Entries in Slasher (13)

Monday
Jul092012

You Won't Want To Spend The Weekend With THIS Bernie! MOONSTALKER (1989) Review

1989 wasn’t exactly a landmark year for horror. I dare you to name one movie from that year that has become a classic. Sure, there was Intruder, but other than that, there are just a lot of movies that I personally enjoy (Cutting Class, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Halloween 5, Shocker, Return of the Family Man, etc.). Of course, there were a few stinkers in the bunch, like Elm Street 5. So naturally, I wasn’t too enthralled when I sat down to watch this movie, which was made that year (as was Weekend at Bernie’s, coincidentally). Is it good, or trash? Let’s find out.

 

Moonstalker (1989) Review

The movie opens with a group of young adults partying around a campfire, and two of them sneak off to have some sexy fun-time in their motor home. However, someone picks up an axe lying outside of the motor home and dispatches them. We are then to infer that he goes on to butcher the rest of the partiers. Several years later, a family heads up to a campsite in the middle of the woods for their winter vacation. Their father is enthralled with it, while his teenage son and daughter, as well as his wife, aren’t particularly excited. Another motor home shows up, driven by an old man who used to live in the woods. It seems like all of them are getting along at first, as they share dinner around the campfire, but once the old man goes back to his motor home, it turns out he has plans to kill them! You see, he has a crazy son named Bernie, whom he broke out of the institution, and the old man intends to steal the family’s fancy motor home, mainly because he envies their microwave oven! He sends Bernie out with his trusty axe, and he makes short work of the vacationers. However, his father dies of a heart attack before he can take advantage of his new microwave! *Sob*

We then follow a group of young adults at a wilderness training camp. They’re your usual motley crew of young adults, including the nice guy, the jokester/sex maniac, the virginal girl, and the rest are completely disposable. The camp is run by a military obsessed couple who run the camp with an iron fist! Well, none of them are there very long before they begin getting killed off by Bernie in various gruesome ways! Who will survive this bloody night, and can anyone put a stop to the rampage of…the moon stalker?

The biggest strength Moonstalker has going for it is its vintage feeling. While, by this time, many slashers had moved past the trademarks of the early slashers in an attempt to strike gold with something new, Moonstalker decided to take things back to the basics by setting itself in the woods during the winter. I love snowbound slasher movies, and this is no exception. Sure, it is VERY cheesy in parts, but it didn’t feel like it was trying to be cheesy, and I admire how the film actually played it rather serious when it had every opportunity to go down goofy street. There is a funny moment in the military couple’s tent during their death scenes, a ridiculous kill involving very hot shower water, Bernie’s father’s obsession with microwaves, and (in perhaps the film’s only burst of creativity) an inventive use of a wooden board to disguise the fact that several campers are dead (you’ll see what I mean when you watch the movie)!

The acting is…ehh. Not the best (by far), but not the worst (by far). I remember thinking the wife in the beginning must have been a friend of the director’s, as well as the guy who plays the son, but other than that it was easily tolerable. Most of the characters we focus on at the camp (which is about three or four) are likable, and others are very entertaining (the military couple who like to play “ambush” in their tent to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”). The one complaint I have is the (in the long run) pointless murders of the families. They served no purpose for the rest of the movie, but hey, if you’re gonna load your movie with filler, might as well bump up the body count while you’re at it (the total death count nears twenty, by the way, even if a lot of them are offscreen).

As with most slashers that take place in the woods (and in the snow, to boot!), Moonstalker does come across as being very atmospheric. It may not be very suspenseful (it does get sort of nail-biting in the climax where Bernie chases around our final girl) , but at least it has atmosphere, even if it almost gets ruined by one small thing. I remember watching a 1988 obscurity a while ago called Iced (the movie was great; I highly advise everyone to check it out), and in that movie (which is supposed to be set at an isolated cabin in the snowy mountains), in the background, you can see a car go by that nearly destroys every bit of atmosphere they built up. Same here, as in the background in one scene, you can see not one, but several cars go by on a highway, which really took me out of it.

I also loved Bernie’s look in the beginning. Bernie sported a straight jacket and a white mask (that looked like a moon to boot) that looked really cool and at least somewhat intimidating. However, after the family massacre, he kills someone and dons their attire, so he looks like a cowboy. I’m sorry, but a killer looking like he’s going whip out a lasso and let out a hearty rebel yell at any minute does not frighten me at all. Actually, the actor who played Bernie went on to bigger (but not better) things with General Hospital! Seriously!

That was a bit of a whopper of a review, but Moonstalker is a whopper of a movie. It’s great. Not a slasher fan? Don’t bother with this one. Slasher fan? This as close to a “comfort food” slasher as you’re gonna get. There’s rarely a hint of originality to be found, but it’s never bland because all the comfortable slasher trappings are clear and present. Sure, there are lots of offscreen deaths, but the straightforwardness of the whole affair is what I admire the most. If you’re of the opinion that slashers got way too silly for your tastes after 1985, this is for you, as it harkens back to the gory days of early hack ‘n’ slash adventures, only with more late-eighties fashions. And that’s not a bad thing at all. This was released on an el cheapo DVD release that can supposedly be found in most dollar stores, and was recently put on Amazon.com’s new MOD series "Mom N Pop Video Shop." I don’t own any of these, so I can’t say anything about difference in quality, but if you find any edition of this, pick it up. It’ll be the best $1 you've ever spent.

The Verdict: Moonstalker is a cozy, soothing slasher movie that does what you expect it to and that's A-OK. Imagine curling up with your favorite childhood blanket by a warm fire with hot chocolate and listening to Tears for Fears on an 8-Track player, and you have some inkling to what the Moonstalker experience is like.

Score: 7/10



Tuesday
Jul032012

A Nineties Giallo? THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE (1990) Review

Besides Scream, Dr. Giggles, Mirage, and a few others, the nineties were a pretty bad year for the slasher film. In the early-nineties, we were still getting some low-budget efforts that came in way too late in the game, and in the late-nineties, we got a whole bunch of slashers trying to replicate Scream with horrible results (The Clown at Midnight). So imagine my expectations when I came across The Night Brings Charlie, a 1990 slasher. I found the artwork to be provocative, so I watched it despite the negative reviews I had read. Is this actually a nineties slasher worth watching?

 

THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE (1990) Review

Someone is killing people in the small town of Pakoe. A vicious killer is using a tree saw to hack through the necks of various people around town, taking the heads as souvenirs. The local sheriff is baffled, and the coroner is concerned for his two daughters’ well-being. The prime suspect emerges as Charlie Puckett, the disfigured local tree surgeon, but when they take him in, it soon becomes clear that the murderer is still out there. Can they catch the killer before more heads roll?

Just to come right out with my opinion, I don’t think The Night Brings Charlie is all that bad. I have seen some really scathing reviews, calling it “The worst slasher ever” and stuff like that. Seriously? The absolute worst? Have these people seen Backwoods? Anyway, I thought it was decent, but had the potential to be much better. For one thing, I love the title. It’s not your typical slasher title, and it’s very provocative. The artwork itself is very atmospheric as well.

I love, and I mean I LOVE, the killer’s look. It’s very simple, just a wool hat, goggles, and a sack covering the lower half of the face, and a lot of people say it makes the killer look like a Tuskan raider (and it does), but I still think it’s awesome. The look itself was cool, and it came across as rather creepy when it was shot just right. Sure, it was reminiscent of Jason's look in Friday the 13th Part II, as well as the Phantom Killer in The Town that Dreaded Sundown, but weren't the looks in both of those effective? Same for The Night Brings Charlie.

There’s a decent body count as well, and while some kills were a total cop-out (offscreen), some of the others are really great! There’s a great decapitation early on, someone gets hedge clippers through the hand and getting run over, and there’s also a kill I’ve never seen before: someone gets killed via a piece of farm machinery grabbing his throat (imagine one of those claw machines at the arcade (only huge) picking up someone by the neck).

There is an interesting twist that occurs forty-fifty minutes in, but other than that, the film plays it almost completely straight. There a few brief moments where you can tell the writers are having fun with the material, like one scene where the killer marks the population sign down one after killing someone, or the sheriff’s secretary, who’s such a miserable attempt at comedy, it actually does come across as humorous how hard they’re trying to make her funny as she spouts such classic dialogue as, “I told you that coffee would give you diarrhea!” after the sheriff says “Oh, no.”

The film does have the tendency to drag when we follow the sheriff investigating or the coroner’s two daughters, and none of the characters are very interesting. Some characters seem like they’re going to be important later in the plot (I’m thinking of one of the daughters’ ex-boyfriend (I think; it’s never explained) with the horrendous hair). The film did feel like an Italian giallo in its pacing, mystery, and even reveal of the killer. Of course, it doesn't even come close to being as stylish, but the similarities are still there. The acting wasn’t anything special either, but the film itself is competently made. It’s well-shot and well-edited, despite some poor writing. Oh, and another point of interest is the HUGE amount of Pepsi product placement all throughout.

I like The Night Brings Charlie. It’s a well-made movie for sure, but there’s not a lot that stands out. Sure, it has a fantastic looking killer, some inventive deaths, a few spurts of really good gore, and one neat twist, but that’s about it. At times, it does feel sort of like an early-nineties version of the giallo, what with the police investigating, and one scene that happened forty-fifty minutes in was very reminiscent of just that. This is another slasher that hasn’t been released on DVD, though if it is released, I’m curious if it would carry the same rating as on the VHS by the Film Advisory Board: EM for Extremely Mature, because this movie has “Extreme Language, Extreme Violence, and Nudity.” I wish the movie could live up to that extreme rating.

The Verdict: The Night Brings Charlie is an entertaining watch, even though it’s really nothing special.

Score: 6/10



Monday
Jul022012

There's Gooks Out Tonight: HOLLOW GATE (1988) Review

Well, here it is. My first (yes, my very first) review up on the site. For my first review, I decided to go with a hot slice of late-eighties SOV (shot-on-video) "goodness." A while back, I saw a movie called Death by Dialogue (1988) released by City Lights Home Entertainment. The film was SOV, but it wasn't your traditional SOV; it looked fancier than something like Video Violence (1987), but it certainly wasn't shot on film. Then I noticed another movie called Hollow Gate was released by the same company and it looked the same. Now, Death by Dialogue (what a horrible name for a movie) was just barely saved from my trash can because of a few moments of hilarious entertainment, and I was worried Hollow Gate wouldn't be so lucky. Well, lock your doors and bolt your windows because the gooks are out tonight as we take a trip to...

HOLLOW GATE (1988) Review

When Mark Walters was very young, his stepfather nearly drowned him in the bobbing-for-apples bucket at a party on Halloween night. Ten years later, Mark kills two teenagers who were making fun of him with a pair of flaming panties placed conveniently in their gas tank. Two years after that, he nearly kills a girl when she refuses to go out with him. Now, he is forced to live with his sweet, wealthy grandmother at her estate, Hollow Gate. However, when Halloween rolls around, Mark kills her and proceeds to order a dozen costumes from the costume shop.

Meanwhile, four teenagers are on their way to a big Halloween rock concert stop at a costume shop just to look around. One of the girl's just HAS to have a purple wig, and since it would drain them of the money they need to get into the concert, the shop owner makes a deal with them that if they deliver the costumes up to Hollow Gate, they can have the wig for free. So they do, but once they arrive, they find themselves trapped inside the estate by an electrified fence! Soon, Mark begins to don each of the costumes they delivered and take on the personality each costume portrays and picks the teens off one by one. Who will survive the night of bloody terror at Hollow Gate?

 

Truth be told, Hollow Gate is a pretty bad movie. The acting is never going to win any awards, the plot is filled with clichés we've all seen dozens of times before, and it's lacking suspense, gore, and nudity, three trademarks of a slasher movie. But despite that, I really did like this movie. I found it to be quite enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way. Like I said, the acting is bad, but at least you can tell they're actually trying. I loved Addison Randall's uber-hammy performance as Mark, as well as Richard Dry's performance as Allen, whose idea of portraying pure terror is to strain every vein in his neck like he's constipated (leading to hilarious facial expressions like the one below).

I feel the film's strongest point of entertainment is with Mark's changing personalities with the costumes. First he's a 'Nam vet (uttering the classic line, "There's gooks out tonight!"), then he's a cowboy, then a jockey, then a doctor. Sure, we've seen the "costume-switching" gimmick before in classic stuff like Terror Train and Bloody Movie, but I loved it here because of Randall's over-the-top performances everytime he switches costumes.

Despite a low body count and almost no gore to speak of, Hollow Gate also has some fairly impressive and certainly creative deaths. Now, given the low body count, I'm not going to spoil ALL the deaths, but just two of them that I feel stood out. The first one is a death via combine (that thing that farmer's drive that has like four lawn mowers attached to it). While that one should have been bloodier, I still appreciated the use of a combine as a weapon of death. The other one was the cutest death I have ever seen: one guy getting mauled by two starving golden retrievers! The dogs were adorable, so having these cute dogs tear apart somebody was hilarious!

However, I do have some complaints. For one, I HATED the final girl. She was responsible in every way for her friends getting killed off one by one, and she was the girl that made it out alive. She was the one that absolutely NEEDED that purple wig, despite her boyfriend telling her it was too expensive. When the other girl suggests the most sensible plan of action for going into the tool shed (all going together), SHE was the one who immediately yelled, "NO!" Chalk her down as one of the most annoying characters EVER!

My other problem is that at times, Hollow Gate can REALLY drag. There's one scene where we get to watch two cops recount Mark's entire back story for about three minutes. We also follow the teens for a while as they eat lunch, talk about random crap in their van, and while we do get the sense that these are friends (unlike most movies nowadays where they're all complete jerks to one another for no clear reason), I could have done without it. The opening also seemed a bit too long for its own good, but that wasn't too bad. We also get to see two teens (who aren't even important to the story) make out on a picnic blanket, which was totally worthless.

All in all, I had fun with Hollow Gate. I had read reviews before hand saying how tame it was, so I didn't go in expecting a gore-fest, and with those expectations, I liked it. I would definitely clasify it under comedy because I was laughing a LOT more than I was being scared. Most slasher fans are going to hate this because of the lack of the subgenre staples (oodles of gore, a large body count, and bodacious breasts), but I thought it was fun in other ways, like the over-the-top killer, inventive deaths (the golden retrievers, man), and some funny performances (just eat a laxative, Al). This has, unsurprisingly, never been released to DVD, but if I'm not mistaken, Troma does own the rights (they released Death by Dialogue on DVD a while ago). However, business for them has been bad, so don't hold your breath for Hollow Gate getting the Blu-Ray treatment. Just try and hunt down a VHS.

The Verdict: With expectations set at a reasonable level, Hollow Gate is sure to entertain with its so-bad-it's-good charms.

Score: 6/10

 

 

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