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Posts Tagged ‘slashers’

Candyman (2021)

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

CANDYMAN (2021) is the first sequel in 22 years to CANDYMAN (1992), my pick for the best horror movie of the ‘90s. Though I don’t think this one’s nearly as good as Bernard Rose’s original, it’s much more worthy of the mantle than the previous sequels, Bill Condon’s New Orleans-set CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) and (it goes without saying) Turi Meyer’s horrendous DTV CANDYMAN 3: DAY OF THE DEAD (1999). It’s nice that various trends have aligned to allow revisiting the subject decades later, minus any mercenary needs to strike while the iron is hot, and with the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the first film took place providing a new angle from which to explore its still-relevant race and class themes. That seems to be the main point of interest for director Nia DaCosta (who did the excellent 2018 drama-with-some-crime LITTLE WOODS) and her producer/co-writers Jordan Peele (GET OUT, US) and Win Rosenfeld (executive producer of BLACKkKLANSMAN).

When the movie starts, the Universal logo comes on, so that globe spins around, and the letters come out, and then you realize they’re backwards. For half a second I thought something was wrong with the projection, but of course it’s referencing the importance of mirrors in the CANDYMAN films (where the titular restless spirit is summoned by chanting his name, like Bloody Mary). A couple of production company logos proceed to play backwards as well, so by the time the film proper started I had to look around until I spotted some numbers on a building and could finally be sure the movie was playing properly. Beginning the movie already off balance. Nice touch. (read the rest of this shit…)

Don’t Breathe 2

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

Your mileage may vary, but I loved DON’T BREATHE, director Fede Alvarez’s followup to his EVIL DEAD remake, once again produced by Sam Raimi. It was a hit at the time, and they talked about a sequel, but Alvarez was getting bigger offers, like THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB. Which I also liked, but it didn’t really catch on. Now five years have passed, and I haven’t noticed DON’T BREATHE turning into a big thing, but we finally got that sequel, written and produced by Alvarez and directed by his usual co-writer Rodo Sayagues, in his directing debut. Hey, I’ll take it!

Stephen Lang (MANHUNTER, HOSTILES) returns as “The Blind Man,” or Norman Nordstrom as he is apparently named. He’s a Gulf War vet who lives in a rickety house in a largely abandoned area of Detroit with a rottweiler named Shadow and a young girl named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace, 2 episodes of Z-Nation). He home schools her, trains her in survival tactics, and only rarely allows her to go into town with his Army Ranger friend Hernandez (Stephanie Arcila, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels).

Phoenix calls him Dad, and we have to wonder what’s up here because we’ve seen part 1. In that one he was a victim of home invaders and went uncomfortably far in exacting his vengeance on them, then he was revealed to (SPOILER FOR THE FUCKED UP TWIST IN PART 1) have the woman who killed his daughter in a hit-and-run accident imprisoned in his basement, pregnant with a “replacement.” So there are many reasons for concern here. (read the rest of this shit…)

Freaky

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

FREAKY is the recent Blumhouse horror comedy conceived under the title “FREAKY FRIDAY THE 13TH,” because yes, it is a slasher movie combined with a body switch comedy. A psychotic serial killer called “the Blissfield Butcher” (Vince Vaughn, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, PSYCHO) steals an ancient magic dagger, not realizing that when he uses it to stab random teen victim Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, THE MARTIAL ARTS KID) their souls will switch places. Whoops.

The director is Christopher Landon (BURNING PALMS), which makes a whole lot of sense, because he’s the guy who did HAPPY DEATH DAY, a slasher movie combined with GROUNDHOG DAY (and a movie I enjoyed quite a bit). I heard an interview where Landon said he was a little reluctant to be that guy, but he liked the idea by co-writer Michael Kennedy (assistant animation producer, Family Guy) so much he had to go for it anyway. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)