I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘slashers’

The Psychopath

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

tn_psychopathslashersearch16a.k.a. AN EYE FOR AN EYE

In my experience as a slasher searcher I’ve found that unknown movies from the ’70s are the biggest risk because 1) it’s mathematically less likely that there’s a great one you’ve never heard of and  2) they were made before the slasher formula really set in. I didn’t realize when renting THE PSYCHOPATH that it was from 1973, too early to be influenced by THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, let alone HALLOWEEN. It feels more like a BAD RONALD or WILLARD type of ’70s-TV-looking weirdo movie, but it does have some of the slasher elements: a freaky killer, a gimmicky motive, one-dimensional victims.

It didn’t take long for the movie to throw me a what-the-hell!?. The title comes up over ominous sounds and a scary closeup of an eye. The sort of thing you’d expect. But then the happy music comes on and the credits use a font similar to My Three Sons. Throughout the movie the soundtrack, credited to “Country Al Ross,” alternates between very upbeat country jams and straight up funk (which I’m guessing is library music).

The titleistical psychopath is children’s TV star Mr. Rabbey (Tom Basham, COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT), who figures out some of the children from his studio audience and hospital visits are being abused, and decides to murder their parents. He bashes a woman’s face in with a baseball bat, for example. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Fender Bender

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

tn_fenderbenderFENDER BENDER is a new slasher movie that I believe is the first original production by the great releasers-of-horror-classics-on-blu-ray Shout! Factory. The high concept is that there’s a killer who intentionally gets in small car collisions, exchanges contact information, and then comes after the person.

Hillary (Makenzie Vega, the little girl who Mystique turns into on the prison truck in X-MEN THE LAST STAND!) is a responsible teenager in New Mexico, an aspiring ballet dancer, under way too much pressure from her strict parents. Shortly after getting her driver’s license this shades-wearing cool guy (Bill Sage, AMERICAN PSYCHO) rear ends her, and her dad (Steven Michael Quezada, THE CONDEMNED 2) blames it on her and won’t let her go with them on a long-planned vacation to see a show in Vegas.

We know that this guy is a serial killer, but we watch helplessly as she writes down all her information, just as she was taught in driver’s ed. Then of course while she’s home alone she starts getting text messages from this guy, going from “this is uncomfortable but I guess he’s just trying to be polite” to “this is totally inappropriate.” Can she trust the apology cake she finds on her doorstep that might come from the guy in the accident, or from her dumb jock boyfriend Andy (Harrison Sim) who she just caught cheating and dumped?

I mean, of course not. We know that. But there’s no reason for her to. She doesn’t know she’s in a horror movie.

(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Trapped Alive

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

tn_trappedaliveslashersearch16Welcome to SLASHER SEARCH ’16. Every October I try to watch a bunch of obscure, uncelebrated slasher movies I haven’t seen before in hopes of finding good ones. It doesn’t always work out.

TRAPPED ALIVE is not the type of precious ore I’m digging for in my annual Slasher Search. I say that because #1 it’s not very good and #2 it takes place mostly in an abandoned mine. So you can see how clever I am there, working those two things together. Anyway, it’s not the worst kick-off to a Slasher Search either, because it’s not without its goofy charms. This is a strength of the horror and action genres: you’re looking for a good one, but you might enjoy a bad one. It’s usually gonna be more fun than a bad drama, comedy or western or something.

This one starts as a hostage thriller, too cheesy and amateurish to be LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT gritty, but sexual-assault-threateningy enough to make you feel gross. Robin and Monica (Sullivan Hester and Laura Kallison, both one-time-only actors) are two young women in poofy ’80s glam fashion who are driving to a Christmas party when they’re carjacked by three prison escapees. You have the Krug-like ringleader Louis “Face” Napoleon (Alex Kubik, BAD GIRLS, BE COOL), the bushy-bearded, simple-minded oaf Mongo (Michael Nash, THE COLOR OF MONEY), and Randy (Mark Witsken), the young driver who looks kinda like the guy from 7th Heaven, has misgivings about the kidnapping and is obviously supposed to be the nice, dreamy escaped convict. Not even like a James Dean bad boy anti-hero, just the straight-up nice kid who happens to have just escaped from prison. It’s weird. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later

Friday, October 30th, 2015

tn_H20Earlier this month when I reviewed HALLOWEEN II I wrote that it was “easily one of the best or the best HALLOWEEN sequel they made.” I was being a little cagey, saving it for today to reveal my opinion that the actual best sequel is 1998’s HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER. First I watched it again and verified that the verdict still stands now that we’re only a couple years away from being able to make HALLOWEEN H20-20: HALLOWEEN H20 TWENTY YEARS LATER. Also this time I learned that it plays even better when watched immediately after II.

It seems designed for that, because it begins with “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes, the same thing that played as Laurie rode off in the ambulance at the end of II. Unlike the other sequels it leaves Loomis dead after blowing himself up with Michael (Donald Pleasance had passed away by this point anyway). But Laurie isn’t the only major character to survive II: there was also Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), Loomis’s nurse colleague. That’s who Michael comes after first.

Marion’s still working as a nurse, and still chain smoking. She comes home to her house in a different Illinois suburb besides Haddonfield and finds it broken into. The police take their sweet time coming, but two neighbor boys (one played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, SHADOWBOXER, KILLSHOT, LINCOLN) keep her company while she waits. I like that because in HALLOWEEN Laurie tried to run to a neighbor’s house for help and they turned off the lights and wouldn’t answer the door. Marion does have helpful neighbors, but things don’t turn out any better.

Of course this is the opening kill scene, but it’s also a strategic move by Michael, who ransacks Marion’s office, searches her files and leaves an empty one labeled “Laurie Strode,” signaling that he’s figured out the whereabouts of his sister (a triumphantly returning Jamie Lee Curtis), last survivor of the Halloween Murders. She’s in California, working as headmistress at a boarding school attended by her 17 year old son John (introducing Josh Hartnett) under the assumed name Kari Tate. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Deadly Obsession

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_deadlyobsessionslashersearch15DEADLY OBSESSION is not the hidden gem I’m always looking for in a Slasher Search, but I suppose it deserves credit for seemingly trying copy other works in the stalker/slasher subgenre while also not really fitting the mold at all. So at least it’s different. Kind of.

The obsessed individual of the title is just credited as John Doe (Joe Paradise) and he’s an openly crazy maintenance man who gets yelled at for not doing his job. Instead of, you know, maintaining stuff he spends his shifts doing experiments on rats, then collecting their corpses neatly lined up in his refrigerator. He has a plot to poison ice cream as a way of extorting money from Gotham College president Brickley (or Brinkley according to IMDb, which informs me that actor William Klan also played “Interviewer” in THE TOXIC AVENGER). John Doe is extremely bitter about “rich brats” and always assumes that college students think they’re smarter than him. I mean just because he’s working class and because he plays with dead rats doesn’t mean he’s a dummy.

Also in my opinion John Doe from SEVEN is the same character. This is MANHUNTER to its SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Cheerleader Camp

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

tn_cheerleadercampslashersearch15CHEERLEADER CAMP was supposed to be called BLOODY POM POMS, which makes more sense. The title the distributors chose doesn’t get across that it’s a horror movie. I’m sure they rejected a million titles that would’ve worked, too. SCREAM SPIRIT, SKIRTS OF BLOOD, GO SCREAM GO, GIMME AN AAAAAAGGGGGH, etc.

Anyway, it’s a pretty routine slasher movie that takes itself seriously but with some of the ’80s sex comedy stuff the title implies used as comic relief. A van full of cheerleaders head to Camp Hurrah for a cheerleading outing and competition, the two males are super horny and trying to get laid all the time, etc.

It’s kind of an A-Team of B-actresses. Betsy Russell (AVENGING ANGEL) plays Alison, sort of the protagonist and probable Final Girl because she keeps having symbolic nightmares about death and cheerleading, including ones where she gets slashed by razor sharp pom poms, and one where she joins the squad in cheering her boyfriend Brent (disco star Leif Garrett) as he has sex with Teri Weigel (MARKED FOR DEATH, PREDATOR 2, lots of porn). And then you have Lorie Griffin (TEEN WOLF), Rebecca Ferratti (GOR, GOR II, CYBORG 3, HARD VICE), and most importantly Lucinda Dickey (NINJA III: THE DOMINATION) plays Cory, the team mascot. She doesn’t really fit in and the bitchy camp director Miss Tipton (Vickie Benson, doing a broad Troma or John Waters type acting style like she’s in a different movie than the others) has it in for her, forcing her to wear her alligator mask while she eats.
(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Sweet Sixteen

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

tn_sweetsixteenslashersearch15“Now you listen to me, every one of ya, you listen damn close. Because if anybody in this town decides to take the law into their own hands, I’ll be on your ass like junebug on shit. I hope I make myself understood and pardon me ladies.”

SWEET SIXTEEN is a low budget 1983 slasher mystery shot in Texas. It seems promising at first because it has a certain level of filmmaking competence, an enjoyably corny theme balled called “Melissa,” sung by Frank Sparks, and a cool logo with a knife for a T.

That is not to say that it ever seems good. The aforementioned Melissa (Aleisa Shirley, SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE) is first seen during a long, sensuous, narratively (though not hygenically) gratuitous shower. From there we cut to a bunch of drunk rednecks (including Don Stroud) at a bar, play fighting and hugging their buddies until an elderly Native American man named Greyfeather (the final role of Henry Wilcoxon, CLEOPATRA, SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) walks in. They immediately start racisting the shit out of him until young Native tough Jason Longshadow (Don Shanks, Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5) comes in to protect him with a knife.

Melissa, being the new girl in town, walks up to Longshadow in the parking lot and asks if he wants to “ditch the old man and go party.” As he bluntly rejects her a couple of the racists yell at him that he’s “into little girls.” He starts walking in their direction and they run away like they’re being chased by a bear. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Moonstalker

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

tn_moonstalkerslashersearch15“Oh, it’s just a harmless old guy.”

Part of why I love the slasher movies is the ritualistic repetition. Familiar elements presented, hopefully, in new ways. It’s like open source movie making: here is a simple, accessible code, do with it what you want. Do try this at home.

Of course, the danger with that type of democratic process is that there are gonna be alot of bad ones made either naively or opportunistically by people unable to do a good job. And the deeper I get into Slasher Searching the more of these I’m gonna be left with.

MOONSTALKER is, surprisingly, on DVD. But it’s an amateurish Jason-with-a-touch-of-Leatherface knockoff movie; any variations on the formula seem accidental. It’s one of those movies where the very first shot makes you realize you’re in for a chore. Actually it’s not a bad P.O.V. shot of a killer spying on some campers, but there are people dancing next to a fire and it is very clear that this is not how they dance. This is what some crew members do when the director says “go dance next to the fire” and there’s no music playing and they’re kinda embarrassed and trying to be sarcastic. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Backwoods

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

slashersearch15 tn_backwoodsa.k.a. GEEK

This year during Slasher Search I’m hoping to find a few more woods/camping/cabin based slashers, because I’m working on a novel that relates to this subgenre. So I started with one that actually had the word “woods” as part of the title.

BACKWOODS is a very routine low budget movie about a young couple who go on a camping trip and get into trouble with a feral mountain man type dude. Things do not look promising when the movie goes from the opening credits – with a hillbilly folk tune about racoon hunting creepily whisper-sung over black (you’ll be hearing this song alot) – to a shot of the protagonists riding bikes with cheesy drum machines and music so inappropriately upbeat it sounds like it comes from an old educational film strip. This is a pretty bad movie, but at least it’s not as bad as this music cue had me convinced it would be.

Karen (Christina Noonan, no other credits) and Jamie (Brad Armacost – holy shit, he was on an episode of Empire! I love that show!) are visiting Kentucky. Karen insists on riding their bikes through a mountain trail, then chaining them to a tree and hiking further until they set up a tent and have some sex and what not. Of course this is after a friendly local tells them definitely not to go up in that direction. No specific reason I want to mention but, you know, trust me on this.

The first sign of trouble: they keep finding chicken heads everywhere. Kinda weird. Then it seems like somebody’s watching them have sex. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Halloween II

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

tn_halloweeniiHALLOWEEN II is… not HALLOWEEN. But I guess that’s why they added the “II” on it. I should’ve caught that.

Continuing immediately from the end of John Carpenter’s genre-defining much-imitated timeless unkillable masterpiece classic, and using most of the same crew (including cinematographer Dean Cundey), it’s able to imitate the style enough to recapture the feel sometimes. Other times it just emphasizes how outstanding and impossible to duplicate Carpenter’s touch was.

To be fair, this was written and produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill, scored by Carpenter, who also chose the director, Rick Rosenthal (who later ended the series in disgrace with HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) on the basis of a short he directed. Then, when it was filmed and Carpenter didn’t think it was scary enough he went and shot gorier death scenes. So he has a hand in it, for good or bad.

This is one of the rare sequels that just continues exactly from the ending of the last one. So it starts by replaying the ending of the original, where Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shows up to rescue Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) by shooting Michael “The Shape” Myers (in the new footage played by stunt coordinator Dick Warlock, the only major cast change), who then disappears. I always wonder if the end of HALLOWEEN, a series of shots of empty locations, was meant to imply that Michael could be anywhere, or that he IS everywhere. But part II goes with the first choice. He snuck off.

The sequel proper begins with an excellent steadicam P.O.V. sequence. Carpenter has his scene from the point-of-view of young clown-costumed Michael spying on and then murdering his sister on Halloween night. Rosenthal has adult Michael walking around dark Haddonfield unseen by unsuspecting suburbanites. We hear his breath, the dogs barking and nearby cars driving by as he walks through an alley and looks into people’s homes. Some of the innocents he comes across are doomed, most will not know how close they came, or that they walked right past him without noticing his presence. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.