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Posts Tagged ‘slashers’

The Shape of Evil: Confronting darkness through the ‘Halloween’ series

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Two years ago, but it seems closer to ten, a nice deputy editor for a new publication approached me to write a piece. He had been reading me forever and was working for this company with a bunch of money invested in it, could pay pretty well and expose me to some new readers not only on the web but a print magazine he compared to Rolling Stone. I said yes and we were going back and forth about what my first piece should be, and then my mom died.

Freelance gigs are usually a little stressful and all-consuming for me, but for some reason I still wanted to do it. Looking back at my emails, I was literally trying to schedule around the days off I had other than the one for the funeral. I agreed to write about the Halloween series, in conjunction with the upcoming David Gordon Green sequel. I watched all ten existing movies (including remakes) and came up with this piece that ties them all together thematically, at times addressing the grief and fears I was dealing with at the time. I took longer than I was supposed to and ended up with twice the agreed upon word count and I was so unsure anybody else would be interested that in my email I said, “If you don’t want it I understand, just let me know and I’ll use it on outlawvern.com and we’ll come up with something else for me to work on for you.”

Then the magazine (you will never see this coming) ran out of money, all the editors resigned, I don’t believe I ever got paid and the article could only be seen on the Wayback Machine. But I got no regrets because working on this helped me in a tough period of my life and gave me a better understanding of my relationship with the genre. So I’m proud to repost it here.

(I’ve kept their edits, so you’ll notice some British spellings in here.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Open House

Friday, October 9th, 2020

It’s the dystopian year of 2020 and I’m still trying to do Slasher Search – looking for interesting, obscure slasher movies that I haven’t heard of and that don’t seem to already have a following, preferably from the FRIDAY THE 13TH era. It gets harder with each review I do, as the chances become slimmer that there’s anything left that I haven’t already seen and hasn’t been dug up by Arrow or Vinegar Syndrome or somebody. It might be a snipe hunt at this point.

The best method I know is to look for things that were released on VHS and never made it to DVD or blu-ray. That’s how I found OPEN HOUSE (1987), which is clearly not one of the weird regional ones I tend to find, since it’s legit enough to have Adrienne Barbeau in it. Seven years after THE FOG she’s no longer playing the radio DJ hero – she’s the girlfriend to one. She gets tied up and he has to rescue her. Not as cool. Joseph Bottoms (THE BLACK HOLE) plays Dr. David Kelley, famed KDRX talk radio therapist. The original Frasier. Barbeau’s Lisa is a Beverly Hills realtor, and therefore one of the doctor’s two connections to a series of murders of Beverly Hills realtors. The other connection is that someone he thinks may be the killer keeps calling in to his show. But the authorities won’t listen. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cry Havoc

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

Many of the movies I love are a kind of heightened or polished exploitation. They’re the standout kicking and stabbing movies that were mass-produced in the ’70s to fill slots at drive-ins but exceeded their mandate and ended up acing the test of time. Or they’re the modern, more expensive movies in popular genres that evolved out of the best b-pictures. But occasionally I’ll take the seatbelt off and step into the muck of legitimate 21st century exploitation.

That’s what I would consider CRY HAVOC, a mashup between a slasher movie and a Charles Bronson movie that came out on VOD and DVD this week. I don’t mean a Charles Bronson type movie. I mean there is a straight up Charles Bronson impersonator trying to rescue his daughter from a masked slasher. And it’s important to emphasize that this is not a SHARKNADO deal. There are zero jokes in the movie and if it’s meant to be funny it wisely doesn’t let on.

I first learned of the Robert Bronzi phenomenon in 2018 when I reviewed DEATH KISS. Writer/director/editor/cinematographer Rene Perez, who has been doing horror and fantasy b-movies since 2010, spotted him in a wild west stunt show in Spain and put him in a horror western called FROM HELL TO THE WILD WEST, followed by that DEATH WISH riff. Both DEATH KISS and CRY HAVOC take place today but make Bronzi look like the actual Charles Bronson, transported through time, mustache, clothes and attitude intact. A timeless, ageless, nameless spirit of vengeance. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Christmas (second remake)

Monday, December 16th, 2019

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) is another loose remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). Like the original and the 2006 remake it’s about a group of sorority sisters who stay on campus during winter break and then start getting stalked and murdered. The creepy phone calls have been updated to creepy texts, and the identity and mythology behind the killings is completely different from either of the previous versions. Which I support. No reason to do this otherwise.

The opening feels like the serious, scary parts of SCREAM. A student named Lindsay (Lucy Currey) is walking home one snowy night, getting weird texts, thinking a dude is following her. He’s not, but suddenly she crashes into a different man wearing a mask and black robe who chases her around a heavily Christmas-decorated house where no one responds to her cries for help. But the horrifying/beautiful overhead shot of Lindsay making a snow angel as she dies and is dragged away sets a bar that’s never met in the subsequent off rhythm and ineffective cat and mouse scenes. I didn’t realize until afterwards that it’s a PG-13 movie, which might explain some of that, but doesn’t really justify that the mask isn’t particularly cool or creepy. That shit is important in a masked slasher movie.

But maybe not as important as a good protagonist, and in that department BLACK CHRISTMAS definitely delivers. The story centers on Riley (Imogen Poots, 28 WEEKS LATER, FRIGHT NIGHT, GREEN ROOM), who is helping the sisters prepare for some sort of Christmas performance at a frat party, but doesn’t plan to participate. Even though she’s in a sorority, her long coat and Doc Martens signal a tinge of cool non-conformist status that Poots somehow makes credible. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dr. Giggles

Monday, November 18th, 2019

DR. GIGGLES is not the best kind of horror movie, but it’s a kind I like: the kind that knowingly, shamelessly embraces absurdity and formula. It says okay, I am a slasher movie, my theme is “a killer doctor,” step aside and I will do my thing. So you kinda know what it’s gonna be, and you get a laugh from some of the specific choices or smile with satisfaction when that thing you were assuming had to happen does happen.

We first see the good doctor (Larry Drake in his feature film followup to DARKMAN) demonstrating an experimental surgery to his colleagues in the observation deck. But then we realize that he’s not supposed to be doing this – he’s escaped his cell in a mental institution, he’s cutting up one of the doctors, and the “colleagues” are other patients. Security there nicknamed him Dr. Giggles because he’s a John Doe and he does indeed giggle alot. Drake is so good at the creepy giggling I wonder if he brought it to the character and they rebuilt the movie around it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellbent

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

HELLBENT (2004) opens with your traditional lovers lane murder, well shot with colorful tinting that seems to come from a light shining through a bouquet of helium balloons they have in the car. The two lovers are beheaded by a dude (Nick Name, who also provides some of the soundtrack with his band Nick Name and the Normals) with a scythe and devil mask/helmet thing. We’ve seen a million scenes like this, but there are two things unusual about this version:

1. the lovers are both men

2. the killer is shirtless

Well, mostly #1. The 2014 remaquel of THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN had a male-male couple killed in a lovers lane, but this one takes place entirely in the gay community in West Hollywood, so it’s fair to call it a gay slasher movie. The hero – Final Boy? – is Eddie (Dylan Fergus), who works a desk job at the police station. He’s not an officer – an injury prevented him from finishing the training. He gets recruited to pass out flyers warning people in West Hollywood that there’s a murderer loose, and uses Halloween as an excuse to wear his dad’s old uniform when he does it. (Strangely he won’t get into any kind of impersonating-an-officer trouble while wearing it. But I guess it reminds him of the shoes he’s trying to fill.)

At night he goes to a Halloween carnival with some friends, where you have your typical slasher movie debauchery (except gay) while the devil mask guy follows them around looking for a window to behead them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shredder

Monday, October 28th, 2019

SHREDDER is a snowboarding-themed slasher movie that I never heard of until now, but apparently somebody had, because RoninFlix put it out on blu-ray with a nice painted cover by Devon Whitehead (designer of many fine t-shirts from Fright Rags and Cavity Colors). It’s from 2001 (shelved until 2003 in the U.S.), but seems late-‘80s in its “we know this is dumb, but we’ll take it seriously because that’s more fun” spirit. It’s clearly not made by a studio, and shows very little of the SCREAM-inspired postmodern attitude of its actual era.

It’s about a mysterious skier (disguised only by normal ski gear) who murders snowboarders who trespass in a closed pass where a fatal accident once happened. Like my other recent 2003 Slasher Search entry, SIMON SAYS, it has a vanload of young people on a trip, slathering the screen with unadulterated obnoxiousness. The stuck up/aggressive girl is trip-arranger Kimberly Van Arx (Lindsey McKeon, Saved by the Bell: The New Class), whose rich dad is buying the resort, and has a quick trigger finger when it comes to asserting “do you know who I am!?” privileges. Her boyfriend Cole (Scott Weinger) seems kind of square and has a has kind of a Steve-on-90210 older-out-of-place-guy vibe. I was excited to learn that he’s the guy who did the voice of Disney’s Aladdin! (read the rest of this shit…)

Possession: Until Death Do You Part

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

POSSESSION: UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART is a 1987 low budget slasher movie that’s not, as far as I can tell, a sequel to Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION. That’s too bad, because there’s plenty of room for DTV type followups to that one. It could just be in the rehash style of WILD THINGS 2 or CRUEL INTENTIONS 2 – some other couple breaking up with one of them fucking a weird blob of tentacles. You could gender swap or you could have it be the two blobs are breaking up and one is fucking a human, there are many ways to mix it up. Or of course if it was me I would try to get Sam Neill to come back (or recast with Billy Zane) and lean heavily into his character’s background as a spy. More of a shitty cloak and dagger thing but with relationships and slime and what not. This movie has none of that.

It opens with a dude dragging a dead woman by one arm from the yard of his big house to a spot just inside the surrounding woods, where he digs her a grave. At first they’re not showing his face, but then they do, and he’s babbling animatedly about having thought she was different or some bullshit like that. His name is Frankie (John Robert Johnston, who became an executive producer of reality shows including Rampage, When Vacations Attack, Pranked and Bad Dog!), and he’s got a bunch of other dead women in his closet, plus he kidnaps a live one named Madeline (Sharlene Martin from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN) from a parking garage. He brings her home, says weird things to her, forces her to put on his mom’s dress, yells at her when she pulls down her top for a second because what if Mother saw her do that!? (read the rest of this shit…)

Rush Week

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

One problem with doing Slasher Search every year is that I’ve watched so many vaguely similar movies that they really blend together. It’s disturbing how many times I’ve looked at a box having little idea if I’ve seen it or not. So when I came across RUSH WEEK I had to think it through. I’d seen FINAL EXAM, THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, KILLER PARTY, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, THE INITIATION, GIRLS NITE OUT… but no, this was an ’80s college campus slasher movie I had not seen.

At least it was supposed to be an ’80s movie. It was made in ’88, but it went straight to video in ’91. So it’s from when Chucky and Maniac Cop were born, HELLRAISER, PHANTASM, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and FRIGHT NIGHT were at Part II, and Michael Meyers was returning, but it came out when SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was best picture and they were killing off Freddy and moving on to finding people under the stairs and shit. It was left over from another era, not just in its approach to horror, but in its glorification of dumb fraternity assholes. It sort of centers on frat president Jeff Jacobs (Dean Hamilton, who went on to write, direct and produce such films as SAVAGE LAND starring Corbin Bernsen and BLONDE AND BLONDER starring Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards) and his rivalry with some other more preppie frat. They play such hilarious pranks as going to the other house’s presentation to tell parents “we’re the first homosexual fraternity on campus” and replace part of a film they’re showing with gay porn. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Ranger

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

THE RANGER is a pretty solid, pretty simple little horror movie about some punks in a remote cabin running afoul of a psychotic forest ranger. It’s a little more serious than that sounds, but in an interesting way, not a pretentious one. I believe it takes place some time in the ’80s, because there’s a Walkman but no cell phones, but otherwise it could take place any time in the last 35 years or so. Punks are timeless.

The story centers on Chelsea (Chloe Levine, The Defenders), whose family owns the cabin. She was there as a little girl when her uncle (Larry Fessenden, the Stan Lee of indie horror) died under grisly and not-yet-fully-explained-to-us circumstances. Now she gets pushed into bringing her friends there to hide out after her shithead boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs a cop during a police raid at a punk show. (read the rest of this shit…)