Tuesday, August 9, 2022

TV Terror: Chucky (2021 TV Series)

Chucky (2021 Series)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Zackary Arthur, Bjorgvin Arnarson and Alyvia Alyn Lind

Over the years, the Child Play movies evolve from a creepily clever take on supernatural slashing to a splatstick horror comedy parodying the ups and downs of serial killer married life and parenthood, to a straight-to-video mish-mash of the old and new which we last seen ended with open doors all the way back at 2017. Now, it appears the iconic killer doll is hitting the small screen as a TV series and the result is, well, mostly good!

Taking place some time after Cult of Chucky (2017), we start the scene at a yard sale in Hackensack, New Jersey, where young artistic loner Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) purchases a vintage Good Guy named for an art project made of doll parts. This more or less makes him the weird kid in school, a baggage he's struggling to carry along the usual coming-of-age teen angst, which so happens include dealing with his bullying cousin Junior (Teo Briones) and his cousin's queen bee girlfriend Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), as well as handling his own insecurities as a gay boy secretly crushing on cute true crime podcaster Devon. (Björgvin Arnarson) 

Problem arises when Jake's depressed drunkard of a father hit the bottle too hard one night and goes physical on the boy, prompting the Good Guy to break away from Barbie-mode and do him real good with some handy dandy live wires and projectile vomiting. (No, I'm not kidding) The death is ruled as an accident (for now) and Jake moves in with his uncle's family, a living arrangement Junior isn't too happy about. But it seems our pint-sized slasher has some plans for Jake as he starts talking to the boy about the joys of murder and how he's really on his side, giving the loner a sense of warmth that just so happens to don a bloodied kitchen knife. We can tell this is all manipulation but why exactly is the doll so very keen on having Jake do away his own murders?

It all leads to some secrets revealed, pasts explored, unlikely partnerships made, the return of a few familiar faces and an increasing bodycount that'll leave the town of Hackensack doomed in the plastic hands of our infamous Lake Shore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray (And company), but not before Chucky plays the waiting game focusing itself with the story first, random bloodlust second. And for a good run, this works well enough as the tween actors do a remarkable job on their roles as little misfits and misunderstood troublemakers despite some predictability on their development (navigating young queer love and the typical bully-learns-humility arc, to name a few), a fact that makes up for how most of the adult characters here are written flimsily, lacking any real personality and with tongues pressed oh so firmly in the cheek that their incompetence and ham earn them deaths via rampaging killer doll.

Thankfully, it isn't a Chucky show without the man himself, Brad Dourif! And as always, along with the workably expressive puppetry and practical effects bringing the Good guy doll to life, he brings a lot to the table as our iconic late-80s killer doll, ranging from being funny and comforting, to dangerously menacing, sometimes in a single scene wherein he had to interact with whoever kid he's preying upon, Jake included. It's here where the series tackles an intriguing aspect that was never fully explored in depth in any of the movies, providing a more psychological stab at how Charles Lee Ray works as we see his not-so-humble beginnings as a psychopathic child growing up into a serial killer, developing philosophies throughout these years as life lessons and metaphors glorifying the need to do murder. It is these philosophies and a level of gentleness that put Chucky here in an unusual position as a mentor, hoping to influence his pupil's homicidal impulse for reasons only he'll benefit from given that it doesn't get challenged.  

Within the first half of the season, Chucky explores the effectiveness of the Charles Lee Ray approach to being a slasher guru to the youth, culminating to some good drama and development from our young casts, as well as some decent murder sprees as Chucky eventually starts taking lives and harming others before fighting against an alliance between Jake, Lexy and Devon. When the second half of the season rolls in, though, it feels like the series shifted to another story as while most of the major tensions were resolved by this point, there is still the mystery behind Chucky's arrival in Hackensack and what his ultimate goal is. This is when the legacy Child’s Play actors enter the picture, with an adult Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and his foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise), former Chucky victims, arriving to hunt down all the possessed Good Guy dolls, while Chucky's equally psychotic partner Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) tags along a possessed Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif), Chucky's terrorized victim from Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2017), to Hackensack so the two can initiate a cross country murder plan involving a voodoo spell and an army of Chucky dolls.

As much as I want to fully enjoy these returning faces, their parts in the series were a bit uneven for me; for one, Andy Barclay and Kyle spend most of their time traveling to Hackensack, leaving very little of an impression as there's hardly anything for them to do once they finally got to town. Tiffany's very complex relationship with Chucky rears its ugly head again as we see her act out both her loving partner and tired girlfriend/wife routines once more, supposedly looked deeper here through a series of flashbacks but it personally felt dragging as it added very little to what we already established between her and Chucky from the movies. The only interesting bit thrown here is how Chucky's possession works on a human victim as seen through Nica Pierce, which is later taken advantage by Tiffany in a macabre kidnapping situation. The matter that Nica just couldn't catch a break makes me wonder what the series would've been like if it focused more on her plight, which would've left her fate by the end of this season all the more shocking.

On a positive note, I like that Chucky just took a little dip back to the horror-comedy bits of Bride (1998) and Seed of Chucky (2004) and not completely throwing away the semi-serious tone when this second half kicked in, dishing out enough cheesiness and pure B-grade chaos in the climax as Chucky paints a matinee red with blood while patrons watch Frankenstein (1931) for a charity event, all the while our trio of kids try to put a stop to the madness. I just wish there's a bit of consistency to how Chucky can be defeated; one end have him surviving getting decapitated with a knife, but then we see a few of the possessed dolls dying (or seemingly dying) away from multiple gunshot wounds, having their heads blown off or their throat crushed until their eyes and tongue popped off. It's a little dent that grinds my gears but, all in all, the show is still a real fun ride that sets itself as a competent enough production with strongly composed and expressive visuals, striking lighting and a barrage of creatively gruesome murder set-pieces within an engaging tween drama and slasher fanservice. 

To simply put it, Chucky is a solid piece of slasher entertainment. One that left its doors open again for another season of more mischief, macabre and massacres

1 male electrocuted on a soaked live wire (S1, E1 - Death By Misadventure)
1 female pushed head first into knives (S1, E2 - Give Me Something Good to Eat)
1 male knifed to death (S1, E3 - I Liked to be Hugged)
1 male stabbed to death with an ice pick (flashback) (S1, E3 - I Liked to be Hugged)
1 female found murdered with a knife (flashback) (S1, E3 - I Liked to be Hugged)
1 male found murdered, mutilated (flashback) (S1, E4 - Just Let Go)
1 male gets a thrown scalpel to the back, repeatedly stabbed with syringes (S1, E4 - Just Let Go)
1 female knifed to death (flashback) (S1, E5 - Little Little Lies)
1 male seen murdered (S1, E5 - Little Little Lies)
1 male had his throat slashed with a knife (S1, E5 - Little Little Lies)
1 female decapitated (S1, E5 - Little Little Lies)
1 male had his throat cut with a nail file (flashback) (S1, E6 - Cape Queer)
1 female crashed through a window with a rolling file cart, falls to her death (S1, E6 - Cape Queer)
1 female toppled down the stairs, neck broken (S1, E6 - Cape Queer)
1 male seen murdered (flashback) (S1, E7 - Twice the Grieving, Double the Loss)
1 female knifed to death (flashback) (S1, E7 - Twice the Grieving, Double the Loss)
1 male beaten to death with a doll (S1, E7 - Twice the Grieving, Double the Loss)
1 male killed offcamera with a knife (S1, E8 - An Affair to Dismember)
10 victims knifed from underneath their seats (S1, E8 - An Affair to Dismember)
1 male knifed in the chest (S1, E8 - An Affair to Dismember)
Total: 29

Sunday, July 31, 2022

A Prowler Within The Docks: La Muerte Del Chacal (1984)

La Muerte Del Chacal ("The Death of the Jackal") (Mexico, 1984)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Mario Almada, Fernando Almada and Cristina Molina

We start the scene with the obligatory opening murders, this one involving a lengthy 10-minute long pre-credit run of two couples sneaking into an old abandoned shipwreck, unaware that it just so happens to be the hiding spot of a crazed killer in full black garb and their gang of trained attack dogs. One poor sap gets mauled to death while the rest got the sharp business end of a cane blade.

These killings are but the latest in a string of terrible murders and, surely, won't be the last, thus forcing Sheriff Bob to team up with his brother, naval patrol captain Roy (real-life siblings Mario and Fernando Almada respectively) to hopefully shed some light to the maniac's identity and put a stop to their reign of terror. Unfortunately, isn't too long before Bob finds himself targeted by the shadowy psychopath, endangering his family and colleagues unless he finds a way to use this against the killer themselves...

Curiously, though, this is only half of the movie's plot as we do get a surprise reveal to the maniac's identity unexpectedly midway into the story, shifting its tone from an action-packed murder mystery to a paint-by-number slasher flick with an unstoppable boogeyman. We jump five months later to see our killer locked up in a psyche ward and, taking cues from John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), was able to escape by snapping some necks and braining people dead despite spending five months without solid food and getting their nourishment through the veins. What soon follows is our killer murdering all those responsible for their capture before kidnapping the good sheriff's wife, luring him into their shipwreck lair for one last brawl. (And an uncomfortable amount of animal violence) 

You can pretty much tell that not only were the 80s American slasher craze made its influence to La Muerte Del Chacal (1984), but looking at the killer's disguise and the methodical in-depth investigation following their murder spree, traditional Italian Gialli also has its spot on influencing this title. This results to a plot manageable enough to be enjoyed both as a methodic B-grade serial killer thriller and a bodycount horror flick, following a generous amount of hokey yet entertaining tropes the two horror sub-genres are known to offer, along with a few personal touch to make the movie standout a little bit more among its kin. 

There's definitely an abundance of thrilling and suspenseful set-pieces here, including a savage double murder within a crowded strip club, a speedboat chase sequence with explosive conclusions, an psyche ward break-out and, probably the most chilling among them, the slaughter of a cop and her mother inside their own home. The maniac themselves are also a compelling-looking fellow with their full Giallo gear of black hat, coat and leather gloves, their uniquely classy weapon choice of a cane-sword and the fact that they trained their very own henchmen dogs to either subdue their victims or go for the kill. Their murder spree could've use some variety as most of them are dry on the bloodletting, but there is at least a good sense of build-up to them, especially those that took place around and inside the shipwreck lair, with camera work done to emphasize its isolation thus adding a well needed creep factor to the slayings.

Sadly, as many slasher titles tend to do, it does skimped on some details that would have made it a bit more intriguing; the only thing I wished the film worked on more was the twist as, without giving away much, it could have been a rather interesting look into the emotional impact this would have between the killer and our sheriff. Instead, the whole shindig was downplayed with another "killer-has-mommy issues" to justify the loon's bloodlust and just have the film move on to a more conventional climax wherein they terrorize Bob and his wife. Oddly enough, this twist and the resulting flashforward did left a few plot holes open; with most of the murders taking places near the boat decks, no one ever bothered to look into the suspicious abandoned shipwreck? There's also the matter that, between the five months our killer is locked up, not only are the dogs are still in the damn ship, but all of the victims' corpses, too! It's incredibly stupid, yet hilarious if you don't ponder about it too much.

Though La Muerte Del Chacal (1984) isn't exactly an original masterpiece, I still see it as a rough gem for all slasher fans to find and enjoy. Apart from an okay set of actors and a direction that promises a lot of surprises, there is just a sense of popcorn exploitation in it that guarantees a good time for those who likes their bodycount flicks hammy yet gritty, silly yet shocking. Another genuine treat from our Mexican friends! 

1 male mauled by a dog
1 female murdered offcamera
1 male stabbed in the neck with a cane-sword
1 female stabbed with a cane-sword
1 female stabbed with a cane-sword
1 female ran through with a cane-sword
1 male murdered offcamera, thrown off a window
1 male immolated in speedboat crash
1 female stabbed through with a cane-sword
1 male had his neck snapped
1 male brained against iron bars
1 female found with throat cut
1 female repeatedly knifed, pinned to the wall by the throat
Total: 14

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Bed, Breakfast, Bodies All Over: The Rental (2020)

The Rental (2020)
Rating: ***
Starring: Dan Stevens, Alison Brie and Sheila Vand

Character drama? Paranoid thriller? Backwoods slasher? Why not all three?

A planned weekend getaway have Charlie, his wife Michelle, his ex-convict brother Josh and Josh's girlfriend Mina renting a beautiful remote oceanside house from its caretaker, Taylor, to celebrate a professional breakthrough and it's mostly nothing but good times of long strolls down at a beach, getting drunk that night while stargazing and hitting up on ecstasy.

The stay becomes a lot more troubling, however, when Mina and Charlie got a tad too intimate with one another behind their partners' backs and ended up having sex. Much to their horror later that morning, while Josh and Michelle are out on a friendly hike around the woods, Mina and Charlie discover hidden cameras in the house which likely have recorded that night's steamy affair. Believing the house's caretaker have been spying on them, the two decided to keep this on the low for the moment until they figure out what to do, which gets intensely complicated further when Michelle calls in Taylor to fix a broken hot tub.

From there, death and misfortune follow as our hapless couples as an argument leads to Taylor getting beaten down to an inch of his life, all the meantime Mina and Charlie do their best to keep their little secret away from their partners, completely unaware of the true nature of their situation and how, by the end of it, none of them may be even be alive to see daybreak...

A directorial debut of 21 Jump Street (2012) actor Dave Franco, The Rental (2020) sees itself largely as a mumblecore thriller first and a slasher second, spending a sizeable chunk of the story focusing on its paranoia aspect as infidelity gets threatened to be exposed and we see the lengths that some people would go to keep it in the shadows. A solid round of talents made this an engrossing watch as actors Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White play their roles as four dysfunctional adults with a decent light of realism and sympathy, thus resulting to a rather riveting character study within shattering relationships that would eventually escalates to something dire and chaotic.

The film's transition to horror is admittedly fluid, though the difference in tone is noticeable; while the movie is mostly grounded in practicality, a play on Hitchcockian themes as four ordinary people suddenly find themselves responsible for an arresting crime, it suddenly threw a curveball at us by evolving into what is practically a slasher film wherein the killer continues to pit our casts against one another before going for the kill, all the while our hapless victims continue to do their best to keep the affair hidden. The focus in this development can gets muddled at times as the plot kinda went all over here and the murders are hardly creative, though I will say that creep factor went on full effect here and the killer at least earn some points for their creepy get-up and their interestingly chilling modus operandi of their little set. It's a neat little surprise that delivers some cheeky, tropey horror fun, all the while still building up a strong sense of tension as the plot proceeds.

All in all, The Rental (2020) benefits from a mostly clever writing of naturalistic scenes and a slick production value, starting out as a pressure-cooker story that switches to a backwoods horror type with a bit of flair and trope. It certainly could have done more around the slasher elements, but there's a sense of clarity in the plot overall and its beautifully shot from beginning to end. There's definitely a bit of tameness in this flick, but if you don't mind a bit of modesty in your horror flicks, then this is an okay title to seek and enjoy.

1 male smothered to death
1 female found murdered
1 male brained to death with a hammer
1 male gets a hammer claw to the head
1 female falls off a cliff
Total: 5

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Murderous Mogul's Slasher Soiree: Invitation Only (2009)

Invitation Only (Jue Ming Pai Dui) (Taiwan, 2009)
Rating: ***
Starring: Ray Chang, Julianne Chu and Maria Ozawa

Following the success of torture porn films like Hostel (2005) and Saw (2003), it's little to no surprise that many films would cash in and give rise to the "gorno" sub-genre around the mid to late 2000s, among them being foreign titles, most notably France with its wave of New French Extremity movies like Inside (2007), Frontier(s) (2007) and Martyrs (2008). Here we see Taiwan's take on the modern day splatter subgenre, marketed as the country's "first slasher" film which is, technically, about a third of the truth.

Average guy Wade Chen is a chauffer who finds himself escorting a rich corporate CEO around town one day, only to accidentally find the high profile client getting scandalously frisky with a supermodel at a car park. As an apparent mean to buy his silence, the CEO hands Wade an invitation to a secretive party exclusive only to society's elites and instructs him to pose as his cousin. There, he and four other newcomers to the function indulge themselves to everything their hearts desire, this includes a little pitch of writing down their wildest dreams at the back of their invites so the host can grant them as welcome gifts. Things were good. 

Too good.

It isn't long before we see someone in a papermache mask stalking the newcomers, bloodily maiming them before putting them on stage for a torture spectacle for the depraved rich. It turns out these five debutantes have their own little indiscretions with the wealthy and the whole shindig is how the high class get even with their misdemeanors. As the crowd cheers for their demise, what remains of the group has no choice but to fight back if they want to make it out of this nightmare alive.

Practically, Invitation Only (2009) is a melting fondue pot of slasher film stalk-and-stab and sadistic torture porn horror show as it starts off with a lot of quick yet brutal kills courtesy of your classic masked maniac before transitioning to a Hostel clone with an arguably decent amount tension and bloodshed. Notable gory moments include one wannabe politician getting his groin crushed with a pair of battery clamps before having them cooked ala deep fried mountain oysters, while a thieving nurse gets an impromptu face surgery with salts and a stapler. This said, there's nothing new to speak of here as the format of the plot and little details here and there are lifted from Eli Roth's film (Heck, one guy who happens to be American even look like Roth), though I have to give credit when credit is due as director Kevin Ko seems to have a good understanding on what makes both the slasher and torture porn elements work as the gruesomely inventive set pieces do enough to have enough of an impact despite being done before and the obvious lack of budget.

The characters are mostly a viable bunch, especially our main man Wade who, while not an entire saint, is a decent average joe of a guy who just wanted to taste a bit of the good life after being pushed around by his superiors. Interestingly, there's an attempt to give more layer behind the entire torture show as the host shares his past involving one of his father's former clients kidnapping him and his sister as a child and holding them for ransom, only for his sister to die during the ordeal, but the implementation of it is flimsy at its worse and it quickly devolves into yet another "we can do this because we're rich" shtick. This misguided plot detail is hardly a distraction to the gory meat and bone of things, however, so it isn't that hard to overlook. 

Standing in that fine borderline between inspired and ripping off, Invitation Only (2009) is an agreeably solid slasher/torture porn mash-up from our Taiwanese friends that delivers enough thrills and bloodletting to be undemandingly entertaining, given you can forgive its recycled ideas and horror tropes. All in all, not too shabby!

1 female head and hands found inside a purse
1 female had her throat cut
1 female had her throat cut with a dagger
1 male seen dying from wounds
1 male had his groin clamped and electrocuted with a car battery
1 male shot on the head with a shotgun
1 male beaten to death with a lead pipe
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 female had her throat cut with a kukri, bled to death
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 female bled to death from a stabbed gut
Total: 11

Down The Familiar Road: Nobody Gets Out Alive (2012)

Nobody Gets Out Alive (2012) (AKA "Punishment", "Down The Road", "Slasher In The Woods")
Rating: **
Starring: Jen Dance, David J. Bonner and Shaun Paul Costello

Among the types of slasher flicks out there, the backwoods ones are the easiest to follow and replicate as the bare bone point of its plotting is simple: have a group go to the woods for one reason to the next, show them having a good time and/or some drama, throw in a couple of killings of random extras to keep the momentum going until you get to the climax wherein the stabby fella goes to kill the group one by one. Throughout the years, we got titles that did a little more effort into bringing flair and creativity into their personal variant of forest-set bodycounting (I'm looking at you, The Cabin in The Woods (2011), The Final Girls (2015) and You Might Be The Killer (2018)~!), but there are, of course, those that opted to ride along the simplistic route of clichés and tropes. Most of them are cheap but passable enough, particularly those that cheesed its writing and/or added a little more chunk and blood in its kills, but there are a few that add very little to the backdrop that it's vanilla compared to its splashier kin. 

Nobody Gets Out Alive (2012) is an example of these paint-by-numbers backwoods-type, opening with a group of 2000s teens getting hammered in a forest and partying until daybreak. The gang eventually drives back home, still drunk from that night's debauchery and accidentally mows down a young girl playing an early morning game of hop-scotch. 

Forward ahead to the present, troubled teen Jen was just sent home from a hospital after being treated for clinical depression when her parents, in a concerningly dumb move, forces her to go out and have fun with her friends as they fear she might become an agoraphobic if she continues to coop up in her room. (Yeah, something tells me these douches was never clinically depressed) Jen begrudgingly agrees to get them off her back and it's more or less down the familiar trail from here: she joins her buddies in their trip down the woods, beers get bought, townie doomsayer says their doom sayings, there's a minor conflict between some locals and, as usual, scary stories are shared in a campfire.

One scary story, as you would also expect by now, involves the opening vehicular manslaughter and what happened afterwards. It's basically the whole Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) treatment with the girl's father, Hunter Isth, going nuts and retreating to the forest where the teens who killed his daughter got drunk, murdering any troublesome youngsters with similar affairs in mind.

You can take a quick guess where Jen and her little gaggle of friends are hanging out right now.

Apart from the truckload of recycled plotlines and clichés, Nobody Gets Out Alive (2012) has the unfortunate grace of being awkwardly riddled with odd pacing, amateur dialogue and bland deliveries from its talents, leading to an excruciating direction following these characters and their clumsy interactions that more often than not paint them as irritable and uncaring, if not bland. Unsurprisingly, these result to a lack of point building around these casts, making their camping misadventures a chore to sit through and the fact that this movie's camera work is average and there's a lack of inspired scoring practically dulled the experience even further. 

Still, I find Nobody Gets Out Alive (2012) worth its while on a degree as at least it has its kills and villain going for it; though the murders are nothing too out of the ordinary, they do a fine enough job of looking graphic with the make-up and special effects without overly relying on heavy gore and bloodletting, giving a genuine old school feel to these slayings which works very well with the movie's moderate-looking budget. The same can be said to the hammer-wielding villain Hunter Isth, looking awfully generic as a slasher and bearing a murder motive that's have been done to death, but I still find him workable for how grounded and 3tragic he is, particularly during a scene where he monologues the trials and tribulations he went through as a widowed husband and father, making him somewhat relatable and putting him in a more sympathetic light. These little elements are what made the film a bit more tolerable, a welcome blessing seeing how considerably testy it can get.

Honestly, that's all I can say about Nobody Gets Out Alive (2012). It's a backwoods slasher flick and that's pretty much all what it is, routined down to the very last scene, nothing standing out from it, so not too hard at all to picture why this one is so obscure. If you want to see it, by all means go. You could do worse, but you can do a lot better, too...

1 girl hit by a car
1 male brained to death with a sledgehammer
1 elderly female had her throat cut with a hunting knife
1 male stabbed in the gut with a machete, meat hook through his throat
1 female had her neck broken
1 male brained in the temple with a sledgehammer
1 male had nails hammered into his head
1 female beaten to death with a brick
1 male brained with hammers
1 male brained with a hammer
Total: 10 

Oh, and Clint Howard was here. 
That's, uh, that's it, really.
Thought you guys would like to know...

Saturday, June 4, 2022

The House of Transcendental Boredom: Boardinghouse (1982)

Boardinghouse (1982)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: John Wintergate, Kalassu and Lindsay Freeman

Boardinghouse? More like Bore Me House!

...Look, I'm drained tired trying to watch this movie from start to finish. I am not bringing my A-Game puns for this one! 

Through an irritatingly loud early 80s computer graphics, the film starts by bombarding us with exposition upon exposition about some family called the Hoffmans who studied telekinesis and occultism because, hey, I'm pretty sure nothing bad ever happens from meddling with the two subjects under the same household, right? Right? Well, color most of us unsurprised, the folks were found dead one day and their eldest kid goes bananas from an emotional breakdown. Since then on, the house got sold and resold as it becomes a hotspot for fatal accidents, killing those who step foot in the hospice. 

One of these unlucky meat bags just happens to include the house as a part of an inheritance package for their heir, Jim Royce. (played by director John Wintergate) The place goes from haunted to "hot damn!" as Jim turns the estate into a party haven for the ladies where he is the acting den mother, which is not a bad arrangement so long as they don't mind the man's weird meditation sessions, supernatural ability to move objects with his mind and his wardrobe choice of animal pattern speedos. As the ladies sunbathe, get wasted in quality wine and have steamy shower scenes, someone or something around the house isn't happy with the new living arrangements and it's damn well making it obvious with the sudden surge of demonic visions, bloody accidents and, well, gruesome deaths happening all over the house!

With a production that resembles something an 80s swinger would make at their own backyard with their girlfriends, Boardinghouse (1982) is often cited as one of the earliest, if not the first, example of shot-on-video horror films and with its abundance of strange editing, nonsensical plotting, terrible audio and lighting and select actors with talents comparable to a 70s pizza place's animatronic, all the known restraints from a shoestring budget production, it's not hard to picture why. What does work here, though, is its hilariously dumb cheese factor and a level of determined creativity that comes paired with it; while the implementation is laughable, I do have to at least give credit for the film for trying to do something unique for its haunted house-cum-slasher melting pot of a story, tossing in killers with mind-control powers and lethal telekinesis, as well as not skimping on the blood works and gore effects in its attempt to be a competent horror flick.

The over and underacting also has its unintentional hilarity, which goes the same for some of the cheap spectral effects done for the movie's more supernatural inclined scenes that undoubtedly show the movie's age. Frankly, I really want to like this film for dumb moments like these, but the matter that it paces through one random big house escapade and pool party jig to another before doing something remotely interesting is just a big gut punch to its entertainment factor. By the end of it, I'm simply tired from all the people idling around and bullshitting, too frustrated to completely enjoy this film's idea of a climax wherein three people are just standing in a supposed "telekinetic battle" (complete with dry ice), inflicting hellish agony to one another as indicated by the warping screen and the actors comically scrunching up their faces. 

Seeing how Boardinghouse (1982) developed some form of cult following over the years, it's safe to say that, perhaps, this film is just not for me. I can appreciate a movie's hokey premise and chunky corn-syrup gore but, at times, it's simply not enough to look past its direction and pacing issues. For those who can, then I guess this is your movie, you crazy lot. Seeing it once is good enough for me...

1 male drowns in a pool
1 female had her arm shredded through a sink garbage disposal
1 female hanged with a length of knotted stockings
1 male disembowels himself
1 male electrocuted in a bathtub with a live hairdryer
1 female suffers through spontaneous bleeding, drowned in the ocean
1 cat hammered to death
1 female shot to death
1 male shot on the head
1 male stabbed in the gut with a thrown lawn dart
1 female plucked out her eyes
1 male had his heart levitated out of his chest
Total: 13

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Nightmares of A Damaged Fireman's Brain: The Deepening (2006)

The Deepening (2006)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Jim O'Rear, Gunnar Hansen and Debbie Rochon

Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after working on the tragic terrorist attack of 9-11, New York fireman Ted (Ted Alderman) relocates to a quiet rural town's fire department in hopes of getting a fresh start. He doesn't get the warmest of welcomes from most of the small station's firefighting squad, however, as small town mentality have them feeling suspicious of his move and they'll grab every opportunity to antagonize the newcomer.

The only one who has Ted's back is Jim (Jim O’Rear), who opted to give the new guy a shot of being his friend and invites him to pick up a pair of ladies who are looking to score. Ted and Jim does exactly that one night, which ends very messily when Ted is found covered in blood and his date dead. From that little incident, trouble seems to follow Ted and Jim everywhere as those who has anything to do with the two starts getting offed by someone in full firefighter gear. As the deaths continue and the local cops proceed to pin the crimes on them, it's up to the duo to figure out who's behind this massacre and put a stop to them before it's all too late.

To address the elephant in the room, I will say that the fact this film tries to connect its Z-grade slasher killings to the traumas of the 9-11 attacks is very much tastelessly troubling on its own. The film could have simply used any generic tragedies in its place for the kind of plot its doing, but The Deepening (2006) choose to exploit this real life horror show directly as a form of red herring to the supposed mystery behind the killer's identity and, given how mishandled the whole thing is, the end result feels more like shameless shock value and quite unnecessary to begin with. It's the only thing that keeps me from liking this film any higher, which is quite the shame as the film does have some low-brow charm to it.

What we have here is best described as your run-in-the-mill 2000s shot-on-video slasher effort that checks all the boxes of what you would expect from a cheap production; low-tier quality video and audio, shoddy acting and scripting, laughable editing and a clunky direction. It's mediocre from start to finish, but I cannot help but somewhat enjoy the mess just for the fact that it does try to put some edge and story within the dreck, especially if most of the attempts come off unintentionally hilarious for its bad takes, as well as intriguing for its bad taste. I dig the ironic concept of a killer firefighter and I love that, while the effects done for the kills are cheap, they're handled very effectively and creatively budget-wise. The flow does take a while to get going, but once the killings got their momentum, the plot goes into cheesier territories which is always a saving grace on my book, especially if it involves Hardy Boys amateur sleuthing and the villain throwing Freddy Krueger-esque bad lines with exaggerated gruffness for flavor.  

Fans of horror star cameos can find Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen, as Dr. Chambers here, as well as Debbie Rochon and her boobs. Again, not an entirely bad do-it-yourself horror cheapie. The Deepening (2006) echoes the likes of the hammy late-80s releases, just tainted with an unneeded and unsavory choice of unearthing one of America's most notorious events for "plot device". Shame.

1 male had his arm chopped off with an axe, killed
1 female hacked with an axe
1 female killed offscreen
1 female stabbed in the gut with a pipe pole
1 male had his throat cut with a knife (dream)
1 male gets a fire engine hose shoved into his mouth, head blown open with water pressure
1 female hacked with an axe
1 male found disemboweled
1 male shot through the neck with a shot arrow
1 male gets a thrown dagger to the chest
1 male repeatedly shot
1 female attacked with an axe, presumably killed
Total: 12