Author Archives: chimpy

Every SCAR tells a story…unless it’s so boring you forget what it was about

scar1.5 Stars  2005/15/92m

“It was just bad timing.”

Director: Rhail Bhorania / Writers: Rahil Bhorania & Stephen Goetsch / Cast: Randy Waybe, Ashley Nelson, Dee Wallace Stone, Christopher LeCrenna, Joe Estevez, Rochelle Vallese, Tom Wade, Klara Jolesz, Brad Pennington.

Body Count: 8


Poor Dee Wallace… Stuck in a film with a tagline that sounds like an excuse for it being so terminally boring. Scar is a film in which so little happens that the DVD came with some toothpicks to prop my eyelids open.

Thespially-challenged teenager Tom returns to a small wooded town along with his best friend Jenny to try and work out what happened to his best friend (Jenny’s BF) one year earlier during a doomed hike in the surrounding forest. In the prologue, we see said friend attempt to seduce and then rape a nubile teenage girl at a remote cabin and then get the axe from her enraged mother. It soon transpires that the girl and her mom died a decade earlier…

If this is so, then how come they keep appearing to embed axes in horny men who turn up at the cabin? Why do those who encounter them find a strange scar on their belly? Did I leave the iron on in the kitchen?

Dee played a local psychic who gets dragged into proceedings when the dumb teen heroes figure out the paranormal slant, but even she cannot save this shoddy tale, which crumbles like a sand castle that manages to catch fire as it goes… There’s an evident influence from Asian girl-ghost flicks (The Grudge comes to mind) but Bhorania isn’t an agile enough director to make these homages count towards anything and they sink into the burning sand like petrified feces, resulting in a mound of crumbly, sandy crap that’s on fire.

There’s a vaguely eyebrow-raising moment at the last second, which I’ve now completely forgotten about, but I made a note that it occurred so I assume it’s still there. Wade on through, if you must.

Blurbs-of-interest: Dee was also in Dead End Road, Halloween and Popcorn; Joe Estevez was in (the even worse) The Catcher and also Sigma Die! and Axe Giant.

Light up your Crack-O-Lantern – it’s Emo-ween

halloween2HALLOWEEN II

 2.5 Stars  2009/18/118m

“Family is forever.”

Director/Writer: Rob Zombie / Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Margot Kidder, Mary Birdsong, Brea Grant, Angela Trimbur, Betsy Rue, Chase Vanek, Daniel Roebuck, Weird Al Yankovic.

Body Count: 20

Dire-logue: “Bad taste is the petrol that drives the American dream…”


When you collect slasher films you resign yourself to seeing your expectations dashed time and time again. Promo will attempt to convince you that, say, Teenage Death Camp Massacre Part VI is the best horror film in years, only for it to be about as pleasurable as rectal surgery. Annoying as this is (and do I learn? No.), the law of binary opposites means that occasionally a film will be bad-mouthed so much that you hold off watching it, only for it to turn out to be not that bad…

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II is certainly no worse than his 2007 effort to ‘re-envision’ the yarn of Michael Myers. In fact, by choosing not to remake any elements for his sequel, H2 is slightly more bearable in those terms. Be not fooled, this is by no means a great film, it barely flirts with competence at times but I was at least engaged for the most part.

Laurie and Michael are collected from the scene we left them in at the end of the 2007 film. She goes to hospital with Annie and his body is carted off in the direction of the morgue, only to be lost when the ambulance hits a cow (!) and Michael is reanimated and scoots off in search of Laurie. This is about as close as we get to 1981’s Halloween II as we’re going to find ourselves as he turns up at Haddonfield Memorial, kills some poor schmucks and chases Laurie – and then she wakes up. Was this a dream? A flashback? We’re never clear.

What is unfortunately clear is that – two years later – Laurie has become a gothic, potty-mouthed rebel who now despises Annie and Sheriff Brackett (with whom she lives), hates her shrink (Margot Kidder’s cameo), hangs out with ‘less desirables’ in a conspiracy bookstore and eventually finds out that she’s Michael’s sister, thanks to Dr Loomis’ book on Myers being promoted locally. Loomis has also changed, he’s now a self-obsessed egocentric touting his book on TV and being ridiculed by Weird Al (!!). And finally Michael, now in full hobo garb – complete with Santa-beard – follows around a vision of his Mom, his younger self and a horse (!!!) as they lure him back in the direction of Haddonfield to reunite the clan. In English, go kill Laurie.

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Wah wah wah, no one understands meeeee!

Yes, kill her. She’s a bitch! Really, she is. Whether Scout Taylor-Compton is cursed to forever appear in crappy horror remakes and their various offshoots is a mystery and she’s not entirely at fault for how the character has been written but she’s a shoo-in for most unlikeable final girl, like, EVER! Come Halloween, Laurie decides to get drunk and go partying with her scuzzy friend Harley and her quite nice friend Mya, all dressed as Rocky Horror characters. Michael comes too, kills a couple of people at the party and then chases after Laurie all over again. Thankfully, this chase doesn’t go on as long as the one in the first film but is complicated by Laurie sharing Michael’s visions of Mom and young Mikey. What? No, seriously, what???

What is good in the film is the sense of the consequential: so few movies in the genre ever look into the recovery of the survivors, their families, the profiteering that goes on. Loomis’ book-signing is good and Annie finally telling Laurie what a cow she’s become is good – she survived too! Speaking of whom, Danielle Harris is great in the role and would’ve made a far more appealing heroine this time around, hell, even Brea Grant (as Mya) racks up more sympathy in her meagre screentime.

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I expected ultra-violence here and some of the kills are needlessly protracted; there’s as much sleaze as before – strip clubs, topless girls randomly littered around the place, aggressive attitudes towards sex and nonchalant attitudes towards death, possibly Zombie’s intention, note the Direlogue choice. Halloween II is a tad amoral; but it’s okay. No more, no less. Tolerable. Michael being reduced down to a maskless nobody by the end – who frickin’ speaks - could be why so many individuals feel the series has flatlined. The announcement of a Halloween III for 2011, which is rumoured to be another reboot, means that whoever takes the reigns from here on out (and I hear it’s Todd Farmer – oh God) has their work cut out for them if they’re going to resuscitate the Myers’ franchise.

Blurbs-of-interest: Actors carried over from the first film were McDowell, Taylor-Compton, Dourif, Mane, Harris and Rob’s wife (whose role is pretty much crow-barred in); see the blurbs here for their other appearances. Brea Grant was in Midnight Movie; Margot Kidder was in Black Christmas and The Clown at Midnight; Betsy Rue was in My Bloody Valentine 3D and Groupie; Angela Trimbur was later in The Final Girls; and Daniel Roebuck was in Final Destination.

“For the love of God – stop singing!!”

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SSSSHHH…

3 Stars  2003/15/167m

“Think twice before you suspect…”

Director: Pavan S. Kaul / Writer: Arshad Ali Syed / Cast: Tanisha, Dino Morea, Karan Nath, Gaurav Kapoor, Suvarna Jha, Kushal Punjabi, Teena Choudhary.

Body Count: 12

Dire-song-lyric: “Without you, my love won’t be placated…”


Yes, it’s another Bollywood slasher flick, but is it any better than Kucch to Hai? Does it shamelessly rip-off its American counterparts? Do the songs have any relevence to the rest of the plot? Yes, yes, and no.

This time, it’s Scream that gets a virtual remake in the warm climate of India where, six months after her big sis was murdered, college teen Mahek is still finding it difficult to cope, knowing that the murderer is still at large – and now he might just be calling her with new threats? This trauma is partially offset by the arrival of hunky suitor Suraj, whom she soon accuses of being the killer when the clown-masked psycho attacks her at home.

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Suraj later saves Mahek from a further attack and love blossoms between the two of them, much to the chagrin of her childhood friend Rocky, who also claims to love her, although he chooses to communicate this through a bizarre song at a house party. Meanwhile, it is assumed the killer perished in a freezing lake after another failed attempt on Mahek’s life and her friends decide that they could all do with a vacation to neighbouring Thailand for some sun n’ fun.

Gears shift into I Still Know What You Did Last Summer territory as the gang party on down at the convenient Punjabi disco before being kicked out over some unclear faux pas. They then go off to some remote island huts where the killer reappears and begins trimming the guest list, which includes a sub-aqua throat slashing. With numbers reduced right down to the final handful of survivors, the killer is revealed along with a cringeworthy exposition. So whose arms will Mahek fall into? Will they be the right arms or the arms of DEATH?

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The obvious problem with a story that suits an 85 minute runtime being stretched like old 80’s spandex to fit a film that’s just thirteen minutes short of three hours means that parts of Sssshhh… have more drag than a gay cabaret bar but it also has the upside of more developed characters and nothing is rushed or brash. Four songs punctuate proceedings, one over the credits, then party song, trip-to-the-airport song and disco song, they lend nothing to the horror plot and deal only with the love triangle between the three leads.

Sticking with a film this long will be difficult for western audiences and the horror on show is pretty cheesy; being from India, there is definitely no nudity – they don’t even have on screen kissing yet! – and the bloodletting is tame and badly effected, as is character behaviour, although we should remember that the genre conventions are not bedded in in this part of the world so the back-to-basics approach was actually fun to watch and some of the chase scenes were very good. You need to be really hell bent on slasher or Bollywood flicks for this one.

POPCORN

popcornPOPCORN

3.5 Stars  1991/15/87m

“Buy a bag, go home in a box.”

Director: Mark Herrier / Writers: Mitchell Smith & Tod Hackett / Cast: Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace-Stone, Derek Rydall, Malcolm Danare, Elliott Hurst, Ivette Soler, Freddie Marie Simpson, Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Witter, Ray Walston, Tony Roberts.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Tina should start eating more, she looks like shit.”


The ever lovely Schoelen discovers that her recurring nightmare is actually part of an old horror film called The Possessor. Meanwhile, her fading film class decide to hold an all-night festival of B-movies to raise some funds to keep things afloat but find themselves set upon by a hideously burned figure, believed to be the director of the old film, who died in a fire at the same theatre years earlier, taking with him several cult followers. That’s a lot of useful coincidences.

Expectedly, the group are stalked and killed, albeit in reduced numbers and in ways that aren’t a stones throw from co-burn victim Freddy Krueger’s teen-tamperings. Alas, the mystery killer’s identity is revealed a bit too soon after only knocking off a handful of victims in the process. Schoelen – who replaced original actress Amy O’Neill – is her useful alluring self. Popcorn was one of her final films before she withdrew from the film world in 1995.

While the film is entertaining once, it’s not a great outing for Jill and also several of her co-stars who are wasted in minor roles. The late Villard is good as dorky student Toby and the trio of films selected for the festival (presented in Smell-O-Vision with a giant mosquito and various other fourth-dimension tricks) provide an amusing backdrop.

(Surprisingly) shot in Jamaica, Popcorn performed dismally at the box office as the genre bottomed-out into the early 90s. Treat it like public transport, enjoy the ride and then leave it behind.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jill co-starred with Robert Englund in the slasher version of The Phantom of the Opera and was also in Cutting Class, When A Stranger Calls Back and The Stepfather. Dee Whatever-She’s-Called-This-Week was also in Scar (not the Angela Bettis one), Dead End Road and the Halloween remake; Kelly Jo Minter was in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5; Derek Rydall played the lead in Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge; Karen Witter was in Out of the Dark.

Decade of the Afraid: Best of the 00’s – Part 2

So, with sequels, reality slashers, remakes and torture-porn outta the way, let’s turn to the ASIAN tidal wave of horror, first beginning with, ugh, more remakes. The Ring, The Grudge, The Eye, One Missed Call, Shutter, Pulse… The list goes on, like, forever. Having done so well in the USA, they sort of got their own back by putting a continental twist on the American slasher film.

Korea, Thailand and Japan were at the forefront of these ‘rip-offs’, which pretty much recreated plots from the Scream gen, mixed it up with the usual creepy ghosts from those earlier films and came up with some interesting stuff…

cryingtreeNightmare had the ghost of a dead girl taking revenge on her friends for a prank gone wrong; Record was pretty much the same with definitive I Know What You Did Last Summerian influences; Thai flicks The Crying Tree (left) and Scared pit people in the woods against a psycho, or psychos in the case of the latter, while 999-9999 came up with a good ploy to virtually remake Final Destination with Thai spices.

ssshhh

India also got in on the game with epic slasher musicals (I shit you not!), Kucch to Hai and Ssshhh…, which interspersed the murder plots (again lifted from the I know what you did… school of slasher-plotting) with songs, usually about the romance between the leads. Hilarious if you can sit for over 3 hours.

Now, let’s talk about me. Me, me, me! What did I like from the last ten years? Well, much of it really. Fill yer plate with teenagers and then cut them up and I’ll most probably derive some pleasure from it. Before we get to the bests and worsts, here are a few GUILTY PLEASURES of mine. I take no responsibility for any coronaries suffered when you read that I somehow liked some of the following…

darknessfallsValentine is a film I love in spite of its striking similarity to cat shit. It’s bad, we all know it’s bad. The book was trashy but sustained something of a coherent plot and packed a great twist, both of which were ignored by the cheesy script for the film and lots of stuff made no sense. But what can I say? Cast of game glam girlies and a killer in a creepy Cherub mask – does it for me.

Darkness Falls is another rubbish studio horror flick and one of the first PG-13 rated body count films. Although it starts very well, things get boring and remain frustratingly dry, with Chaney Kley and Buffy‘s Emma Caulfield hiding in the light to save themselves from the ghost of a witch (known as the Tooth Fairy) who was burned by the townsfolk 100 years earlier. Again, stupid but so fun.

There were also gay slasher flicks Hellbent and The Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror and dumbassed urban-legend-ghost-story flick Fingerprints, with Lou Diamond Phillips, Sally Kirkland and a killer dressed as a train conductor!

Now here’s what sucked. Not strictly from a bad film angle, otherwise the list would be populated with a bunch of barely seen DVD titles, no, here’s what was insultingly BAD

2001’s Ripper turned out to be an impressive effort, performing well enough to generate its own sequel, suffixed Letters from Within, which sent the lone survivor to a European institute. In a castle. An actress friend of mine auditioned for the role of “black girl with attitude” – I’m thankful she didn’t appear in it. It really sucked, with almost no connections to the plot of the first film (bar the one character, tellingly played by a different actress). It’s a sequel, so why be surprised though?

cry_wolf

Crud in a different way is Cry_Wolf, another young-audience friendly PG-13 “thriller”, which sells itself as the slasher film it never manages to become. Obnoxious, slappable teens at a prep school have a liars club, make up a rumour about a campus cruising psycho known as The Wolf and goreless murders begin. Only they don’t. It’s all a big ruse because of some love triangle between Lindy Booth and freakin’ Jon Bon Jovi’s media teacher! It was an upsettingly dreadful denouement in a film that ends up as nothing but a big budget cheat, attempting to seem cool with referential dialogue and a Cruel Intentions-styled backing. You’ll cry alright.

afdAnother film all about tricks and lies was the godawful “remake” of April Fool’s Day, one of the best of the 80’s. As with Cry_Wolf, over-privileged snots are the primary cast members. Nobody is remotely pleasant. Just fucking die! Or, yet again, don’t. Scout Taylor-Compton, having already ruined the legacy of Laurie Strode in Rob Zombie’s Halloween redux, has a lot to answer for. The joke’s on us!

Another day, another remake, albeit more of a faithful adaptation of a book came in the shape of the horrible Children of the Corn TV flick with David Anders, Kandyse McClure and one of Dexter‘s kids as Isaac. It fails on almost every level.

A straight-up slasher flick came in the shape of See No Evil, starring WWE wrestler Kane as a hulking loon who dwells in an abandoned hotel and likes to pluck out victims’ eyes for random reasoning. Cue eight delinquent offenders sent there to fix up the place and carnage ensues. Not as bad as the others in this category, it was just disappointing. Really, really disappointing, as was slasher-laced anthology flick Heebie Jeebies, which concerns a girl who dreams the future and sees the deaths of her high school friends and, in her infinite wisdom decides they should all go to a creepy old farmhouse for the weekend “for their safety.” Stupid moose. They all die. There’s a story about rock monsters, which sucks. It all sucks.

shrooms

Finally, Shrooms. Inexplicably given a cinema release around Christmas in 2007, this is the tale of American tourists in the Irish woods, magic mushrooms of the intense variety, dogging, and death. It all leans towards the rather stupid twist. Director Paddy Breathnach’s follow up, Red Mist, was a bit better.

Right, that’s what sucked, here are the slasher films n’ franchises that proved (to me at least) that the age of the slasher film was not necessarily over…

THE BEST OF THE 00s

I don’t want to create a countdown as some film series were important to the decade, so starting with this in mind, if the fourth was to be the last, then the entire Final Destination cycle started and ended in the one decade.

fd3The inarguable awesomeness of the general premise (flaws included) made this series an instant winner. The original (and best) film had the guts to feature a tragic plane crash, keying in on a common fear before shifting to a slasher film with an invisible killer in Death, who doesn’t like to be evaded by cheeky teens and therefore they die in a variety of gruesome ‘accidents’.

The form was perfected early on in 2003’s Final Destination 2, which is the ultimate catalogue of inanimate objects plotting our downfall. By the time the third instalment appeared in 2006, nobody had to be psychic to see what was coming. The plot hadn’t developed significantly and 2009’s 3D entry sank to new depths of desperation. Nevertheless, these disposable-teen safety films-gone-wrong should be regarded as some of the best of the 2000’s.

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Not nearly as inventive but far more intense was 2003’s Wrong Turn, a back to basics survival slasher film, which placed a group of city kids in the wooded territory of a trio of hideously inbred cannibalistic brothers who have been collecting victims for years. Brutality is core in this snappy flick, which never takes its foot off the accelerator once the action begins. Great turns from heroes Desmond Harrington and Eliza Dushku, who barely make it out alive as it is, emphasise how important likeable characters are in modern horror, something absent in almost all of the entries in the crop-of-crap list.

In a similar vain, 2006’s grimy Brit-flick Wilderness put teens on a tiny island with a vengeful killer, although this time they’re all from a young offenders institute being punished after one of their number is bullied to the point of suicide. Nice guys don’t exist here, but the revenge angle and use of a quartet of trained dogs made for one of the better British horrors of recent years. Yes, I preferred it to The Descent. Off with his head!

Doing what we do just as well, Simon Pegg starrer Hot Fuzz outdid Shaun of the Dead as Pegg’s retentive small village copper investigates a series of murders that nobody else believes is happening. Hmmm… Sticking with the comedy, 60’s beach party horror pastiche Psycho Beach Party has the surf dudes of a Californian beach on the hop from a loon who bears a prejudice against anyone with disabilities. A campy mini-classic.

malevolenceThere was still a lot of arty goings-on in horror during the decade, influenced largely by the onslaught of horror from the East, who were making the rest of the world’s horror look pedestrian on a visual front. Thank God, then, for Malevolence, Stevan Mena’s snail-paced atmos-builder, where screw-up bank robbers haul a couple of hostages to what they believe to be an abandoned farm. The regional, beyond help ambience made for a terrific sleeper, a prequel to which was completed in 2009 but not yet released.

In a similar spooky vain, creepiest slasher film of the decade – and possibly ever – goes to Session 9, which, in one sub-five second shot (a future Pant-Soiling Scene) made me almost cry with abject fear! A little love also for UK-Canadian production Ripper: Letter from Hell, at the other end of the spectrum to its dire sequel, this Jack the Ripper combo of Urban Legend (easily my favourite 90’s slasher) and Copycat worked out very well.

On the flipside of these po-faced terrors, light-hearted Shredder wrapped up a spunky slasher film on the slopes of Colorado, while Aussie Scream-contemporary Cut brought in Molly Ringwald and Kylie Minogue to battle a killer who appears whenever the unfinished slasher film he featured in is shown. It bombed at the box office but struck a great balance between laughter and Jason-style body counting.

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Later came Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a documentary style insight into the preparation a wouldbe psycho killer goes through before becoming the slasher film it parodies – and does it all with great wit, a fab cast and visuals.

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Jason was re-born at the end of the decade in Platinum Dunes’ ‘reboot’ of Friday the 13th, which may as well have donned the suffix Part 12 for all it recreates.

Over at MGM, dodgy-past director Victor Salva attempted to create a horror icon in The Creeper in the first two Jeepers Creepers films, flawed in their legacy by featuring a villain who only appears for 23 days every 23 years! The first film was half-perfection, half-ham. The third film, due in 2011, will likely make or break the series’ potential.

jason-voorheesjeepers-creepers

Lastly, we move to Europe to close in on what I consider to be the best slasher thing going in the 2000’s. Anatomy, the German medical-school slasher from the beginning of the decade showed that the killer-with-a-sharp-object genre can still be intellectually challenging.

However, it was a most unlikely country that produced not one, but two of the most visually stunning, intensely produced and overtly satisfying slasher films. Douze points go…to Norway.

The land famed for the Northern Lights, fjords, vikings and herring had never really been an active participator on the horror scene until 2006, when skiers-in-peril film Cold Prey was made. Yet another back to basics approach abounded with the simple tale of a reclusive killer taking out the young people who enter his environment. The craftsmanship and appreciation of the technique of generating tension is second to none for the period. Character interactions, escape attempts and eventual showdown between the lone survivor and killer all put most others to shame.

That said, the 2008 sequel ticks every box you could want out of an effective follow-up. While the hospital setting isn’t anything new, we do get the original actors back to play their own bodies, there are characters we care about, which means there’s heartbreak and pain, love and loss, intensity, bloodshed and plenty of action. I’ll attempt to give both of these films faithful reviews in the near future to go into more detail but, for now, let me say that Cold Prey and Cold Prey II were, for me, the best slasher films of 2000-2009.

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