Category Archives: Face off

July Face-off: ‘Comedy’ porno slasher vs. ‘comedy’ porno slasher

Long ago, before I’d polluted my delicate mindset with the body count details of 496 slasher films, I was watching Caroline in the City, remember that? There was a scene I’ve always remembered where Caroline’s maneater gal-pal went to the video store where she encountered Matthew Perry in his Chandler persona. He made a big deal out of the store not having The Piano and said to her, as some kinda lame line, that he didn’t like all the guy movies with sex and violence and then queried maneater girl as to what she was renting. ‘Sorority House Massacre II,’ he reads and the scene ends in some other way I’ve now forgotten.

I always thought they’d made up that movie title. But no, when I got my first film almanac, there it was in print, together with its entirely unrelated predecessor. That book was a 1997 guide to video (them were the days) and twelve years have elapsed between the realisation that the film is, in fact, real and me seeing it.

CONTESTANT ONE

shm2

1 Stars  1990/77m

“It’s cleavage vs. cleavers and the result is Delta Delta Deadly!”

A.k.a. Night Frenzy; Nighty Nightmare

Director: Jim Wynorski / Writers: James B. Rogers & Bob Sheridan / Cast: Robyn Harris, Melissa Moore, Stacia Zhivago, Michelle Verran, Dana Bentley, Jurgen Baum, Karen Chorak, Bridget Carney, Peter Spellos.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Oh my God, our clothes! They’re still upstairs!”


Five “teenage” girls purchase ‘the old Hockstatter place’ for their new sorority house and find out that the patriarch of the family murdered his wife and daughters there, which we are shown through flashbacks, which are actually murder sequences from The Slumber Party Massacre! The girls disrobe, have showers, we see all of them naked and then, one ill-advised seance later, one of them is possessed by the spirit of Clive Hockstatter and begins hooking the others to death. The girls, in their panic, believe the killer to be freaky neighbour Orville Ketchum, who intercedes, takes a lot of damage from knives, bullets and what have you but still survives.

CONTESTANT TWO

hardtodie21 Stars  1990/77m

A.k.a. Tower of Terror

Director: Jim Wynorski / Writers: Mark McGee & James B. Rogers / Cast: Robyn Harris, Lindsay Taylor, Debra Dare, Melissa Moore, Bridget Carney, Peter Spellos, Forrest J. Ackerman, Don Key.

Body Count: 7

Dire-logue: “I just wanna get my clothes on and get the hell out of here!”


Five young agency employees are sent to take inventory of Acme Lingerie’s stock in an office tower. When a parcel containing a strange box is mistakenly delivered to them, it unleashes the Hockstatter spirit, which takes control of one of them and the inevitable occurs. The girls find an arsenal of firearms in the tower and begin shooting the place up. In their panic, they believe the killer to be freaky janitor Orville Ketchum, who takes a lot of damage from crossfire but still survives.

OK, so how on earth do you decide which is the better film out of two films that are pretty much photocopies of one another, but, you know, when someone copies the copy over again it looks worse and worse… Arguably, there’s not much wrong with the production values in either. As they hail from the Roger Corman library, both take footage from The Slumber Party Massacre for their own foul use and have bad intercut footage of grainy lightning.

Quite who these films are aimed at is a mystery: in both, virtually all female characters appear – at the very least – topless, with gratuitous shower scenes and odd squidgy-rubber sound effects as they soap themselves. Nudity and slasher flicks are like conjoined twins and that’s fine so long as the filmmakers remember they’re supposed to be producing a horror film and don’t keep forcing the nude scenes, they should appear incidental like in the good ol’ days. 77 minutes of tits, rubbish gore effects and fucking Orville Ketchum (…it just isn’t funny) makes for a tedious experience in both cases. I think Sorority might have been slightly more tolerable and it was nice to see northern lass Harris as the final girl (if one could call her character such) in both films, still, both were crap I never want to have to sit through again.

WINNER: NEITHER!

May Face-off: Almost but not-quite slasher flicks

This month, let’s take a look at those films that either pretend to be slasher films and then turn out not to be and those that tip-toe through the gardens of slasherdom and beat a hasty retreat…

boo

BOO 2005

Setting up like another photocopy of Halloween, a group of teens go to party in an abandoned and ‘haunted’ hospital on All Hallows’ Eve where they are tormented by creepy hallucinations and turned into zombies with sloppy insides. It’s a little bit Session 9, complete with backstory revealed in segments by the inexplicably psychic heroine – something do with with a child-molesting patient and the nurse (Dee Wallace) who sacrificed herself to stop him escaping. There’s some good atmos in the first third but come the end, everything has been over-explained the way American supernatural horror films tend to do. Only a handful of eerie images – look out for that balloon clown – make a good film not.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: the one-by-one schtick is intact but the zombies and ghosts swallow too much of the plot.

deathproofDEATH PROOF 2007

During the early hype for Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino stated that his half of the feature would be “a slasher film at 200 m.p.h.” with nutjob stuntman Kurt Russell offing pretty young women. The final product has a few shots that bring back memories of Halloween and its ilk, but this turns out to be anything but a stalk n’ slasher. While it’s a fun romp once – albeit bogged down with way too much of QT’s ‘trademark’ dialogue – none of the slashers I’ve ever seen were edited this badly, had this sort of narrative or as much talking. It’s sky-high budget is visible through the cracks, making it look only pretentious, with annoying characters with oversized egos, all of whom talk like frat boys. The singular car accident is the high point and the stunts and cast are good but if anything, Death Proof shows that perhaps the director everyone has a boner for is a one-trick pony unable to create anything original, only add tiresome, irrelevant dialogue.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: opposite case to Boo here, maniac killer on site but no one-by-one opus and way too much self-indulgence.

hillshaveeyes2THE HILLS HAVE EYES II 2007

The original 1977 Hills Have Eyes wasn’t a slasher flick either, more a survivalist horror film, as was it’s pretty faithful but grisly-as-hell 2006 remake, this sequel to that remake is not a remake of the cheesefest 1983 Hills Have Eyes Part II, which is a slasher flick… Confused? You will be.

Wes Craven penned this with his son and, considering how much flack the ’83 film took, he’s managed to create something far worse here… An Aliens vibe pervades, with a group of National Guard trainees (all male, bar two) investigating some missing scientists in the desert. Dipping its toes in the torture-porn sub-genre with a brutal rape scene needlessly included (as in the ’06 film) and ample gore. Dialogue consists only of ‘fuck this’, ‘fuck that’, ‘fuck you’ and we don’t give a fuck about any of them anyway… The dog-flashback alone in Craven’s version outdoes this entire film.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: it’s a siege-fest with no real pattern emerging for the sequence of deaths, though interestingly both the female characters survive…

hostelHOSTEL 2005

The granddaddy of the torture-porn (or gorno) movement, it’s not the done thing to say you like it, but Hostel is a genuinely good film, sometimes included in lists of slasher flicks. Tarantino protege Eli Roth directed the less interesting Cabin Fever and waxes lyrical about putting T&A back into horror blah blah blah…

Interestingly, the main victims here are a trio of boys who fall foul of a Slovakian operation that allows rich psychopaths to torture and kill captured youngsters for their own sadistic pleasure. Lead character Paxton is an unpleasant fellow to say the least and would be killed with prejudice in any other film. This turn-around on the standard gender politics of horror attempts to blot out any accusations of misogyny, although it’s littered with naked girls and it’s even grislier sequel traded out boys for girls and so took this as permission to show sexualised violence and get away with it.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: there’s no single killer and more emphasis on Paxton’s escape and revenge.

tamara TAMARA 2005

Geeky wiccan Tamara is the victim of a cruel prank by a group of popular kids that ends in her death – or does it? Back at school, after burying her, the guilty party are surprised to find that Tamara’s back as a sexy siren with psychic powers at her disposal – and she’ll do anything for the love of her sympathetic English teacher.

After this I Know What You Did Last Summer-lite beginning, we expect the new foxy Tamara to start offing the other teens. However, Tamara doesn’t kill all of those who ‘killed’ her, she makes them insane, suicidal or homicidal puppets who do her bidding for her and finally corners the object of her desire and nice girl Chloe, who manage to defeat her.

Why it’s not a slasher flick really: hardly anybody is murdered, which is a waste when you’re dealing with asshole jocks and nasty cheerleaders…

Victor: Hostel is the best non-slasher film here. See it if you can deal with all manner of torture devices being used and an eyeball being cut loose.

December Face-off: Christmas vs. New Years

christmastree

Christmas…a time for sharing, being with your family, eating to excess, relocating to another room to avoid killing said family with the carving knives Dad gave Mum. Any way you look at it, this is a holiday built for horror. There’s so much pressure to buy the right things in the right timeframe for a bunch of people who won’t really appreciate it. This causes tension, tension begat horror and horror makes me happy! Fun for all the family.

A week later, when we’re pondering our waist lines and thinking of which unlucky schmuck to pass on any number of crap gifts to, New Year’s Eve rears it’s bizarre head. One year ends and everybody decides to create fictional promises for the ensuing 12 months.

I gotta say I prefer Christmas on the whole. In 2006 I missed it completely due to my backpacking whim and sat in a cold hotel room in Yangshuo, China, trying not to cry about it. This year I was sick from December 23rd all the way through to yesterday and discovered at last that my parents believe I am in fact the same age as they are through the medium of some weird-ass presents.

Anyway, on to the horror!

Naturally things begin back in that magical year of 1974. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest, Jaws was first published, I was four years from being born and Bob Clark made this sleeper classic. To see Black Christmas is to love it, no alternative.

It’s impact doubtlessly sullied by the cheapjack remake in 06, this is an incredibly unnerving story of an unseen killer living in the attic of a sorority house and making nasty calls to the residing girls, who emerges every now and then to kill one of them.

Olivia Hussey is a complex heroine, but a great one; Margot Kidder is triff as the vulgar drunk and even bad-movie prop John Saxon is there as one of the cops trying to help with the case of the disappeared first victim.

Watch the full uncensored version (it’s not gorier, just more profane) with the lights out on Christmas Eve next year for max effect!

Holiday Cheer: 97%


Here’s an interesting sounding concept: sadsack toy factory employee Harry (Brendan Maggart) loves Christmas sooooo much that he spies on the local kids to decide whether they’ve been good or bad. But somebody as unhinged as Harry might react badly if it’s the latter.

So does he go after the horrible little kids? No. Their parents or equally unlikeable siblings? No. He doesn’t really go after anybody by the time he dons a Santa suit, offing a colleague who dissed the season and then three random strangers who laugh at him on the steps of a church.

A real bore-a-thon with one great line of dire-logue courtesy of Harry’s bro: “You’re blaming me for all the horrible things you’ve done because of something I said when I was six-years-old?”

And that ending. Dear God, that ending!

Holiday Cheer: 8%


Oooh dangerous ground. This is the one that caused uproar from parents’ groups picketing the cinemas showing it and stating it had made their children scared of Santa Claus. Well, in a way you’re going to have to break your child’s heart sooner or later so may as well get it over with and blame a third party…

Fun flick though; Billy’s not-all-there grandpa tells him Santa is evil and, the very same night, a Santa-clad psycho murders his parents. Billy and little bro Ricky are sent to an orphanage run by uber-strict Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) who has, like, zero sympathy for Billy’s yuletide issues and teaches him that punishment is in his best interests.

When he’s 18, Billy – now an athletic quasi-hulk – ends up working at a toy store and is made to play Santa, something that soon flips the switch on the back of his head from sane to wacky and he’s off slaughtering people who just ain’t nice. A real morality tale, it’s a surprise most of the protesters didn’t fund the damn thing too! Tail-ended by four sequels of varying relation and merit and hauled on to the remake train for 2009.

Holiday Cheer: 65%


A few more to choose from. Santa’s Slay is a genial little romp with wrestler Bill Goldberg as Satan’s offspring and loser of a bet with an angel that has made him play Santa for hundreds of years. The duration of the penalty done with, Santa’s a bit wound up and is taking it out on the residents of Hell Township (!) where everyone from Carol Singers to spoiled brats laid to waste as the body count soars into the thirties! Emilie de Ravin, James Caan and Rebecca Gayheart all make appearances in this funky little timewaster.

Turning to weirdo 70s giallo, Silent Night, Bloody Night, in which small town locals all want the Butler mansion in the wake of its owner’s recent demise. Someone has broken out of an institution and there are a load of axe murders. Confused? You will be. Mary Woronov is a good final girl in this pre-Halloween strangeness, that has more than a few moments to remind us where slasher films started out.

Whatever your views of remakes might be, here’s one from the producers of Final Destination that, while a complete bastardization of its source material, is still a lot of fun if you remove yourself from that knowledge. Again, sorority girls are the target of an attic-dwelling psycho, this time with a fleshed out backstory. The body count is about five times higher than the original but there are some nice familiar faces from recent horror playing around, it’s just a shame that violent dispatches took a frontseat to any sense of character or notions of tension…


There’s a cool idea lurking behind the trash here. 40-something Roz Kelly is Blaze, the ‘First Lady of Rock’ who is presenting a sort of MTV New Year’s Eve party that’s being televised coast to coast from LA. Shortly before the broadcast begins, a man calls in to announce he’s going to kill a friend of Blaze’s as midnight arrives in each of the four timezones, finishing with her.

A pretty good concept if handled right. And it’s only a slasher flick so that couldn’t be difficult… Oh wait, Emmett Alston is hopelessly untalented. Doi! So it goes, killer – face shown from the outset – works like a Ted Bundy protege, chatting them up and luring them aside just before the bells toll and murdering them. He winds up at the TV station for the final confrontation, ridiculous speech of misogynistic rantings and a fairly inventive twist on his actual identity before the predictable ending.

If you like early 80’s “New Wave” Rock and crowds of zombie-like partygoers swaying in time to said music, then maybe you’ll find something here. Otherwise, stay in and get drunk.

Holiday Cheer: 14%


This isn’t actually a slasher film at all, but as nobody’s really ventured back into the New Year’s area of slasherdom (probably put off by New Year’s Evil) I thought I’d bolster the numbers in its…uh…favour.

This is a grinding British film with two teen couples boating out to an island where they sneak into an abandoned hotel and get sucked through some bizarre time vortex, unleash zombies and other critters and all go mad and die.

It’s poor as can be and roping in an American actress to play the lead was an effort to sell internationally I imagine. Shame it’s such a suckfest. If the Brit horror industry hadn’t picked up at the end of the 90s then this may have been our legacy. Eugh!

Holiday Cheer: 19%


Victor: Christmas wins by a mile. Having Black Christmas on your team is a given though. Now, why has nobody developed an Easter bloodfest yet?

COLD PREY vs COLDPLAY

Do we know much about the culture of Norway, that slab of land that stretches from the North Sea up near the Arctic Circle? With no means to cause offence, the country isn’t famous for a helluva lot. Images immediately conjured up when one thinks of the place include herring, fjords and limited daylight hours.

Worry not, for this rather drab portrait can only be brightened by the fact that the country produced one of the most atmospheric slasher pics in recent memory, which also teaches us Norway has a lot of snow and therefore skiers and such.

Yes, Contender #1 is Cold Prey, or Fritt Vilt as shown here, the super high-tension cloud-of-dread neo-masterpiece of teenkill horror that pitts five stranded snowboarders against a fur-clad primal killer when they are forced to spend a night in an abandoned ski lodge. This rivals Haute Tension for the crown of most nail-biting stalk n’ slasher so far this century – but doesn’t have the same dumb twist.

Moving from the fjords and herring of Norway to the once great shores of Great Britain, but a pebble’s throw away to meet Contender #2, our very own Coldplay.

Now, Coldplay emerged on to ‘the scene’ several years back, shooting to fame with an endless array of drippy ballads such as ‘Yellow’ and ‘Clocks'; the kind of songs that, if sung by, say, Alanis Morissette, would have been minor footnotes in the British charts and likely criticised for being too whingey and whiny. But when you’re a quartet of blokes with a conventionally handsome leading man, you can moan all you want and Radio 1 will kiss your feet and declare you the best band ever.

Can you tell who’s going to win yet?

Premise: Cold Prey adopts a simple, back to basics approach and garnishes it with cold, claustophobic photography and an emphasis on the complexities of character relations over horny teens having sex.

Coldplay lean towards pianoey ballads with poetry-like lyrics and a lot of metaphors.

Originality: We’ve seen Iced and Shredder so we know that 80% of the primary cast members are no longer going to exist after 95 minutes.

Jo Whiley said Coldplay had a ‘definitive sound’. This actually meant that Speed of Sound was a carbon copy of Clocks and she didn’t want to look stupid by endorsing them after moaning for so many years that most pop groups’ output ‘all sounds the same’.

Violence: Make no mistake about it, Cold Prey gets brutal when it wants to. The first kill is especially terrifying (not least for the victim), but after this there’s no excessive bloodshed.

Listening to Coldplay may well induce outbursts of homicidal violence.

Leader: Jannicke is the sensible, kind final girl in Cold Prey. She loves her boyfriend and is nice to Morten, the dude who’s had the Jones for her since, like, forever. She kicks the killer’s ass when necessary.

Chris Martin seems like a nice fella, but bland, mind. Does anybody know the names of the other three?

Outcome: Cold Prey ‘borrows’ heavily from a scene in Hostel for it’s finale, but I was literally screaming at the TV for Jannicke to do what a (final) girl’s gotta do!

Coldplay are still going.

Spawn: Frit Vilt II is just as scary, taking the olde Halloween II route of moving both FG and killer to a near deserted hospital for further stalkage. One of those rare sequels that matches the first film’s quality.

Chris Martin has a child named Apple.

Victor:

Well that wasn’t at all obvious…

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.

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