty; the micro-budget production is distractingly evident as a good deal of the kills were enhanced with CG, the sound mixing is atrocious that the background tune is often louder than the audio and a lot of the camera work is boring and dull. I would and could tolerate all of these shortcomings if the story and tone is any better, but with the characters, including the damn killer, acting like overly exaggerated cartoon caricatures spouting painfully unfunny lines for comedic purposes simply made the film too juvenile and desperate to be enjoyable. Like, really, it's torture enough that none of the so-called jokes and one-liners hit, but they just have to make everyone be doofuses who can't stop yapping at how supposedly hilarious their shenanigans are. Look, I get it, it's a tongue-in-cheek homage to old school 80s slashers and I can respect that but, yeah, the level of goofiness here tries too hard to be funny, it fumbled. A lot. 

Frankly, Easter Sunday (2014) is less of a working movie and more of an endurance test at how much low-budget shlock one can take. I can't trash it completely since this is Robert Z'dar's last acting role before he passed away in 2015 and I will give the movie the grace of at least giving him a good role, but this one simply isn't for me. Trash it along with the other stale Easter goods.

1 male had his throat cut with an axe, head crushed with a thrown log
1 female had her face dunked in a boiling pot of water, head repeatedly stomped on
1 girl hacked with an axe
1 female hacked to death with an axe
1 female seen murdered
1 male shot
1 female had her head crushed
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 female split in half with an axe
1 male beaten to death with a baseball
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 male had his throat cut with a knife, gets drizzled with hot oil
1 male and 1 female found murdered
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 female had her head stomped on
1 female had her neck snapped
1 male decapitated with an axe
Total: 18

Thursday, March 21, 2024

#RUSHSLOTH: Slotherhouse (2023)

Slotherhouse (2023)
Rating: ***
Starring: Lisa Ambalavanar, Sydney Craven, Andrew Horton

We have slasher films featuring grizzly bears (i.e. Grizzly Park (2008)), wolves (i.e. Wolfen (1981)) and, heck, even sharks (i.e. Shark Night (2013)). Now, we welcome the newest addition to the killer animal sub-genre, one that is prowled by a deadly, dangerous, despicable, dastardly denizen of the Nicaraguan Jungle: a baby sloth.

Obsessed with becoming the next Sigma Lambda Theta sorority president, Emily (Lisa Ambalavanar) would soon find herself talking to a friendly fella at a mall who claims to be selling a variety of pets, including exotic ones, suggesting that she should get herself a unique furry friend to boost her image and impress her sorority sisters. Unbeknownst to her, the guy is actually an animal trafficker, one who recently poached a baby sloth straight out of her home and would have the worst of luck when said sloth turns out to be psychotic. Very psychotic. Murderous, even. And yet, when Emily arrives to pick up the sloth, blissfully unaware of the freshly mutilated poacher, the two appear to have formed a bond and the bouncy sorority senior gets a big shot of popularity when she suggests making her new sloth, Alpha, the mascot of their house.

Thus the race to campus house presidency begins, with Emily butting heads against resident mean girl Brianna (Sydney Craven) and Alpha surprisingly adapting well to her new home, mastering mobile phones and laptops, hanging out with friends and even helping out Emily with her goal of winning the election. Through murders. Lots of murders. So much so that by the end of it all, the girls of Sigma Lambda Theta will have no choice but to fight back and survive Alpha's Slotherhouse~!

If you're gonna sit and watch Slotherhouse (2023) expecting deeply complex characters, underlying messages of the evils of animal poaching and heart-stopping intensity in its murders, I say you're off your rockers, luv! It's a campus slasher with a baby sloth for a killer, it's as silly as it sounds and when approached with a leap of faith and a popcorn B-flick mindset, it's surprisingly good! 

The premise is simply fun for its honest ridiculousness, mixing the dumb hilarity of a killer sloth situation with the known slasher trope of sorority girls-in-peril well enough to make the absurd story work as a comical twist on your usual teen bodycounter and animals-gone-bad carnage. Its writing has a tongue firmly pressed in a cheek and the characters are an okay bunch despite lingering near the typical stereotypes of goody girls and queen bitches, with a notable few managing to deliver some genuine quirk and personality within the ensemble, courtesy of a quippy script and pretty alright acting for a B-grade production. The pacing does hobble a bit whenever the story decides to focus on the sorority girl drama and college life capers, though this is balanced and remedied with the unapologetically gimmicky yet fun shlock that is Alpha's misadventures of mischief, murder and mayhem!

For sure, the diminutive sloth is undoubtedly the highlight of Slotherhouse (2023) as not only does the critter act less like an actual animal and more of an anthropomorphized fuzzy menace capable of doing a real number on the kill count, giving her a tad more character and a further reason for this whole thing to be amusingly ludicrous, but she also earns the film a score of points for taking the time to bring the slasher sloth to life via practical puppet effects. The prop looks stuffy, yes, but it adds an old school flavor to its already nonsensical charm and dish out a lot of outrageous visuals to boot, especially during the times Alpha unleashes her inner psycho at just about anyone she comes across in the Sigma Lambda Theta house. A lot of cheekiness is to be expected around these killing sprees in turn, though I do wish we got a little bit more onscreen slaughter to go along with it as a good run of the violence was done mostly off-screen.

Completely looney in the best and most charming ways, Slotherhouse (2023) is a popcorn flick with the enthusiasm of being so bad, it's good. Bewildering yet entertaining under the right mood, this movie can be a real blast of a watch!

1 male mauled, clawed to death
1 female had her throat clawed out
1 female stuffed inside a sleeping bag, pushed off a bridge
1 female killed offscreen
1 female seen slaughtered
1 female beaten with a hair straightener
1 female killed, later seen with a Glasgow smile
1 female attacked, killed offscreen
1 female killed offscreen, later seen with a clawed neck
1 female killed with a mesh net ball
7 females electrocuted in a shower room with a live wire
1 female mauled to death
1 female dragged away, killed
1 female got clawed through the gut
Total: 20

Sunday, March 10, 2024

El Machete Satánico: The Curse of El Charro (2005)

The Curse of El Charro (2005)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Andrew Bryniarski, Danny Trejo, Drew Mia

Suffering from nightmares and bloody visions of a dark machete-wielding figure ever since she found her sister dead from suicide a year ago, Maria accepts an invitation from her roommate Chris to join her and her two friends, Tanya and Rose, at her uncle’s house in Saguaro, Arizona for some good old-fashioned debauchery, hopefully to get her mind off these ghoulish visages and relax a bit. Unbeknownst to her, these visions foreshadow a terrible fate upon her and her friends as Maria is actually a descendent of a girl from Saguaro who was terrorized and cursed by a wealthy yet diabolical land baron, El Charro, after she rejected his love for her. Now, El Charro wanders Saguaro as a murderous revenant, seeking to finish off the bloodline of the girl who broke his heart and he's going to do the same to just about anyone who gets in his way.

Or is simply in his way. As most undead murderers do. 

I wanted to like The Curse of El Charro (2005) a little more than your average slasher flick as it does have an interesting premise and some very artsy direction when it comes to its visuals, particularly during scenes involving horrifying visions and surreal nightmares. The mostly one-dimensional characters, though, as well as the fact that the plot really takes a while to get to the bloody massacre does test one's patience and knock the peg down a bit. 

The movie firstly spends a good deal of the its run on the girls' road trip misadventures like trying to seduce a horny cop into not busting them for speeding, encountering creepy rednecks at a dingy bar where the main attraction for the night is Lemmy Kilmister as a tuxedo-wearing crippled guy singing horribly off key, or picking up some guy dates who we all know are just there to boost up the bodycount, all the while our lead gal Maria's otherworldly trances kick in and out to keep things spooky. It isn't until the last act that our villain, the dirty poncho-wearing, mad machete-swinging El Charro finally waltzes in to do some murdering and, for its worth, the massacre is a messy yet respectable affair with a generous amount of blood work and sloppy body parts. The ending does veer into the outrageously silly with a downer of a swing, but at least it got a little chuckle out of me.

Bluntly, The Curse of El Charro (2005) is okay-ish. It certainly could've been better, but it's far from being completely awful. (I mean, it has Danny Trejo voicing El Charro. That has to count for something, right?) Pretty plain for a slasher flick and that's about the gist of it. 

1 female seen dead from slit wrists (flashback)
1 female killed with a machete (flashback)
1 female killed with a machete (flashback)
1 male hanged on a noose (flashback)
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 male hacked to death with a machete
1 male slashed across the face with a machete
1 female had her jaw torn off
1 female had her throat slashed with a machete
1 female hacked to death with a machete
1 male decapitated offscreen, blood splash seen
1 female dragged away, killed offscreen
1 male hacked to death with a machete, decapitated
Total: 13

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

This is The Whack of Undertaker Zach: The Embalmer (1996)

The Embalmer (1996)
Rating: **
Starring: Jennifer T. Kelly, Kenneth E. Mullen, Myron Creek

Tell you a story about Undertaker Zach.
He killed his wife with a whack, whack, whack!
His daughter started cryin’ ’cause her mama was dead;
He shut her up by choppin’ off her head.

Life at home isn't good for Chiffon (real name Laura), not with her folks practically making a slave out of her, ordering her to do laundry, fetch beer and change TV channels using the dial before getting angry at her for blocking the damn screen. One night, though, this troubling sight got out of hand and next thing we see is that Chiffon's kicked out from her own house. Distressed, she calls her boyfriend Duane to pick her up after explaining what happened, who in turn calls his bud Archie to help them out as a favor and the guy tagged along his girlfriend Cindi because why the hell not? The gang basically decided to run away from their crappy lives that evening but, after running a red light, they got a little trouble with the law and got chased into hiding inside an abandoned house's garage. 

The stunt, unfortunately, killed the car's battery and the teens find out that not only did they lock themselves in by accident, but the house also once belonged to Dr. Zachary Harbotswood, AKA Undertaker Zach, a local urban legend who's known to have murdered his wife and daughter during a psychotic episode. Chiffon doesn't like this fact at all seeing she used to have nightmares about this place as a kid, but with no other plan at hand on how they'll get out of the house, the gang opted to stay put and just deal with the situation until they figure something out.

Badly acted melodrama here, a tame sex scene there, maybe even throw in a last minute nightmare sequence involving big snakes (both literally and figuratively), the foursome eventually encounters Undertaker Zach in the flesh, as well as a nasty little secret hidden down in the basement...

In a way, it's not hard to picture why this low-budget regional urban horror is so below the radar as instead of your typical bodycounter plot of murdered horny teens and angry maniacs, The Embalmer (1996) dragged its focus more on the somber schmaltz going on with our lead girl life, which frankly would have worked with the genuinely dark and uneasy issues tackled like trauma, child abuse and sexual assault, if only the tone and direction were anywhere as competent. It's simply difficult to buy into the seriousness of the subjects when most of the casts act their parts and deliver their lines like your everyday B-grade horror fodders, which can be either hilarious or bothersome, though I will give actress Jennifer T. Kelly for putting more effort in her role as the troubled main gal, Chiffon. Couple these with the usual talk of the killer's lore and sexy times under the sheets, and the film essentially yapped its way through a really clumsy and sloppy midsection.

Thankfully, the last twenty-some minutes picked up greatly as this is where the slasher elements kick in with a few good gore effects given the budget and, too, a fairly decent twist reveal that nicely leads to a surprisingly effective and satisfying conclusion that I didn't entirely see coming. It's a good enough take on the teen slasher set-up, one that kinda gives The Embalmer (1996) the potential to be a tolerable watch given, that is, you could overlook the distracting low cost production and the slow lumpy road. All in all, it's nowhere near being a real gem of a find, but it is an adequately interesting time waster should you ever need one. 

1 female slaughtered to death with a scalpel
1 girl hacked to death with a meat cleaver
1 male castrated with a knife, brained to death with a hammer
1 female stabbed to death with a scalpel
1 male had his throat cut with a scalpel
1 male and 1 female killed offscreen with a knife
Total: 7

Blood-Splattered Saw Dust: The Carpenter (1988)

The Carpenter (Canada, 1988)
Rating: ***
Starring: Wings Hauser, Lynne Adams, Pierre Lenoir

Canada in the 80s pretty much gave us a good deal of golden age slasher cult classics like My Bloody Valentine (1981), Happy Birthday To Me (1981) and Prom Night (1980), but the country also brought upon a platter of weird ventures within the sub-genre such as the Dungeons and Dragons is Satanic-inspired Skullduggery (1983), the "Wendigo psychosis" leaning Ghostkeeper (1983) and this oddly surreal melodramatic bodycounter, The Carpenter (1988).  

The movie starts with the chillingly calm mental and emotional breakdown of housewife Alice Jarrett (Lynne Adams), who soon sees herself being taken away to a mental facility after her husband Martin (Pierre Lenoir) finds her cutting up one of his suits one day. Upon her release, Martin believes that a change of scenery is in order so he bought them a house at a countryside that's currently being worked on by cheap and rowdy construction crew. That night, though, after the workers gone home, Alice is awaken by a lone carpenter (Wings Hauser) still busying himself down in the basement and the two have an unusually cordial conversation about his work, ending with Alice pretty much just leaving the guy to do whatever he needs to fix up the place.

Things go pretty hairy when Martin leaves for work one day, leaving Alice all on her lonesome when one of the crewmen got more than a tad tipsy drunk that evening and breaks into the house to assault her. Fortunately for our housewife in distress, her friendly neighborhood carpenter is there to protect her. Unfortunately for our would-be rapist, said protection involves getting both of his arms sliced off with a circular saw. (Not that he minds, apparently. He looked more bewilderedly inconvenienced about losing those limbs than, I dunno, in complete, horrifying pain!) 

Alice would soon learn that the house once belonged to a man named Edward Byrd who fell into massive debt in his obsession of making his home perfect, only to be executed after killing several of the repo men sent after him. Edward now haunts the house, still trying to finish it, and Alice is shockingly okay with this! So much so that when Ed starts murdering away more and more of the crewmen who he sees doing wrong to both the house and its new lovely owner, Alice has no qualms of him massacring these people and, in one scene, appears to be more upset at that fact that he's awfully messy with the slayings! 

Needless to say, Alice is swooned by Ed's pleasantly hunky demeanor and good work ethics, overlooking the whole homicidal lunacy that goes with the package, and the ghostly carpenter himself returns her infatuation, promising more bloodshed to whoever comes between them. 

Directed by David Wellington (who would later do a lot of TV work like Vikings and Orphan Black) and written by Doug Taylor (of Splice (2009) and A Christmas Horror Story (2015)), The Carpenter (1988) is a strange piece of 80s Canuxploitation bodycounter that builds itself more around the ghostly theatrics between Lynne Adam's mentally troubled spouse and Wing Hauser's unhinged gentleman of a paranormal handyman, only to juxtapose to the nasty killings here and there in an unusual dream-like direction. The result is often goofy as the supernatural psychodrama doesn't really have the solid footing to be as captivating as the unhealthy growing romance between the living and the undead implies here. Instead, it all comes out more hammy for how it is scripted, acted and edited, all sided with touches of eccentricities like the overuse of dissolves to transition from scene to scene or Alice's overly offbeat reactions, implying a form of crazed whimsy from her point of view. It's serviceable so long as you find the unintentional hilarity of the film's nutty arthouse aesthetic and as a slasher, The Carpenter (1988) ain't too bad.

The kills themselves aren't that loud and splashy (strange coming from a film that have power tools for murder weapons, honestly) and the pacing really do takes its time getting around to them, but I have to commend at just how odd the interactions are during and after each murder between Alice and Ed, as if the act of killing is just something the two can do and witness while talking about how good the weather is! It also helps that Wings Hauser is practically tailor-made for his role as the titular carpenter, doing the ole' wisecracking villain trope popularized by one Elm Street's Fred Krueger, only with a good dose of Southern politeness and neighborly sweetness that made a lot of his scenes an intriguing watch. His delivery is spot-on to the craziness of the villain, maniacally dispatching one poor soul a minute, being shy about it in the next. The movie did falter a little in its last act as all the oddities made about Alice being so nonchalant with all of the bloodshed gets discarded way too easily for a by-the-book horror finale, making the fantastical, rather upbeat turn of events feel kinda undeserved for how much it just came out of left field. 

Still, the majority of the product has some hokey charm to it, making The Carpenter (1988) a decent enough title for lovers of quirky horror and obscure slashers to try out. It's a sublime blend of several moods and ideas, mostly succeeding in its own curious yet entertaining way.

1 male had his arms cut off with a circular saw, killed
1 male gets a belt sander to the face
1 male powerdrilled to the throat
1 female shot to death with a nail gun
1 male pinned to the floor with screwdrivers to the hands, head crushed with a vise
Total: 5