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CAMPING DEL TERRORE

CAMPING DEL TERRORE

3 Stars 1986/18/83m

“…Now the woods are alive with the sound of screaming.”

A.k.a. BodyCount / The 11th Commandment / Camping Della Morte

Director: Ruggero Deodato / Writers: Alex Capone, David Parker Jr., Sheila Goldberg & Luca D’Alisera / Cast: David Hess, Mimsy Farmer, Charles Napier, Nicola Farron, Bruce Penhall, Luisa Maneri, Andrew Lederer, Stefano Madia, Nancy Brilli, Cynthia Thompson, Elena Pompei, John Steiner, Valentina Forte.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “Does your moose have a sister?”


If you were channel surfing late at night around, say, Halloween and you happened to catch a few minutes of the wonderfully titled Camping Del Terrore, I’d forgive you for thinking it was a nameless Friday the 13th sequel, something like No. 6 or 7. ‘That’s Camp Crystal Lake,’ you might say to any companions you happen to have. ‘They’re counsellors…'; ‘there’s Jaso- Oh, wait a sec…’ Yes, Ruggero Deodato, who directed Cannibal Holocaust back in the 70s, is so very similar to Vegan Voorhees’ fave franchise that you could probably slip the video tape into a Friday box and fool small children and your grandma.

So, what’s the sitch? Well, it’s most certainly the mid-80s and that means that necking teens should know better than venturing into the woods at night for romantic trysts and pre-marital sexualisations. This doesn’t stop a couple of big-haired luvvers, who are summarily knifed by a hag-faced scary person who goes as far as to pre-prepare a wig similar to the hair of the local doctor’s daughter in order to fool her dumb jock boytoy. Actually, this happens, like, years earlier, so maybe their naivety can be overlooked…

cdt-3-pics2In the proper 80s, not those intrusive fake 80s, a camper-load of teens – some of whom suspiciously have Italian accents – roll into the Colorado campground where the murders, blamed on the standard local tale-of-doom character the ‘Old Indian Shaman’, occurred and subsequently sent admissions plummeting. The camp is owned by super-unhappy couple Robert and Julia, who very briefly cheer up when their son Ben hops out of the camper, having returned from the army and hooked a ride. Robert is played by David Hess, one of the loonies in Last House on the Left and directed the almost-enjoyable To All a Goodnight. He’s not very nice to Julia, which explains why she’s screwing the local Sheriff.

No sooner do more campers show up, so does the ‘Old Indian Shaman’, ready and able to make holes in nubile teenage meat with knives n’ stuff. To us, it’s obvious that the Shaman is little more than some psycho in a cloak and mask, unless mythical monsters wear hefty black boots. But who could it be? Moody Robert? Oppressed Julia? One of the teenies? Extra suspects are tossed into this Italian gore salad by way of ‘The Doctor’ (…not David Tennant), dad of the opening victim who scowls ‘I hate campers!’ to the Sheriff when a couple of soon-to-be extinct lovers paddle by in their canoes.

cdt-3-more-pics2The teen-wasting project soon begins with a hunt for a missing chick after her boyfriend stumbled back to camp and then lapsed into a coma (!). Unfazed by this development, the rest of the gang continue to flirt, strip off at a moment’s notice, play juvenile pranks and obsess over ‘doing up’ a dilapidated shower block they find in the woods, which happens to be the scene of most of the killings that ensue.

To oblige the audience’s growing need for some death, dodgy Doctor recalls the demises of another couple of teens fifteen years earlier… The Sheriff thinks a bear got them. Sure, man. Bears hide under beds and wait for dumbass girls to lie on them before shoving a machete through the underside and through said dumbass. A lack of swirly screen visuals ruins this little flashback, which we must suppose occurs in 1971, when fashions were spookily similar to those of 1986…

Back in the proper 80s, fat comic relief dude fancies shaggy perm girl (who is admittedly hot), but she’s into goody-two-shoes Ben, who is putting up with his parents’ respective weirdnesses and dreams about jars of maggots and such. Another flirty couple are killed in the outhouse and again, nobody seems to worry about them, even when morning comes the next day with no sign of them returning…

At this time, the Shaman obviously grows bored of how long it’s taking to kill people and attacks biker-dude Dave (Bruce Penhall), who, along with moody Carol, has hastily been shoved into the role of hero/survivor as if Deodato completely forgot about electing a Final Girl until the finale loomed. Ben rescues Dave and, without any rational thinking whatsoever, no brainstorming, no information gathering, concludes that the ‘Old Indian Shaman’ is back to KILL! KILL! KILL!

About now, things get a little complicated… Julia finally has a violent reaction towards Robert and thinks she’s killed him and when moody Carol runs in after finding some of the bodies, Julia, assuming she means Robert, confesses to murder and follows moody Carol into the woodshed where, it turns out, Robert is far from dead and, in turn, fatally slashes his wife down. THEN… shaggy perm girl also discovers the same bodies moody Carol did and, when fat comic relief dude comes to rescue her, he makes the undoable error of running into a complex bear trap.

Take a breath… OK, moody Carol tries to chainsaw her way out of the woodshed and is eventually rescued by biker Dave and the remaining few people take shelter in the main cabin and the Sheriff shows up. Some additional death transpires before the ritual unmasking happens. Things go down like a gored-up episode of Scooby Doo before the two surviving teenies are sent on their way to assumedly live happily ever after following their fifty-four second relationship blossomization from earlier on and the Sheriff takes the law into his own hands, only to – possibly – be thwarted by a real ‘Old Indian Shaman’! Alas, we end on a freeze frame and never find out the truth. Well, not a version of it that you could reasonably swallow anyway.

cdt-3-pics-3-2Camping Del Terrore is 80s horror epitomised: nobody does anything sensible, there are subplots that don’t mean anything and the whole package makes no immediate sense. It’s like a toasted cheese sandwich where the bread is made out of big hair and tinny pop-metal. Still tastes pretty good though. When I first bought it on VHS an acquaintance said ‘Bodycount… that was in every video store in the 80s.’ Well, yay, I say. Let’s hope lots of people rented it and thought it rocked, because it did. For me and those like me (smirk…) it still does, more so in the face of all the crappy, heartless remakes doing the rounds right now. Deodato, nobody may have saluted you at the time for this one, but Vegan Voorhees does.

It’s The Breakfast Club, ayyy?

STUDY HELL

1 Stars  2004/87m

“School’s out forever.”

Director: Mark McNabb / Writer: Jeff McArthur / Cast: Lindsay Dell, Brian Austin Jr., Steve McDougall, Shaylyn Doyle, Ryan Fisher, Michael Henry, Paul Pinel, Karen Dunn.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “The cool kids look at me as a geek, the geeks kinda see me as too mainstream, so I’m stuck in the middle.”


Everyone should love The Breakfast Club, it’s the essential brat-pack flick. Molly Ringwald’s in it for frack’s sake! I’m sure some who saw it back in the day wished the cast would bite it Jason-style. Well, their wishes have been answered and they only had to wait 20 years!

OK I’m lying. Sort of. Molly Ringwald did do a slasher film though. So did Judd Nelson. And Ally Sheedy had already been in Deadly Lessons a couple of years earlier. Instead of these has-beens starlets of the past, we’re given five ‘updated’ versions of them. The likenesses are uncanny as you can see from the trailer…

But wait a minute…this isn’t Shermer, Illinois… What’s with their accents? They’re saying ‘abowt’ and ‘ay?’ Are they- are they Canadian? Actually it’s about the only memorable thing here, I like the Canadian twang; it’s a nice combo of American and Australian soundages, ask my Vancouverianian friend August.

Anyway, with detention in full swing and the same assignment handed out by dorky looking teech Mr Keller, ’tis he who rapidly descends into madness and decides the wayward students must DIE! DIE! DIE! We want this too, as they’re very annoying and cannot act very well.

There’s a rubbish explanation courtesy of the janitor (who ain’t no John Kapelos!) to do with ‘Nam and murdered cheerleaders. The athlete, princess, geek and ‘criminal’ (yes, he’s the bespectacled one) all bite it, leaving the Sheedy-clone to face off with the killer. Some weird-ass twist is sellotaped on to the end, which, when added to the rubbish FX work, divided by the sub-drama class acting, multiplied to the power of shit equals one waste of the six or so hours it took me to stream this flick. And I was sick that day. And I missed  Murder She Wrote to watch it. Boo@Study Hell.

Singular blurb-of-interest-that-should-be-taken-as-a-heeding: many of the cast and crew also produced Dark Fields, which couldn’t possibly suck as hard as this…could it?

Disco Deathtrap

PROM NIGHT

4 Stars  1980/18/89m

“If you’re not back by midnight… You won’t be coming home.”

Director: Paul Lynch / Writer: Ron Oliver / Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton, Michael Tough, Antoinette Bower, George Touliatos, David Mucci, Marybeth Rubens, Joy Thompson, Sheldon Rybowski, Pita Oliver, Jeff Wincott.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “For a guy so fast on the dancefloor, you are the slowest!”


Life is a ballet where the dancer falls, or some such wisdom once sang the lovely Bucks Fizz. Indeed, if life is one big, merry dance made up of moshers, ballroom, jivers, Steps-lite routines and High School Musical glee, then why not swirl it all together in one big cocktail of super-fun-happiness-yeah!

Now, mixing the rumba that is Halloween with the delicate ballet of Carrie sounds pretty cool – but tossing in the grooves of Saturday Night Fever!? That’s Prom Night for ya! No, not the shitty remake. That was akin to mixing ice cream with shit. We’re talking about the original, one of the earliest and most successful low-rent attempts to take what John Carpenter did, go to Canada, and add a bit more stab n’ drip to it.

As was the case in all of the stalk n’ slashers of olde, things begin in the past. Not 1732 or anything, but six years before the main section of the film. At a creepy old school, four kids are playing a macabre version of hide and seek they call ‘Killer’ – totally a riff on the formula. Along comes Kim and her younger siblings, boy/girl twins Robin and Alex (in matching stripy sweaters just to labour the point), who are, in no uncertain terms, told to go away by Kim’s classmate, Nick.

Kim and Alex continue in different directions while little Robin decides to take a closer look at the workings of the game of ‘Killer’, which culminates in the nasty little brats ganging up and scaring her until she takes a tumble backwards out of a window…to her DEATH!!!

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs - Prom Night has everything

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs – Prom Night has everything

The kids quite coldly under react and make a pact never to tell and the death is blamed on a handy mental patient who is then burnt by fire and incarcerated. Six years later – to the day, natch – Kim and Alex, now model teenagers and offspring to straight-laced Principal of Hamilton High, Leslie Nielsen (!), are prepping for the school’s senior prom, where Kim will be crowned queen along with her boyfriend… sister part-killer Nick! Complex, ay?

Being that Kim is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, we know she’s the final girl from the outset and, as usual, JLC delivers a great performance in spite of her worst slasher hair-do (including her looney-bin wire mop from Halloween: Resurrection). Nick (the late Casey Stevens) is the only participant in Robin’s death who seems to harbour any remorse. Two of the others, Kelly and Jude, are Kim’s best friends! You’d think they’d be smart enough to give her wide berth considering they killed her lil sis! But no, this is a slasher film and thus character sensibility has no place here!

Jude is the not-as-pretty girl who couldn’t get a prom date until porky wannabe-playa dork Slick turns up and inexplicably wins her affections. Kelly is the jittery chick who can’t work out whether or not she should let her pushy boyfriend enter unchartered territory. Then there’s Wendy, former ringleader of the guilty group, bratty then, mega bitch now…and clingy ex-girlfriend of Nick’s. Wendy therefore hates Kim and recruits school bad-boy Lou to organise a prom prank that will see them sabotage the crowning ceremony and humiliate Kim and Nick forever! Ooh, the melodrama! It’s just like an early incarnation of Degrassi Junior High.

...plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

…plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

Meanwhile, Kelly, Jude and Wendy have all received crank calls from a whispery fiend who says he’ll see them at the prom. Despite their past crime and some major hinting from the caller, none of the girls seem to take much notice of the warning. Nick blissfully misses his call altogether. Elsewhere, the man convicted of Robin’s murder has conveniently escaped from his mental insitution and murdered a nurse in doing so. The rent-a-shrink supposes he could return to town to seek revenge! There’s also the slow, drooling school custodian who turns up to stare at pretty young girls intermittently (especially when mooned) – is he more than just a red herring. Is he, huh?

The pieces are on the board, now it’s time for action! Yes, the prom finally begins and brings with it some much needed killing. It’s almost an hour’s wait for the debut murder, a vicious throat-cutting with a shard of broken glass. However, this horror pales when compared to the disco-dance scene when Kim and Nick decide to ‘show Wendy how it’s done’, cheered on by their evidently high classmates, the overlong sequence is overflowing with horrible moves that make the sugary routines in High School Musical look like funeral marches. Jamie Lee spins, twirls, makes bizarre Semaphore-like signals with her arms, and does this bizarre above-the-head clapping motion…

More sanely, Jude loses her virginity to the ironically-named Slick while Wendy and Lou scheme to hijack proceedings. Alas, the killer intervenes on both counts, doing away with the young lovers first and then chases Wendy for ages around the deserted school. It’s a great scene, the best in the film, and has rarely been matched in subsequent efforts, flawed only by the fact that ultimately we don’t get to see the film’s nastiest character buy it on screen, having to settle instead for hearing the thwacks of the ski-masked killer’s axe going into her head.

The piece de resistance of the killer crashing the prom proper and mistakenly beheading Lou instead of Nick is the sweet topping on this cheesecake. It leads to a disco-floor showdown between the ‘mystery’ killer, Nick, and Kim, which is almost as awkward as the dance scene from 20 minutes earlier, and backed by the same over-energised disco songs (“prom night / no more feeling uptight / everything is alright…”) that sound like the worst of ABBA covered by Alvin & The Chipmunks… Kim manages to subdue the fiend and the requisite unmasking occurs with heartbreaking results for her.

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Prom Night is essentially a nicely done revenger but leaves a few loose ends – some primary cast members disappear from the film completely with no explanation. The premise was echoed in I Know What You Did Last Summer seventeen years later, despite being based on a book written in 1973. It gains more from its cheesy composites than it loses, with a good cast playing mostly nice characters, Wendy’s great chase scene, the paperthin cloak n’ dagger act and the broadcast ‘thoughts’ of some of those involved. A lot of people don’t like Prom Night because it’s slow and not very wet with grue, and I’d like to say they’re WRONG! But my inner-Buddha democratic self will not allow it. For Vegan Voorhees, it doesn’t get better than disco NRG, an axe-wielding killer and Jamie Lee fucking Curtis – what more could there be!?

The sequels were variable and largely unconnected aside from Hamilton High’s presence in all four; #3: The Last Kiss is the best of which. The 2008 remake recycles only the brand name and general theme but was so watered down it doesn’t merit being affiliated with the franchise at all. It’s horror for 12-year-old girls, and an antithesis of its own genre.

Blurbs-of-interest: Curtis has made six slasher flicks altogether plus the TV series Scream Queens; Anne-Marie Martin, who played Wendy under the name Eddie Benton, has a tiny role in Halloween II and later wrote Twister with hubby Michael Crichton. Antoinette Bower (Curtis’ mom) was in peculiar Frankie Avalon slasher Blood Song. Jeff Wincott is brother of Michael Wincott. Director Lynch also turned in Humongous the following year. Brock Simpson, who played Young Nick, appears in all four Prom Night movies in different roles (dying in 2 and 4).

October Face-Off: CHILDREN *ARE* EVIL!

“You were a child once!” quips anybody I dare express my anti-social feelings towards their Little Darlings. OK, so I don’t loathe kids, but they seem to be at the root of most annoyances in life: making horrible shriekly noises at the movies/on the bus/at the library; existing to warrant prams the size of Humvees that hog the entire pavement (soon to come with razor-edged wheels to really show those nasty adults!); and influencing their parents to shoot visual daggers your way should you dare to express facial disatisfaction at such a minion blocking your mobile trajectory or screaming so loud your ears threaten to short out…

Anyway, kids become teenagers and we like teenagers because they serve to get hacked to frack in all manner of slasher flicks, but some such films have dared explore the notion that prepubescents are just as capable of homicidal evils as much as any backwoods dwelling sack-headed psycho…

Regarde:

MILO (1997)

Three women go home to the town where another galpal of theirs was murdered years before for the wedding of a fourth friend – however she’s just perished in a car accident. The heroine, Claire, believes she has seen Milo, the rainmacked brat who was responsible for their friend’s death as kids. She tries to warn her pals but, of course, nobody believes her and they all end up dead. The explanation has something to do with abortions, Vincent Schiavelli, and kids who can’t grow. Can’t remember it now, but it sucked… And from the creator of Anaconda! Sold.

Evilness of Child: 66%


DEAD KIDS (1981)

Somehow this film is set in Illinois despite being shot in New Zealand… Maybe one of the experiments going on at the local college has something to do with teleportation. Whatever they’re up to, they’re making the neighbourhood kids into psychopathic killers who don’t think twice about slicing up those who get in their way. A kind of pre-cursor to Children of the Corn (see below) but crossed with some sci-fi gobbledeegook. There’s a great scene where the local busy-body babysitter drops in to make a snack for an 11-year-old, only to find her charge being carved up in the bathtub by a zombified teenage girl! Bonus points for maliciously offing a kid – gotta love that.

Evilness of Children: 18% (they didn’t know what they were doing – same excuse the tabloids use.)


BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

Three 10-year-olds who share the same birthday are evil. In my experience, most kids become quite evil around their own birthdays. “I want! I want! I want!” Here, instead of tantrums over playing statues or the guaranteed horrendous bow-tie or dress* they’re forced to don for the party, Debbie, Steven and Curtis lack certain emotions that translates into remorseless children of DEATH!

They shoot their teacher, parking couples, interfering older sisters and try to run down whiny astrologically-informed heroine Lori Lethin and her little brother. The climax is pretty bizarre too, with action evidently tamed so the brat actors can’t be harmed (grr). It’s trash, to be sure, looks like Graduation Day on the surface of it, and the kids annoyingly don’t get what they deserve…

Evilness of Children: 85%

*gender depending, though not always. My 8th birthday is one to be remembered.


CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

Coming from Stephen King’s short story but going in a vastly different direction, Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton are a bickering couple on their way to Seattle when they run over a country kid on a back road in Nebraska. Contrary to the advice of your assembly line aged gas station owner, they look for help in the small town of Gatlin, which ‘has religion’. It’s got religion alright; three years earlier, all the adults were slain by their own offspring under the leadership of creepy Isaac, who takes advice from He Who Walks Behind the Rows, later revealed to be piss-poor flamey animation. One of the better killer-kid opuses with some creepy small town ambience but the wheels gradually work progressively loose until they fall off the wagon completely come the end. Nevertheless, it obviously did something right, spawning an unbelievable six follow-ups, some okay (2, 5 & 7), the rest leaving an aftertaste worse than a KFC cobette.

Evilness of Children: 59%


Victor: Bloody Birthday. Debbie, Steven and the super-eeeeevil Curtis win this one with their brand of bratty adulticide.

Don't fall for that sweeter-than-sweet bullshit - they want you DEAD!

Don’t fall for that sweeter-than-sweet bullshit – they want you DEAD!

What Have We Learned From This Horror?

I’d recommend avoiding kids in yellow rainmacks, never babysitting kids with steely glares, or becoming a teacher…or a parent. And don’t go to Nebraska.

Scream Queens

HELLBENT

3.5 Stars  2004/15/81m

“When the night belongs to the devil, the party goes to hell.”

Director/Writer: Paul Etheredge-Ouzts / Cast: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips, Samuel Phillips, Hank Harris.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Wouldnt you wanna kill us? C’mon, we’re fucking fabulous!”


Gay men seem to really like slasher flicks. Weird huh? It’s true! Seriously. While we’re known for being ‘vanguards of all that’s camp’, most folk would equate slice n’ dice teen horror with its chiefly adolescent heterosexual male target audience, hence all the tits n’ stuff.

But think about it for a mo (har-de-har-har) and you might see why. Final Girls are intrinsic to the genre, strong girls who ‘don’t belong’ in the norms of society. Often, she’s the part-outsider, a factor which aids her in seeing and subduing the maniac who’s been laying her dim-witted friends to waste while they screw each other in the woods or the abandoned cabin.

P’haps we benders identify with her. Or maybe the killer? He’s an outsider too and he likes to rid the world of stereotypical teens who, we can arguably assume, are so self-absorbed that they’re everything-phobic. Jocks, bitchy cheerleaders, not historical Friends of Friends of Dorothy in the slasher realm.

Endless rantable theories aside, Hellbent is one of two existing queer slasher flicks around. The other one is lez-fest Make a Wish, in which girl-lovin’ girls go camping, get laid, get knocked off. Hellbent is a slicker affair, pulling focus on a quartet of Californian goodtime boys, out to party at a Halloween carnival, only to be stalked by a buffed up maniac, dressed as the devil and equipped with a sickle that most would think was a harmless costume shop toy…

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Things begin with the requisite double murder of shagging couple…in car…parked by the woods…after dark. But, of course, here it’s two handsome guys who’re caught doing naughty things.

We meet our Final Boy, John Barrowman-alike Eddie, an all-round nice guy working for the cops, possibly hoping to be one. He’s held back for a reason that later becomes cringingly evident in a scenario never before seen in a slasher pic! He and his three buddies; pill-popping sex addict Chaz (cowboy-gay), his younger brother Joey, the shy newcomer to things (S&M gay), and Drag Queen for-the-night party dude Tobey (uh…Drag Queen gay). They fill archetypal victim and gay roles, neither as responsible nor watchful as Eddie.

Once the carnival gets swingin’, the killer turns up, having previously spied the quartet at the site of his previous slaying when they stop for a looky-loo. Meanwhile, Eddie encounters James Dean-wannabe biker boy Jake, tempting and sexy, just what Eddie needs. Now, the killer is no puritanical Reverend or member of the Phelps church, he’s a gym-pumped Adonis in a horned Devil mask who appears in the shadows, in the dimness of the forest or the strobe lights across the dance floor. Sticking to the genre rules like flypaper, Eddie is attacked by the killer but is too late to save his friends, who are either off their heads on pills or simply off their heads. Period.

The executions are dripping with claret, albeit computer generated grue, they’re still quite brutal. But then if you’re going to collect gay-heads then it’s not going to be something Kim & Aggie would approve of when it comes to mess-management. Unless you’re Dexter.

Things are capped off when the killer visits Eddie’s home to crash his intended kinky consummation with Jake – featuring handcuffs! Severed heads fall out of cupboards, sickle blades pierce flimsy apartment doors. There’s a whole lot of Halloween to it.

As the gay loveletter to John Carpenter’s flick, Hellbent is effective and fun but lacking in queer-soul that gives homo dramas like The Broken Hearts Club depth, like helmer/scribe Etheredge-Ouzts was too busy trying to make the film blend in with its straight bretheren to bother making sure it was wearing its Pride flag on its sleeveless muscle shirt. It’s a thin line so I may as well perch on the fence over the issue and be thankful there were no morality-play allusions. I’m shutting the hell(bent) up now.

Blurbs-of-interest: Andrew Levitas (Chaz) played Provoloney in Psycho Beach Party. Executive producer Joseph Wolf (who died in 2005) was also involved in the productions of Halloween II, Hell Night, Fade to Black and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

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