Entries in Slasher (13)

Thursday
Apr172014

Happy Easter: THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER (2014) Review

 

It still boggles the mind why more people haven’t made slasher movies centered around Easter, yet there’s a large variety of Christmas-themed horror flicks to choose from. Both are religious holidays with an easily identifiable mascot, yet Easter takes place in the spring so it’s much easier to film at any time of the year (it’s hard to make an effective Christmas horror movie without snow). There is the obscure Canadian TV movie Till Death Do Us Part from 1982 that, while very entertaining, didn’t even do much with the holiday. There’s also Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!, but that’s one I haven’t gotten around to checking out despite its massively alluring title. Thankfully, this dry spell was broken very recently with an über-low-budget slasher tapping directly into the vein of the eighties slashers (yeah, but how many times have we heard that one before?). It’s incredible that the guys behind it got the movie made with the budget they had, but does it even hold up?

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE EASTER (2014)

   Review

The night before Easter, chipper Kelly (Emily Chidalek) invites her old friends to a fun get-together in a storage facility, which is owned by one of their fathers. The night starts off as a good time filled with beer, hide and seek, and good-old shenanigans in general. However, the night takes a turn for the worse when a raging hellbitch going by the name of Melissa (Bonnie Marilyn Jean) shows up to make everyone’s life considerably more miserable, especially Kelly’s. Just when you thought the night couldn’t get any unholier, a psychopath donning an Easter Bunny outfit shows up to hack and slash his (or her?) way through anyone and everyone. Could it be Alex Sykes, the infamous Easter Bunny murderer, who has just escaped from the mental hospital? Or is it one of the group gone berserk?

This has to be one of the hardest films I’ve ever reviewed. I don’t recall ever seeing a film with this much ambitiousness and geist, while also having one of the lowest budgets I’ve seen in a very long time (about $4,000). I always try to factor in the attitude that seems to radiating from behind the camera with these kinds of movies (I’ll keep saying it: it’s the little things that count), but should they totally forgive all the faults committed by the film itself? Well...no, and I will admit that it’s hard to look past the restraints placed on the production by lack of funds. In some ways, The Night Before Easter reminds one of a particularly good SOV slasher and does bring back memories of films like Blood Lake (okay, maybe that comparison will make people instantly scratch this off their watchlist, but bear with me), and I’ll get to why.

I figure it’s best to start with the film’s weaknesses first, then move towards what I enjoyed about it. Segwaying from that comparison to Blood Lake (which I’ll forever regret; no film deserves that), the pacing in The Night Before Easter is a bit wonky. The film starts out strong with a fun “film-within-a-film” sequence, followed by two murders, a great April Fool’s Day reference, and some great opening credits accompanied by the glorious soundtrack. Then we go to the storage facility and settle down with the characters...and boy do we settle down. It builds up nicely to when our resident psycho begins picking the characters off (about thirty minutes, which is the perfect amount of time in my opinion), but when he/she does, the death scenes only last a few seconds with almost no build-up, so the long scenes of what amounts to nothing going on never really feel worth it until the last ten minutes or so. This mirrors Blood Lake’s pacing (from what I remember) with the copious amounts of character development followed by death scenes that, for the most part, aren’t worth it (the murders are where the budget really shows). The acting in the flick is a mixed bag of “wow that’s actually pretty solid” to “what the hell is that guy even doing,” but that’s not too big of a quibble. However, what also comes off as distracting are the camera shots. The camerawork in the film has the mark of somebody with a lot of ambition; maybe a little too much ambition. Most of the shots are at some strange angle, when using straightforward angles followed by the creative stuff during the murder scenes probably would have been much more effective.

Phew...that’s enough negativity; let’s get into what I dug about this flick. First: the aforementioned score. I’ve pretty much had it up to here with grating, retro synthesizer scores in independent movies, but the music here is most definitely an exception. The music oozes a good-times vibe missing from a lot of slasher throwbacks and succeeds in conjuring up sweet memories of the synthesizer music in the brilliant Blood Rage, so major bonus points for that. And the reason that The Night Before Easter succeeds for the most part and Blood Lake succeeds in falling on its ass is due to one detail: characters. Even though the acting is a little spotty, the characters are (almost) all written to be totally likable, and they pretty much are. Each has a distinct personality that I could follow, and I really enjoyed that. A personal favorite is Dante, a dude obsessed with money, but the real gold is in his heart (I’m so sorry). I was actually getting annoyed with how friendly everyone was...until Melissa showed up. With a name directly taken from every slasher fan’s favorite bitch (from Friday the 13th Part VII, for the uneducated) and the personality to match, Melissa isn’t the bitch the world deserves, but the bitch the world needs. She’s rude, manipulative, and an all-around despicable person, but one you’ll love to hate. Also, despite the budgetary restrictions limiting the gore effects, I liked the variety of methods used to dispatch the characters, and the moment we first see the Bunny in the storage facility was shot very, very well. Pile on to this a final girl I couldn’t guess and a unique setting, and you’ve got a heckuva lot of compensation for the negatives. 

That’s all pretty lengthy, but what it all boils down to is that The Night Before Easter is decent. It hasn’t made a major impact on the slasher subgenre, and it’s neither so good nor so-bad-it’s-good so that it might one day become a cult classic. But it does make for a pleasant enough Easter afternoon viewing and is worth a rental. After I watched The Night Before Easter, I caught up with Machete Kills, which impressed me by showing how much a movie can be a throwback and do almost everything wrong, and that just made me appreciate this film more, because these guys at least know what they’re doing with the source material (or, at least, make it seem like that) It’s currently available for either purchase or rental (see link below), plus you can purchase that jammin’ soundtrack alongside it (once again, check out those links). Also, not to over-plug the stuff the makers of TNBE are putting out, but they also do a fantastic podcast with two other people purely on slasher movies, and it’s called The Hysteria Continues. If you enjoy films for likable characters, entertaining bitches, solid final chases, astounding scores, cool killers, and a lot of heart, this is pretty much made for you. But for real; get these guys a budget because they are totally on the right track and I'm anxious to see what they do next.

The Verdict: Whether or not you should see The Night Before Easter almost entirely depends on your ability to look past certain flaws, like a lack of bloodshed, professional acting, and plot, but the merits and good vibes are too strong to advise you against seeing it.

Score: 5/10

The Night Before Easter - Trailer from Joseph Henson on Vimeo.

 

http://the-bodycount-continues.com/index/viewpage.php?page_id=11

 

Saturday
Mar162013

Cold Bodies & Hot Pizza: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982) Review

So I’ve been on a bit of a Slumber Party Massacre kick as I work my way thr ough this fantastic series, and I figured I’d share the love with some reviews. The first one is yet another horror flick released in the fantastic year of 1982. I’ve carried on about how much I love that year before, so I won’t. However, I will say that this is one of the staples of the year.

THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

(1982) Review

Trish (Michelle Michaels) is a high school girl who’s decided to throw a good old-fashioned slumber party for her basketball team. Unfortunately for them, this has coincided with a homicidal, portable-drill wielding mental patient escaping. Well, the two events eventually cross paths, and it’s up to the girls to bring him down before the blood flows even more.

Watching The Slumber Party Massacre again, I’m beginning to realize that this film really has some issues. First, some background. This was initially written as a horror satire by feminist lesbian author Rita Mae Brown. Legendary producer Roger Corman stripped the script of most of its comedic elements, and Amy Holden Jones directed it. So here we have a 1982 slasher movie directed by a woman, written by a woman, and produced by Roger Corman. If you don’t think the result will be interesting just based on that, you obviously haven’t seen enough slasher movies (which is also sad). That sounds awesome! Even if the two writing and directing do a dismal job, at least Corman will be there to spice things up and make it bearable. It also features a cast of (for the most part) unknown actors and actresses, with the exceptions being Debra DeLiso and Joseph Alan Jonson (who both appeared in one of my guilty pleasures, Iced). Enough of that; now let’s see why this movie was followed by two sequels and a series of spin-offs.

As much as Corman tried to prevent it, some moments of comedy do peek through. Not a lot, but a few lines like when one girl says, “He’s so cold” about a deceased pizza man and one girl responds with “Is the pizza?” and proceeds to gorge herself. Most of the movie is pretty straightforward, but little moments like these just make it that more lovable. But this is not a comedy. In all honesty, The Slumber Party Massacre has some of the most nail-biting sequences in any slasher I’ve seen. I’ve seen it multiple times, and the chase in the locker room has me holding my breath every time. A finale that does get quite intense is also a heavy bonus. The obligatory gore is here in spades, even if all the murders are more or less the same thing (the only real question is “where is he going to put the drill this time?”), aside from a painful-looking stabbing. Corman made damn sure the boob quotient was filled with a long shower scene being the tip of the iceberg, so hats off to him. On a side note, one of the fun things about The Slumber Party Massacre is seeing standard slasher conventions critics were deeming “sexist” flipped on their ear. For example, while many opposed to the slasher boom were complaining about how violently women died, the girls’ deaths are mostly quick, while the boys are the ones that really get dispatched gruesomely. The sexual overtones are heavy too (they make the whole "the drill is his penis" symbol quite clear).

Unfortunately, SPM really just couldn’t keep it together in the scenes between the locker room chase and when the girls realize they’re in danger at the party. It’s filled with almost every false scare in the book (Oh God that meat cleaver’s getting closer…oh good, it’s just the friendly neighbor out hunting for snails!), and not always with successful results. The writing is pretty bland and the acting isn’t what I’d consider “enlightening” for this chunk of the film. It goes on like this (despite a pretty good murder) for a while, until they open the door and discover the pizza guy’s eyes have been drilled out (but they still got the pizza, thank the lord). Then there’s the characters of Valerie, the chick who lives across the street but is on the outs with these girls because she’s a better b-ball player, and her little sister Courtney. They basically bicker about boys and Courtney wants to be beautiful like Val. Then Courtney scares Val twice. In the same way. Don’t reach for those cyanide capsules! It does get better.

Yeah, I really dig The Slumber Party Massacre. The title will have you thinking it’s your run-of-the-mill slice ‘n’ dice extravaganza, and it is. However, it does successfully prey on those expectations by occasionally throwing in a delightful curveball with the other great shenanigans. A serviceable amount of bloodshed, lots of nudity, some fun writing, great suspense, and one creepy, creepy killer (I forgot to mention this mask-less maniac, but he is creepy). The terrifying organ-synthesizer score is a huge help too. Shout! Factory released a Slumber Party Massacre collection a short while ago, and the presentation for the first film is great. The picture is very nice, the audio commentary is informative, and the trailer is really fun in that early-eighties trailer kind of way. There’s a really good documentary on all three movies as well. I always consider dropping the score down one grade, but the really good stuff here shines through the bad.

The Verdict: The Slumber Party Massacre is a rad, vintage ’82 girls-get-naked-girls-get-dead flick with heart. If stereotypical slashers is your thing, or even if you want it to be your thing, this is pretty much mandatory.

Score: 8/10

But don't take it from me; look at this satisfied customer:

Thursday
Feb142013

Happy Valentine's Day! HONEYMOON HORROR (1982) Review

Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, but hey, at least we got some pretty good Valentine’s-themed horror movies out of it! There still isn’t a slasher for every holiday (to my knowledge), but I feel we have enough Christmas, Valentine’s, and God knows how many Halloween movies to make up for it. The obvious films turning the day of love into the day of horror are the great ’81 slasher My Bloody Valentine, its decent remake, and the underappreciated 2001 slasher Valentine, but for this occasion, I’ve decided to review something not exactly “Valentine’s Day” themed, but it’s romantic enough.

HONEYMOON HORROR (1982) Review

Jeff (Paul Iwanski) goes out fishing one day, and when he returns for his cigarettes, he finds his wife, Elaine (Cheryl Black) getting frisky with Jeff’s buddy Vic (Bob Wagner). He attacks Vic, but Elaine knocks him out, and as he falls, he knocks a candle off a table, which lights the place up. Vic and Elaine leave him there to die, and one year later, they’ve opened up Honeymoon Island: the ultimate lover’s paradise. Three newlyweds boat out to the island for a weekend of bliss, but once they arrive, they find they aren’t the only ones on the island; someone is watching. Someone is waiting. Then the first scream is heard, and the honeymoon is over, for someone has returned to claim vengeance for a crime long thought buried…

Forgive me if this review’s a little vague, for I watched Honeymoon Horror a few days ago and I seem to be struggling to remember most of it. But that’s the kind of movie Honeymoon Horror is. If Creepshow and The Thing are classics of 1982, Alone in the Dark and The Slayer are underrated gems, and Island of Blood and Girls Nite Out are just cheesy fun, than this is the residue left in their trail. There’s nothing new or remotely original about it, and it’s not executed with any sort of style or even too much sense of fun. The only attraction to it is the great title, some alright murders, a crispy killer two years before Mr. Krueger made his big screen debut, and one entertaining character. Considering all the pickings from 1982, that really isn’t a whole lot.

Like other slashers from the eighties (particularly the latter part of the decade), Honeymoon Horror has a nasty and destructive habit of dilly-dallying around too much when there should be something more exciting going on. The opening set up the events to follow well, but after the murder of four women about fifteen minutes in (three of which are offscreen and one is pretty cool), we then get a thirty-minute gap until the next killing. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be too bad as long as the characters are fun and there are some suspenseful scenes going on as well. Nope. We get bickering lovers talking about things the audience doesn’t care about whatsoever (I can’t really point anything out because I don’t remember) and every so often, a POV shot of the killer peeking at some people through tree branches. Exciting stuff, this is. Heck, Iced almost had an hour gap between murders and it was still more entertaining because of the characters. Then the murders actually begin again, and despite more blood, it’s still pretty boring. And despite a final body count of 9, it feels a whole lot lower just because of how spread apart some are and a lot are either offscreen or just let-downs. The end goes on entirely too long as well.

So with all those negatives, what in the world is good about Honeymoon Horror? Like I said two or three of the murders were either nicely gory or nicely set up, even without too much originality behind them. The island is probably my favorite setting ever for horror movies, and while this doesn’t have the isolated atmosphere commonly associated with that setting, the thought is nice. There are some unintentionally funny parts like one of the characters who’s obsessed with weight-lifting (“Don’t you want your husband to be Mr. America?”), the killer’s distasteful fashion sense (rocking the khaki) and his “heavy breathing (sounds like he’s scuba diving in a sea of mucus)”, and the burned effect when he is revealed, which looks like he got a face full of oatmeal. However, the one reason I’m not simply tossing this aside is the presence of the stereotypical fat sheriff. He serves as the comic relief and his scenes are funny just because of how over-the-top they made him. When he gets a call saying there’s a fire on Honeymoon Island, he responds by taking a big bite out of his sandwich and complains about how he never gets any sleep around the office (he could if he were watching this movie...)! And there’s not one scene where he doesn’t have his stogie in his mouth, even when he’s eating. He pretty much steals all the scenes he’s in and I wish he was featured more prominently.

I really don’t have the heart (ha ha) to recommend Honeymoon Horror to anyone, but on the other hand, I'd feel a little guilty if I told you to avoid it. Sure, it does have its fun moments, but as a whole, it’s just way too talky to do anyone any good. The thought of a Honeymoon-themed slasher on an island is nice, yet the filmmakers load the movie up with mostly boring and forgettable characters, bad writing, little gore, no surprises, and hardly any redeeming qualities. The movie never really develops any of the couples besides the main ones who own the island, and they’re completely unlikable for obvious reasons. I would say just watch it for the sheriff, but why should you when we’ve also got some great fat sheriffs in much-better fare like House of Death or Silent Madness? This is another one only available on VHS, but it is rumored that rentals of Honeymoon Horror earned Sony $22 million. It’s understandable, given the title and the artwork.

The Verdict: Despite the presence of some good-old early eighties hilarity and the presence of an ample-size sheriff, Honeymoon Horror really doesn’t succeed in doing anything special. Good for Valentine’s Day if you’re heartless and want to end your current relationship.

Score: 4/10

Friday
Feb012013

What's In A Number? 555 (1988) Review

Oh boy, more SOV “goodness.” I will say 555 had some balls concerning its marketing campaign. The title, while bland, is somewhat intriguing just because it may be the only horror movie title consisting only of numbers. Then there’s the decision to put the tape in a pink VHS box, which has to be one of the bravest (or stupidest) decisions in all of marketing. Also, that great tagline: 'Viewing may cause damage to your brain cells!" And, the main draw of the movie, that fantastic decapitation they slapped right on the cover. How could anyone resist?

555 (1988) Review

In a coastal town, someone dressed like a sixties hippie is killing off anyone he finds having sex. A hard-nosed detective and his partner are put on the case, but consistently find dead-ends no matter where they turn and keep running into a tough female reporter who wants to help them figure out who’s killing everyone. They eventually find out that every five years, during the fifth month, for five days, this wacko comes out in different cities and continues his murderous rampage. Can they catch him before he goes into hiding for another five years?

Like most SOV movies, 555 isn’t very good. But, it’s better than most of its kind. And, once again, the movie’s biggest weakness and greatest strength is really just its incompetence. Yet again, it seems like everybody put their all into the making the film despite the obvious limitations, and it’s really not too painful to watch unlike others from the same year (Cannibal Campout). In fact, there are some really good things to be said for 555, as well as the typical amount if negative things, but when all is said and done, this really isn’t that memorable.

While this is pretty much your average police procedural/slasher movie, 555 contains some interesting ideas that distinguishes it from similar fare. The look of the killer is original, despite looking incredibly cheap (dig the fake hair and shirt), and his habit of engaging in a little necrophilia after a murder isn’t something commonly found in slashers from this time. The body count for this one isn’t too high either (9, I believe), but I felt the spacing between them was good and it wasn't just 45-minutes of dead air followed by seven murders in five minutes. There’s definitely a good amount of blood, and the effects are alright considering the movie’s budget. And, I might add, the decapitation does not disappoint. In fact, it’s probably my favorite death from any SOV slasher so far.

Sadly, 555 falls prey to many of the bad things plaguing others of its kind. There is a good amount of bloody bodies, but a lot of the movies is focused on the police investigating the murders. Thankfully, these parts aren’t too boring thanks to the lead detective who’s impossible to take seriously. He acts like he's the toughest cop in the city and has a really short temper, and goes off for no reason a lot. It’s a lot like watching David Campbell’s character from Killer Workout, only with less entertaining insults. He also looks like what would happen if Paul Scheer and Michael Ironside got stuck in a teleportation pod together and morphed into a single entity. The tough-as-nails female reporter was also fun, but I wouldn’t say she was “easy on the eyes,” which makes the scene where she seduces a red herring really uncomfortable! Some typical so-bad-it’s-funny moments occur when the killer pulls a knife out of a victim followed by the squeak of Styrofoam, a reverse-motion neck slice, the detective's office that's obviously a set, and a killer whose identity I managed to guess in the first four minutes of the movie (a new record for me!). 

555 really isn’t that good; thankfully, it’s not really that bad either. I would say this is definitely one of the best SOV horrors floating around (really think about that before watching). There really isn’t a whole lot to say about it because this is pretty standard stuff. It starts the way you expect it to, and ends the way you expect it to. Indie releasing company Massacre Video put out what looks to be a really good DVD of the movie containing liner notes, interviews, an image gallery, trailers, and reversible art. It can be purchased on the Massacre Video website (www.massacrevideo.com). If SOV horror is your game, this is one you should definitely pick up. It’s a crappy movie, but it’s a crappy movie with a cool killer, over-the-top characters, terrible acting, a lot of heart, and a nifty decapitation.

The Verdict: While it can be a tedious affair, this movie sits near the top of the SOV horror mountain, so that’s got to count for something. I give 555 the appropriate rating of…

Score: 5/10

Thursday
Jan242013

Just Wait Until He Kills You! SCREAM FOR HELP (1984) Review

A sad day is upon us: Michael Winner has passed away at the age of 77. For those who don’t know, Winner was the director of Death Wish 1-3, The Mechanic, The Sentinel, and many others. While there aren’t a huge amount of notable titles in the list of 41 films he’s directed, he must be commended for kicking off the vigilante movie craze with Death Wish and creating one of the greatest bad action movies ever, Death Wish 3. But today, I’m talking about a horror movie he directed. Not The Sentinel; no, I’m referring to something a lot more unknown and ten times trashier.

SCREAM FOR HELP (1984) Review

Christie is a normal 17-year old girl with a problem: she’s confident her stepfather is trying to kill her mother! Multiple accidents occur around their house that could have been very fatal, and she knows it’s not a coincidence. She sets out to expose his maniacal intentions to her mother and the police, but she doesn’t have any evidence and no one believes her! Christie eventually does convince her mother, and she kicks him out of their house. But this bastard isn’t giving up without a fight. With the aid of two of his friends, they lay siege upon the house, planning to kill Christie and her crippled mother and inherit all the money. But there are two things they didn’t count on: Christie and her will to live!

Everything about Scream for Help should be dull. Just look at that dull title. That dull artwork. That dull premise. So why in the hell is this movie so much fun? This was written by Tom Holland of Fright Night and Child’s Play fame, so one might say, "Oh! It’s fun in that goofy way Fright Night was!” Heck no! The reason this is so much fun is because the writing is awful! Tom Holland must have just phoned in the script, because before this he had written a really good and intelligent thriller (Class of 1984) as well as the sequel to Psycho! So what happened, man? Then there’s the outrageously over-bombastic score contributed by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones who must have interpreted “girl following stepfather’s car on bike” as “intense car chase.”

With all this bad dialogue, the actors must be commended doing the best they could with it. Rachael Kelly does a fine job as Christie, even if it’s hard to take her seriously when she literally will not stop talking about how her stepfather is trying to killer her mother. David Allen Brooks, who also starred in one of the best monster movies of the eighties, The Kindred, does a good job as Paul, the stepfather, and everyone alongside these two were decent as well. In fact, it seems that everyone involved in this movie did a good job save for Tom Holland! Ain’t that a gas? In the movie’s defense, it does create a pretty good amount of suspense during the last twenty minutes when Christie decides to fight back against her attackers, and it all ends with an explosive finale.

Scream for Help actually would be boring if not for the awful dialogue and scenarios. The character of Christie comes off as a bit unlikable in the beginning, just because whenever Paul talks to her at all, she insults him and accuses him of trying to murder them, and this is at the point where she doesn’t even have any solid reason to suspect him! Then, when Christie’s pregnant best friend gets killed, a couple of her classmates begin accusing her for being responsible, and then they say they were just teasing! Christie then mourns her friend’s death by having sex with her friend’s boyfriend! What’s wrong with these people? Another part finds Christie and her new boyfriend (her dead friend’s!) driving fast in a car that’s brakes have been cut and the gas pedal has fallen of, and when they finally stop, the boyfriend blames it all on Christie’s driving! Of course, who can forget the classic scene where Christie shows her mother a picture of Paul doing it doggy style with another woman, to which Paul exclaims, “It’s not what it looks like!” All that and more can be found in the movie; it’s the type of humor that makes you laugh at how unrealistic it, and for the most part, the laughs never quit.

Scream for Help is basically a mix of Halloween, Home Alone, and one of those high school “teen problems” mini-movies. For a good hour it’s nothing but so-bad-it’s-good pleasure, and the last half-hour actually manages to be suspenseful while keeping the hilarity intact. The movie has a very “TV-movie” feel to it, and if not for the language, blood, and surprising amount of nudity, I would say it’s exactly like one. Unfortunately, it’s not on DVD! If you can’t tell, it’s a bit unbelievable that a guy like Tom Holland would write something like this, and I’d be interested to see what he thinks of it now. And hey, maybe Winner altered the dialogue Holland wrote, and if he did, he inadvertently made this movie awesome! Rapid-fire bad dialogue, an unbelievably ostentatious score, acceptable acting, and a decent amount of bloodshed; no matter who you are, this is one movie you need to see.

The Verdict: Scream for Help is a great example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I was really expecting this to be a dull time, but as it turned out, it’s one of the best unintentional comedies I’ve seen in a while. Recommended.

Score: 8/10