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

Posts Tagged ‘slashers’

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.

Don’t Open Till Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

tn_dontopenIn Victorian England there was a tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. This is what gave us A Christmas Carol, of course, but is it a dead tradition otherwise? Well, I don’t know. There are an awful lot of Christmas-themed horror movies. There’s enough of ’em out there that I still haven’t seen nearly all of them. Maybe that’s what the ghost stories turned into over the years.

Or maybe SILENT NIGHT, DEADY NIGHT just reminded everybody that killer Santas are a fun idea. I don’t know. Anyway, this year I chose to watch a British one I didn’t know much about, DON’T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS, released on DVD by the Mondo Macabro label (who usually put out things much crazier and more exotic than this).

This was made at the same time as SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (they both came out in winter of 1984), but it’s the reverse of a killer Santa movie. This is about a guy who goes around killing Santas! He’s unseen, face off camera, like a killer in a giallo. But in the American slasher tradition he’s a puritanical executioner. The Santas he kills are all doing something he apparently disapproves of: having sex, being drunk, going to see a stripper, throwing an awesome disco costume party, etc. (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.

Hatchet III

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

tn_hatchet3Ever since I was a little kid (give or take decades) I’ve always wanted to like the HATCHET movies. They talk a good game about bringing back “old school horror,” they’re throwbacks to the ’80s slashers I’m in love with, they have Kane Hodder as a deformed hillbilly swamp maniac and some funny gore ideas. I also kinda liked writer/director Adam Green’s other movie FROZEN, which of course is sweeping the nation and capturing the hearts of little princesses of all ages who want to see a thriller about people stuck on a ski lift.

On paper HATCHET and HATCHET II are right up my alley, but in practice they took a different street. They’re not comedies, but I found them too self-conscious, too jokey, not atmospheric enough, not structured correctly to be an effective slasher story. I remember the first one as a bunch of actors walking around in a big group on a small, fake-looking swamp set pretending to be lost. I just couldn’t get into it.

So I’m proud to announce that I finally pulled it off. I really liked a HATCHET movie! Part III specifically. Maybe we can credit new director BJ McDonell (promoted from steadicam operator on the first two in the series), but to be fair I-II director Green did write this and was very hands-on as a producer from what I’ve read. Maybe practice makes perfect. After 10,000 hours of making HATCHET movies you get really good at it, like Malcolm McDowell says. (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.

Psycho Cop Returns

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

tn_psychocopreturnsPSYCHO COP RETURNS is a huge leap ahead of part 1. Yes, it’s one of those purposely cheesy self-aware horror movies from the Troma era. Broad acting and stereotypes, big-haired, big-boobed female characters there more for the stripping scenes than for anything else, douchebag characters who frequently hoot and holler about booze and tits, cheesy keyboard-badly-imitating-an-orchestra score. And it’s the type of movie where the third billed actor is “1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain,” kind of like how Don “The Dragon” Wilson’s kickboxing titles were sometimes included on the opening credits.

And it’s not a great movie. But it’s almost instantly clear that they’re trying to do a good version of that type of bad movie. The opening few minutes – two dudes encountering the Psycho Cop (still Bobby Ray Shafer) at a donut shop, followed by an opening credits montage of gorey body parts piled inside his patrol car – shows much more signs of effort than the entirety of part 1. It smacks of “This is gonna be stupid, but let’s go for it!,” and that attitude is pretty infectious.
(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.

Psycho Cop

Monday, December 15th, 2014

tn_psychocopPSYCHO COP is no MANIAC COP, I’ll tell you that. You know, MANIAC COP is a low budget indie exploitation movie, but it’s the kind with scope. The kind where they use all the resources they have, sneak shots on location, try to push the envelope on stunts, stretch the budget, get as much bang for the nickel as they possibly can. The kind that were made to play in a theater in Times Square for a while but that people are still interested in today. PSYCHO COP (which came out between MANIAC COPs 1 and 2) is the other kind.

Instead of an action-horror hybrid this is a generic shitty slasher with its closest thing to a redeeming value being the cop-themed killer, Officer Joe Vickers (played by Bobby Ray Shafer, now best known as Bob Vance of Vance Refrigeration on The Office). He’s an officer who suddenly goes on a killing spree. Also he’s satanic. In the opening he puts on his uniform in a dingy apartment with a pentagram painted on the wall and candles everywhere. He dips his hands in a bowl of blood before putting on his sunglasses. Later he sets up a bunch of wooden crosses in the woods for a ritual. (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.

Maniac Cop 2

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

tn_maniaccop2Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon return for the bigger, I think better MANIAC COP 2. I guess it had a bigger budget than the first one and it has a more confident, cinematic feel. Hats off to cinematographer James Lemmo (who also did the first one, MS. 45, VIGILANTE and THE GLADIATOR) for his deliberate, ominous pans through New York City locations. There’s even a great opening credits sequence designed by Pablo Ferro (DR. STRANGELOVE) that really establishes the mood as the camera glides across a police impound lot and the remains of the vehicle involved in the climax of part 1.

This is maybe 2 weeks later, when Jack (Campbell) has been cleared of the murders but is trying to get back on the force. I’m a little confused because there’s a new captain and reference to the previous one being dead, but for some reason the commissioner, played by Michael Lerner (BARTON FINK) instead of Richard Roundtree, and given a different name, is treated as the guy who’s always been there. He sends Jack and Theresa (Landon) to police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian, HALF PAST DEAD), which is also where a new character, Detective Sean “Mac” McKinney, ends up after shooting a suspect. (He didn’t kill him, but only because he says it’s too much paperwork.)
(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.

Maniac Cop

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

tn_maniaccopMANIAC COP is like an ’80s b-movie dream team. William Lustig (MANIAC) directs, Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE!) writes, James Glickenhaus (THE EXECUTIONER, THE PROTECTOR) executive produces. And check out this cast: Tom Atkins (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) is Frank McCrae, a tough NYC lieutenant investigating a murder spree by a mysterious dude in a police uniform. Bruce Campbell, one year after EVIL DEAD 2, is Jack Forrest, a cop who is implicated in the murders and goes on the run to find out who really did it. Hundra herself, Laurene Landon, plays his crimp-haired mistress Theresa Mallory, a fellow cop who helps him in his quest. Richard Roundtree (SHAFT) and William Smith (HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN) are the hardass commissioner and captain. Sam Raimi has a cameo. And also Jake LaMotta, for some reason. And Robert Z’Dar (TANGO & CASH) plays the maniac cop. He’s mostly in silhouette, so his superhumanly giant chin is not as much of a distraction as in some movies.

(Wait a minute… how did Bruce Campbell title his autobiography “If Chins Could Talk Kill” when he co-starred with Z’Dar? He knows his chin ain’t shit.)

Jack gets involved because his wife (Victoria Catlin, GHOULIES, Twin Peaks) notices him sneaking around and suspects him of being the maniac cop. But of course he’s really going to see Theresa. Whoops. Since his wife gets killed by the maniac and left in his hotel room, now it looks like he’s the guy. (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.