Category Archives: Face off

May Meet: The films I couldn’t finish

Those who know me well will vouch for my high tolerance of crap. Crap music, crap TV and crap films. But every now and then there’s that straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Here are five films I couldn’t deal with. I may have fast-forwarded to the end but the whole experience was out of the window for one reason or another…

fiveacrosseyesFIVE ACROSS THE EYES (2006)

It looks like a slasher film. It sounds like a slasher film. Slasherpool gave it five stars… I can only hope that AnthroFred was on crack that day because this is a sure fire candidate for biggest waste of time EVER!

A quintet of high school girls go to a sports event at a school…. theirs, someone else’s, I really didn’t care. On the way back, she who is driving their mini-van knocks into anotherĀ  vehicle at a bar and they unwisely flee the scene.

By this point, the camcorderiness of it all was becoming too much for me to take and thumb circled the fast-forward button like a vulture eyeing a carcass.

The driver of the other car chases and catches them and turns out to be a thirtysomething woman who’s evidently got the decorators in as she holds them at gunpoint, makes them strip and let’s them leave, only to chase them again, probably to kill them, I don’t know, it was well into x4 territory now.

A girl craps in her own hand and tosses it at the trailing car, nobody gets murdered and eventually the five girls gang up and kill the psycho bitch. What are The Eyes, you ask? It’s the name of the back country where this all takes place. Yay, relevance. Fucking dreadful.

edenlakeEDEN LAKE (2008)

Here’s an oddity, a film which was quite obviously good enough but I made one of my rare sensible decisions to stop watching.

A city couple head off camping for the weekend and cross paths with some horrible teenage scrotes who begin a campaign of terror against the outlanders after they accidentally kill their dog.

I reached the point where it looked like I was going to get very angry with it – before the dog-o-cide – as I do about the subject of the don’t-give-a-fuck teenagers in society and opted to have a quick peek at the end, which only served to prove that it had in fact been a good idea to discontinue.

Yeah, so it’s “real” horror or whatever, but people call Radiohead “real” music and I don’t listen to that either. I want a Belinda Carlisle level of horror: big hair, strong predictable melody and commercial appeal, not downbeat state-of-society stuff. Film is supposed to help me escape all that BS, not take me on a trip back to it for entertainment’s sake.

iamtheripperI AM THE RIPPER (2004)

I only have hazy memories of what can only beĀ a described as a French student project filmed on a Nokia.

At a Paris party, a skull masked killer turns up and kills a load of people. Okay, fine – this occupies about 15 minutes worth. Then they all come back to life (I think) and it becomes some bizarro Matrix-horror film with super powers or something? I don’t even remember.

But it was shit in its purest, distilled form.

nyripTHE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)

Just how this film has a 6.1 rating on IMDb is beyond my understanding. It’s SHIT!!!

The New York Ripper has garnered a reputation for hefty misogyny, which was fairly common in early 80s horror. Yes, it’s there but I expected that.

What I didn’t expect was how boring it would be. Fulci made the film look relatively professional, the murders are drippy and gross and very brutal but so little else happens. The gap between slayings grew as my patience shrank until I could take it no more and scurried to the end to see who the killer turned out to be and what the deal with the mad quacking was.

I actually had to watch the end twice to try and get it straight – some girl in a hospital bed with no arms or something. Zzzzz.

seasonSEASON OF THE HUNTED (2003)

Muse Watson is in this. The Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer wouldn’t lower himself to a camcorder tripe-fest would he? He was in Prison Break, damn it.

It turns out that yes, he would. He needs money too, y’know.

In this tale of some hunters becoming the hunted, I made it about twenty odd minutes in before x4-ville took over and I realized that this over-long film was not going to gauge my interest. Ever.

I can’t tell you what happened later in it but it wasn’t the slasher film the box art made it out to be.

There, see? Vegan Voorhees can’t promise to give you a fair rundown of everything because sometimes it’s just too damn shite to make it through. It becomes the unscratchable itch. Turn it off! Turn it the hell off now!

To this end there can be no real winner or loser this month; four of these films are irredeemably crap and the other is likely to induce a killing spree of my own. It being the odd one out, let’s pretend Eden Lake is the only good one.

April Argument: Final Literation

A few years ago I naively sent off a book treatment to a few small publishing houses and received the usual wad of “bugger off” letters, however one person took interest in an idea I had and asked me to read a few of their spin-off Final Destination novels. This I did, revised my idea, and eagerly awaited the outcome of a ‘pitch meeting’. Silence. More silence. Apologies. We’ve lost the contract, no more books. Yeah, ’twas a brush-off. But, y’know, live and learn…and to be honest, the four books I read weren’t all that, as you may see…

fd1DEAD RECKONING

By Natasha Rhodes

The singer of a rock band has a premonition that the club she and her group are playing in will collapse on top of the crowed, squashing the lot of them. She flips out and several individuals scarper in time to see it come true.

Understandably pissed off, Death comes-a-callin’ on each survivor’s door as everyday items conspire their downfall. One is crushed by an elevator, another’s motorcycle explodes, there’s a fatal spider bite, someone is sliced by a falling sign blah, blah, blah.

Here, lead character Jess consults a psychic for advice, which is new, and has a chapter-long nightmare about death being a bridge. It drags.

Well enough written to pass a few lunch breaks and there’s no coyness about violence, sex or swearing but looking at a series that trades on visual spectacle and shock, the book form doesn’t quite work…

fd2DESTINATION ZERO

By David McIntee

A woman has a vision of a terrorist bomb on the subway and causes a commotion, which prevents a few other people going through the turnstiles, thus saving them for now, thus lining them up for gruesome deaths-a-plenty later on.

In this book, which was the best of the four by far, the heroine (Patty, I think) and her boyfriend visit the same psychic as the first novel and investigate their plight, uncovering an ancestor of Patty’s who, in 1888, had a premonition of her own that she thwarted, condemning the survivors to grim demises and something about Jack the Ripper.

There’s also some cops (I think) with some insider knowledge, who detail older cases of bizarre deaths, how planes that crash are always under-booked and stuff. A nice, interesting element to add.

In the present, people are chopped in two by falling glass, drowned in flash floods, decapitated by hubcaps and – get this – impaled by flying CDs! However, this was easily the best of the bunch.

fd3END OF THE LINE

By Rebecca Levene

In New York City, a group of teens from various countries gather for some unclear student exchange hoohah – two American siblings are included with stereotypes of other nationalities: posh Brit, permanently-stoned Dutch chick, ‘crazy’ Japanese girl, quiet, serious German boy.

One of the Americans has a premonition – again? yawn – that there’ll be a subway crash which will kill them all, so they, their aged guide and an old man escape in time. There’s also a medical intern who knows when people are going to die after a near-death experience of her own and she’s being stalked by the Mafia!

The group begin to DIE! DIE! DIE! Interestingly, one of the deaths was Xeroxed for The Final Destination (clue: the hospital and the over-filled bath). One guy gets flipped through the air and impaled on the antlers of a fucking live stag!! Two more are impaled on an umbrella display and another is done in when a flying chainsaw wraps itself around a lamppost, flying in ever-decreasing circles, sawing the victim in pieces upon each revolution. Yes, it was still running while it went round and around…

There was an okay twist thrown in but the death set-ups were so ridiculous I assumed Rebecca Levene was possibly a pseudonym for a group of 12-year-old boys ramped up on sherbert and Dr Pepper.

fd4DEAD MAN’S HAND

By Steven A. Roman

If the demises in End of the Line weren’t bad enough, Dead Man’s Hand takes a whopping half the book before we even reach the “opening” disaster. Ally is in Vegas with her on/off boyfriend, who she has married on a drunken whim and now they’re out of cash.

After we meet all the other characters, learn about their lives and Ally and new hubby bitch and moan at one another, we wait for the accident. And wait. And wait. Eventually, it comes, a neat little 70’s disaster movie type gag with an external scenic elevator shearing off the side of a hotel, killing all who tumble out and several on the pavement.

One hysterical outburst later, Ally, hubby and about three or four others are temporarily saved and later done in by electricity, broken signs and AIDS. Yes, AIDS is the final “joke” that Roman springs on us in what’s clearly something he wrote over a weekend and easily the worst of the lot.

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So, does it work? Well, yes and no. The whole premise of the Final Destination series is gold, with no end to the possibilities of working stories for it and books (should) always allow for better character exploration and thoughtful reflection. And yet, the authors try so hard to make their leads ‘edgy’ that they largely become unlikeable walking cliches: Jess in Dead Reckoning is a klepto-Emo; Ally just bitches her way through Dead Man’s Hand and the bro-sis duo in End of the Line are as cheery as a raincloud.

Unfortunately, both this series and the films still shy away from investigating what unseen force bestows these premonitions upon the leads, who aren’t already psychic: Is it the antithesis of Death? Is it Life? Is Life trying to help them survive? Then there’s the fact that horror movies are usually a visual experience and that can’t be transferred to the page effectively – horror books are usually far more psychological affairs. You can’t insert stingers and ejector-seat scares on paper.

There are two or three later entries (plus novelizations of the films) but after Dead Man’s Hand I had to quit. I wouldn’t wholly recommend these books; they’re written to a strict formula and too derivative of the filmic versions, which, as we know, became progressively lame. Shamage.

March Match: Half-Star City

There are only seven slasher flicks I’d give five out of five stars to and conversely only nine that are so bereft of merit that I only afforded them a dismal half-a-star, some of which necessitate some more extensive explanations (Ax ‘Em, for instance) but for March’s face-off, here are four such horrors (in the other sense) that there’s really little to say about besides whatever the opposite to superlatives is…

bagmanTHE BAGMAN

2002/15/81m

“Your past will ALWAYS come back to haunt you.”

Director: Rae Fitzgerald / Writer: Beverly Beaton / Cast: Stephanie Beaton, Paul Zanone, Wil Matthew, Katrina McCullough, Alonzo F. Jones, Mikul Robins, Lorelei Shannon.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “You can’t intimidate me by yelling!”

A group of friends are tormented by a sack-headed loon who was ‘drowned’ by one of them when they were kids. Dreadful shot-on-video production quality and largely inaudible dialogue – despite most of it being shouted by the cast of sub-amateurs. Horror regular Beaton is the only one who stands a chance but the ridiculous suicide ending does nothing for her career options. Harrowingly atrocious.

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carnageroadCARNAGE ROAD

2000/15/70m

“The legend of Quiltface!”

Director: Massimiliano Cerchi / Writers: Massimiliano Cerchi & John Polinia / Cast: Dean Paul, Molinee Dawn, Sean Wing, Melissa Brown, Mike Paulie, Mack Hail.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “My mom says I’m toothily challenged. She says when I get my braces I could be a model.”

If Carnage Road were a physical experience, it would surely be a wisdom tooth extraction with simultaneous rectal surgery. With no anaesthetic. And blind surgeons. For this is truly painful viewing at its most antagonistically awful.

What scraps of story there are concern a quartet of photography students who need some extra credit, which shouldn’t be a surprise as, between them, they have only one camera, which looks like it was issued in the 50s. They drive out to the desert but end up just taking commemorative shots of one another stood in front of bits of junk and sand. A+

The driver of their minivan warns them of a local maniac known as Quiltface – Eiderdownhead was already taken – and they all laugh at him, but not before a phenomenal shot where said killer is stood approximately ten feet away from the group in broad daylight with nothing in between them and they still fail to notice… When they finally do realise he’s stalking them, they jog away at snail’s pace until one girl falls over and sits there until he can catch up and struggle with her! Another one dies from an inch-deep cut to the hip.

The only trace of originality in Carnage Road is that elects a final boy, one who miraculously survived a machete blow to the head earlier in a film where a small cut to your hip can be fatal. He spends the final twenty minutes squealing in a high-pitched voice before the predictable closing. Worse than The Bagman? Mmm…could be!

Blurb-of-shame: Mack Hail directed and starred in Mr Ice Cream Man.

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catcherTHE CATCHER

1998/18/77m

“Three strikes you’re dead!”

Directors / Writers: Yvette Hoffman & Guy Crawford / Cast: David Heavener, Monique Parent, Joe Estevez, Sean Dillingham, Lesslie Garrett, Paul Moncrief, James Patterson, Harley Harkins, Jeff Sorenson, Mike Kepple.

Body Count: 9

A baseball slasher flick sounds interesting, right? Fool! Think again. A young boy beats his nasty dad to death with a baseball bat and, X years later after the last game of the season, a catcher-masked psycho starts to off the members of the losing team.

The weirdest element of this cheapo film is that it sets itself up to be a mystery and then bows out with ‘and the legends were TRUE, Johnny MacIntosh did come back for revenge!’ Estevez is the dead-dad who appears only to him to spur on his killing.

A godawful cast and some of the worst editing going contribute additional nails to the coffin of this film, which also features a bizarre butt-fuck metaphor with a guy taped to a table while the killer literally shoves a bat up his arse! The characters are so dumb they surrender their weapons to try and reason with the zombie-like killer and considering their profession, can anyone run slower than these folks and why is their blood black!?

Blurb-of-shame: Joe Estevez was also in Scar and Axe Giant.

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funnymanFUNNY MAN

1994/18/89m

“A cut above the rest.”

Director / Writer: Simon Sprackling / Cast: Tim James, Benny Young, Christopher Lee, Matthew Devitt, Pauline Black, Ingrid Lacey, Rhona Cameron, Chris Walker, George Morton.

Body Count: 8

Christopher Lee – what the fuck is he doing here? – loses his eerie mansion to a selfish record company producer in a poker game. He moves his family in and they manage to summon up a jester-demon who toys with and tears them apart before a group of freaky hitchhikers stop by.

Less a slasher film than a pastiche of gory vignettes centring on the doomed weirdos – amongst whom there is a Jamaican ‘Psychic Commando’ and a Velma-from-Scooby Doo a-like – and the wisecracking jester with his variety of regional English accents and to-camera asides, which kill off any suspense and much is stolen from the more comedic Elm Street entries but without an ounce of the subtlety, just misguided attempts at making the text so unbelievably surreal its funny, all of which fail miserably, rendering it one of the worst horror films in existence.

Blurbs-of-shame: Lee was also in Mask of Murder and Sleepy Hollow.

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Worst of the lot? Oh God, it’s so hard to choose, they’re all so awful but I think Funny Man barely fit together a coherent plot so it can be burnt at the stake this time. At least the other films were considerate enough to be really quite short.

February Fracas: Hearts Will Bleed

One day I’m going to make a slasher movie calendar, which suggests films to watch on any given day. Naturally, there’ll be times in the year when killers aren’t up to much. August is looking good. But for the time being, here we are on February 13th, our hands forced by society to pick out over-priced pieces of folded card with a stupid message of “love” on the front of it.

Psshh! What can a card tell my beau that I can’t? You remind me of puppies and candy?

Anyway, for those of you who are crow-barred into feeling depressed at this time of year – whether or not you’re happily single, how else are your attached friends going to make you feel miserable and unloved – here are some personal ads to ease the pain. Choose carefully…

mbvName: Axel

Age: 29

Occupation: psychotic miner

Message: traditional sorta guy WLTM budding Canadian twentysomethings for heart-removal surgery with pick-axe in non-clinical surroundings. Leather/S&M interest helpful. Quirky SOH essential! Please bring own bodily organs and replacement arm.

Ideal Date: romantic stroll around the idyllic town of Valentine Bluffs, perhaps meander down into the old mines and see what action’s going on down deep.

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xrayName: Harry

Age: 29

Occupation: phony doctor

Message: Hunky Israeli with a far out SOH WLTM unconvincingly naive childhood sweetheart for revenge scheme involving equally unconvincing urgent surgery requirements – all because of a screwed up Valentine’s card.

Ideal Date: we find the most under-populated hospital in Israel the “Continental United States” and see what fun can be had running around finding decapitated heads in candy boxes!

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valentine-box-cover1Name: Jeremy Melton

Age: 9

Occupation: reformed school nerd

Message: I used to be a 70 pound weakling at Junior High, now I’m a six-foot plus uber-hunk of angelic proportions; sensitive yet masculine; slight drinking and nosebleed problem I’m working on.

Ideal Date: my heart really only belongs to Buffy Kate, but until we can be together I’ll send a nice card, turn up unexpectedly, sometimes with roses, sometimes with a powerdrill or a scalpel. Either way, we’ll have a good time!

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mybloodyvalentine3dName: Tom Hanniger

Age: 1

Occupation: I’ve been “away”.

Message: VGL ex-miner with guilt-laden past seeks to hook-up with high school sweetheart again. Failing that, I’m happy to kill everyone around her until alternate choices are null and void.

Ideal Date: your new husband is dead; your childminder is dead; hell, you’re child might as well join that club. Then it’s just you and me…you and me…you and me and Harry Warden.

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VeVo’s advice: stay single and be happy with it.

January Joust: Crap Killers

Despite film boxes stating otherwise, not every psycho killer can be Jason or Michael. In every trade there are crappy workers – fast food joints, education, social work… We hope that these people realise they’re just not cut out to live their dreams, y’know, like when Simon Cowell stamps all over someones ambition on The X Factor / American Idol*. It’s the same in the slasher realm. No matter how they might try, some killers are doomed to fail…

Big ol’ spoilers loiter hereabouts!

thefinalterrorTHE FINAL TERROR 1981

Killer: Eggar’s Mother

Why so crap? In spite of stalking about a dozen people round the forest for a couple of days, this bush-guised, hook-knife-handed mama only manages to off a measly five of them. Now, five isn’t that bad by comparison, but her methods are pretty crud (tin can lids on tree branches!?) and success rate worse: she can’t even slash Daryl Hannah’s throat effectively. And then she dies by walking into one of her own traps. Duh.

Cowell-ism: “At this stage in the competition, this just isn’t good enough. Do you want to be the next Leon Jackson???”

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dangerous gameDANGEROUS GAME 1989

Killer: Officer Murphy

Why so crap? Oirish-cop-in-Australia Murphy manages to trap five teenagers in a department store for the best part of their Friday night out, even kidnaps two of them and kills a third. But that’s it. After one murder he flakes and starts blurting that he “didn’t mean it” la la la. Save it for the judge, pal! The spoiled rich teens prove more than a match for him and merrily escape while he staggers off all beaten and bruised.

Cowell-ism: “I honestly expected more from the Irish. I don’t see you as any competition for Westlife.”

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shriek-if-you-knowSHRIEK IF YOU KNOW WHAT I DID LAST FRIDAY THE 13TH 2000

Killer: Doughy

Why so crap? Aided with gusto by the fact that the film is pretty crap on its own, the killer here, “Doughy” (…groan), fares even worse than Murphy by failing to kill anybody. He’s a wannabe. He shows up, mask, weapon, motive all ready to go and then the intended corpse goes and dies by some freak accident, i.e. fatal bee stings, a handy coronary, or more commonly by tripping over things.

Cowell-ism: “I just didn’t get it. Was it supposed to be funny?”

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freakFREAK 1997

Killer: Keller. Killer-Keller-Killer-Keller-Bo-Fella-Banana-Fo-Fannah-Fella-Keller.

Why so crap? Nine years after starting out the same way as most of these guys do, by offing his nasty mom, “catatonic” Keller-Keller-Bo-Fella escapes whilst being transported to a new hospital and cross paths with a couple of recently orphaned sisters who’re driving to their new home. He kills a grand total of two people before kidnapping the younger sister so that big sis and transport-driver-guy have to come to the rescue. Freak‘s budget is about $3.75 so they probably couldn’t afford extra victims, but the film isn’t so bad otherwise.

Cowell-ism: “Look, I can see you’re trying but this just isn’t good enough, we’re looking for a worldwide star here, the bandage look isn’t working for you.”

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berserkerBERSERKER 1987

Killer: Pappy Nyquist

Why so crap? Oh just piss off 1987. What did you do for anyone? Nothing. And take your shit misogynistic horror films with you! Yeah, you too George ‘Buck’ Flower as some freakin’ Viking-bear-thing that shreds campers to death but CAN’T KILL ANY OF THE ANNOYING CAST MEMBERS, JUST THE YOUNG, NUBILE ONES AND SOME OLD PEOPLE!!!

Cowell-ism: “1987? Leona was two by then and already better than you.”

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thewisherTHE WISHER 2002

Killer: Shane

Why so crap? Another half-assed attempt on behalf of the sappy Emo killer to suck up to horror-fixated heroine Mary by granting her wishes. Her dad dies, her mouthy friend gets her tongue cut out and then she wishes the killer slice himself up – which he does. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Cowell-ism: “My only wish is that you had more talent and I was convincingly heterosexual.”

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christmas_evilYOU BETTER WATCH OUT (Christmas Evil) 1980

Killer: Harry Stadling

Why so crap? If… this… film… were… any… slower… it… would… bore… a… can… of… Red Bull… to… death… After the slowest descent into madness ever recorded on film, toy-worker Harry’s obsession with Christmas (spying on the neighbourhood kids to make sure they’re being good) spills over when he kills a work colleague who disses the season and three people outside a church who laugh at his Santa costume. Then he flies away in a van.

Cowell-ism: “All I want for Christmas is for you to go away so only I can ruin it for everyone by forcing one of my boringly inoffensive contest winners to take a cover version of a song everybody once loved to Number One after I adorn it with a children’s choir and some strings and make everyone who ever gave a shit about the sanctity of musical individuality want to kill themselves.”

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WINNER LOSER: The crappest killer ‘award’ goes to Eggar’s Ma. Such opportunity, such a big cast…wasted!

Closing Cowell-ism: “Well, I’m not surprised. Leona could do this in her sleep.”

*delete appropriately to whichever one clogs up your viewing schedule.

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