Category Archives: Reviews

Aromatherapy

reeker 2005REEKER

3 Stars  2005/15/87m

“Evil is in the air.”

Director/Writer: Dave Payne / Cast: Devon Gummersall, Tina Illman, Scott Whyte, Derek Richardson, Arielle Kebbell, Michael Ironside, Eric Mabius, David Hadinger.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Are you afraid of the dark?” / “No, I’m afraid of psycho desert crackheads who hunt small animals with Dahmer’s garden tools.”


Spoilers in the road ahead. Commencing with a great double-shock opener which gives new meaning to the term roadkill, this strange little film, with echoes of Dead End, the terrible Soul Survivors, and even The Sixth Sense, strands five college kids during a ride share for a desert festival at a seemingly abandoned roadhouse.

The phones are out, nobody’s around for miles, and whomever was there before them was obviously a bit mad – and might still be there. They’re soon joined by Michael Ironside in his enormous RV, looking for his absent wife. Apparent ghosts also appear, though only to us, the characters can’t see them for the most part.

A bad smell fills the air and an incorporeal cloaked figure manifests to start killing everybody one by one with a variety of almost comically oversized and bizarre contraptions, forecast each time by the stench – one poor soul is pulled down into an outhouse toilet, recalling Sleepaway Camp II. The characters fall as expected, leaving the predictable pair to duke it out with their hunter. The blind guy falls back on his other senses to help save the day.

reeker 2005

The twist – obvious to anyone who has seen the aforementioned titles – is nicely realised and elevates Reeker from being confusingly dumb to a little bit smart, wrapping up its loose ends without the need to staple gun on a last second shock.

Going the funny-gruesome route was the right move and there are some genuinely LOL moments from Scott Whyte’s paranoid frat boy, and Ironside is dependably amusing. A pre-Ugly Betty Eric Mabius also turns up as a nasty drug dealer. Watch to the end of the credits to read the disclaimer from the filmmakers calling out critics before they whip up any clever puns on the title to say the movie stinks.

*

NO MAN’S LAND: THE RISE OF THE REEno man's land rise of the reekerKER

2 Stars  2008/18/85m

“Terror lurks between the living and the dead.”

Director/Writer: Dave Payne / Cast: Michael Muhney, Mircea Monroe, Stephen Martines, Valerie Cruz, Robert Pine, Desmond Askew, Gil Birmingham, Michael Robert Brandon, Ben Gunther.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Bad smells are nature’s warning.”


Reeker‘s semi-clever twist was clearly enough for creator Dave Payne to forge ahead with a sequel with bits of a prequel to prevent in from becoming a Xerox of the first one. Both play like reverse Final Destination instalments though: The cast members of gorily offed by the blurry Krueger-esque creature, and the high concept FX work is showcased at the end as the event that caused their induction into limbo is revealed.

It’s back to the secluded diner again, with a trio of bank hopeless robbers in the mix, father and son issues between local Sheriffs, and not-so-funny comic relief is inserted to try and thicken and lend depth to the characters, but little of it works after the opening manoeuvre, which veers off in a not so predictable direction.

The ultimate catastrophe is good, but not different enough to that of the first film, rendering it all a bit void. Askew is good as the leader of the rubbish robbers though.

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Ironside was also in American NightmareVisiting HoursHello Mary Lou: Prom Night IIChildren of the Corn: Revelation, and Fallen Angels; Arielle Kebbell was also in Red Mist; Desmond Askew was in Turistas.

Like, Cold Prey, dude

shredder 2001

SHREDDER

3.5 Stars  2001/15/83m

“Icy dead people.”

Director/Writer: Greg Huson / Writer: Craig Carlson / Cast: Scott Weinger, Juleah Weikel, Lindsey McKeon, Billy O’, Brad Hawkins, Holly Towne, Peter Riggs, Candace Moon, Ron Varela, Seth Reston.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “There’s folks around here don’t want you near that place. It’s dangerous… evil.”


Likeable characters and a scrappy production approach elevate this Idaho-lensed ancestor of Iced over and above most straight-to-video efforts, which throws a group of snowboarding college kids into a condemned ski resort where a mystery-loon in skis has it in for them.

Friend-zoned nice guy Cole thinks he and rich Daddy’s girl Kimberly are going alone to Rocky Summit, but she has invited her cousin and some friends (who say ‘dude’ and ‘whatever’ a lot), and intends on meeting her real object of lust there. Alas, he boarded into a wire trap and lost his head during the credits.

shredder 2001

The locals are quick to warn the outsiders of the ‘restless spirits’ that curse the mountain, and there’s a relevant backstory of a young girl who skied a tree after being chased by a trio of drunk snowboarders some years earlier. The teens play drinking games, flirt, bribe the horny local sheriff into letting them stay, and get picked off one by one by the rule-stickler skier, who axes them, hangs them, and impales-via-icicle.

The film makes the most of its chilly seclusion, with characters huddled in the lodge with only lanterns and sleeping bags; bodies are found in snow-angel formations; a camcorder ejects a tsunami of blood, and there’s a good chase scene, where a severed head becomes stuck on the end of a ski-pole. Shredder also elects a final boy for its third act, shaking things up a bit.

shredder 2001 lindsey mckeon

The identity of the killer is fairly obvious and, once revealed, means the character was able to teleport around the locus like lightning. But this is a teen slasher film, rarely will you find one that stands up to logistic scrutiny. The lean 83 minute runtime has excised all the chaff so it’s certainly not boring and also rocks a pretty fun soundtrack, although some early-CG FX work leaves a lot to be desired. IMDb lists the film was being released in 2003, but I remember picking it up in Blockbuster in 2001, when I was looking to rent The Pool.

Don’t go in expecting another Cold Prey and you should have a good time with this.

Blurb-of-interest: The adorable Billy O’ was previously in Lovers Lane.

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: JOY RIDE

joy ride 2001

JOY RIDE

3 Stars  2001/15/93m

A.k.a. RoadKill (UK)

Director: John Dahl / Writers: J.J. Abrams & Clay Tarver / Cast: Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Bowman, Ted Levine (voice).

Body Count: 2

Laughter Lines: “I’m not going anywhere until somebody tells me why I should be afraid of a radio.”


There’s a sad irony that the late Paul Walker featured in several movies that centered on reckless driving and its relative consequences.

Joy Ride sprang up in 2001 at the tail end of the teen-slasher/thriller cycle, hijacking elements of Spielberg’s debut classic Duel and mixing them with Screamie stalker madness from a classic prank gone wrong opus, resulting in a solid chiller, albeit not one with a body count.

College kid Lewis Thomas (Walker) is due to fly back to New Jersey from Berkeley, California, for summer vacation and, on a whim, purchases a car on the basis of picking up his unrequited object of lust Venna (Sobieski) from her Colorado school and cruising back east slowly. On route, he’s asked to pick up his wayward brother Fuller (Zahn) from jail in Salt Lake City.

joy ride 2001 steve zahn paul walker roadkill

Fuller installs a CB radio into the 1971 sedan (’71 being the year Duel was made) to get the heads up on a clear run to Denver, and the brothers end up playing a prank on a creepy sounding trucker who identifies himself as Rusty Nail. Fuller convinces Lewis into impersonating a horny female trucker and, when they encounter a racist asshole at a motel, lure Rusty Nail to the guy’s room with the promise of sex. One near-fatal beating later, the brothers confess to the cops their prank and are told to get going.

Down the road somewhat, Rusty Nail’s voice comes back over the airwaves demanding an apology, which Fuller flat out refuses to do, and, in a true “the call is coming from inside the house” moment, it turns out he is right behind them on the freeway. The brothers flee and are accosted by the big scary truck, and eventually given a stay of execution when they apologise.

But Rusty Nail doesn’t move on so easily and continues to stalk them, even when they pick up Venna from her school, kidnapping her roommate in a bid to exact further revenge, which includes making the brothers walk naked into a diner to order cheeseburgers, a cat and mouse chase around a cornfield, and playing them off against one another over their mutual attraction to Venna.

joy ride 2001 leelee sobieski

Predicament thrillers are usually only good for a single watch, once you’re confronted with some of the bizarre decisions the characters make (they sometimes have to be bad to drive the plot forward), and Joy Ride lacks incessant rewatchability, but is helped along by Dahl’s nice direction, keeping Rusty Nail as an off-camera presence, and the likeable trio of leads, although you’d want to kick Fuller’s ass out of the car if you were either of the other two. The entire final act was re-shot, and the DVD features a total of four alternate endings, of which the happiest was chosen for theatrical releases. Possibly trying to lean away from becoming ‘just another slasher flick’, options for a few extra homicides were skipped, wrapping it up tamely.

Jeepers Creepers made slightly better use of Duel‘s creepier aesthetics and beat Joy Ride to the punch by just over a month, and is just as askew a slasher flick – but then came the sequels…

*

JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEADjoy ride 2 dead ahead 2008 roadkill 2

3 Stars  2008/18/90m

“Detours can be deadly.”

A.k.a. RoadKill 2 (UK)

Director: Louis Morneau / Writers: James Robert Johnston & Bennett Yellin / Cast: Nick Aycox, Nick Zano, Laura Jordan, Kyle Schmid, Mark Gibbon.

Body Count: 4


This efficient enough DVD follow up moves the series into neo-teen slasher territory, borrowing from the likes of Wrong Turn and Wolf Creek, as a quartet of young folks on their way to a joint bachelor/bachelorette party in Las Vegas break down on a dusty backroad when trying to save time.

They happen across a remote ranch house where the mail hasn’t been collected in over a month, break in, find the phones don’t work, and decide to ‘borrow’ a classic 1971 Chevy Chevelle, with the intention to rent a car in the next town, bring it back and leave cash for any damages. Good girl/bride-to-be Melissa even leaves a note with her number.

Naturally, the ranch belongs to Rusty Nail, who decapitated a hooker in the prologue, and finds his plans for downtime scuppered by this new drama. Thus, he kidnaps groom-to-be Bobby from a roadhouse bathroom and calls the others, sending them on several humiliating missions to get him back. First thing he wants is Kayla’s finger after she flipped him off, so they break into a morgue to retrieve one from a corpse. Melissa then has to do a striptease in front of his truck. Kayla’s internet-boyfriend Nik then has to dress as a woman and score some crank.

joy ride 2 2008

Rusty Nail, as we expected, isn’t going to play so fair, and Joy Ride 2 reaches an interesting third act as the girls race to save the boys, both of whom are bound to chairs in Rusty’s lair and tortured in a reversal of the usual scenario (and that of the original).

While the Duel-pilfering is kept on the lowdown (there’s a short car chase), the horror and grue is ratcheted up in its place, with the antagonist slotting into a sort of sub-Ben Willis position, facially still kept off camera. There’s a gross open-mouth garrotting, which recalls Wrong Turn. Nicki Aycox – previously seen fending off the winged beastie of Jeepers Creepers II – makes for a heroine you can root for and avoids some of the dumber decisions that tend to plague these things. Given the small cast, the wheels turn at a fast enough pace to make this worth a look.

*

joy ride 3 roadkill 2014JOY RIDE 3: ROADKILL

3 Stars

Director/Writer: Declan O’Brien / Cast: Ken Kirzinger, Jesse Hutch, Kirsten Prout, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Leela Savasta, Gianpaolo Venuta, Jake Manley, Dean Armstrong, James Durham.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Some say it’s aliens… I say it’s the damn government – the NSA!!!”


Rusty’s third outing is actually a lot better than it ought to be, given that the writing and directing reigns were handed to Declan O’Brien, who outdoes the combined efforts of the three Wrong Turn sequels he turned out. I also like that the film’s subtitle, Roadkill (though curiously not on the film itself) was the UK title for the franchise, which should, by rights, make this one Roadkill 3: Roadkill, but it looks like they didn’t even bother and just kept the original moniker.

A couple of meth-heads plot to rob whichever strung-out trucker they can lure to their hotel room and, of course, pick on the wrong fellow, who overpowers them and chains the pair to the hood of his Peterbilt, challenging them to hang on for a mile, at which point he’ll set them free with a bag of crystal for their trouble. Predictably, their thirst for a high gets the better of them and they end up dragged under the truck and left in chunks along the freeway. Roll titles.

joy ride 3 2014

We meet the meat in the form of six members of the Wells Racing team, who are on their way to some tournament or other when they learn of a possible shortcut that’ll save them a day. I know, it is virtually the same plot as The Hills Have Eyes Part II. The old Highway 17, affectionately known as Slaughter Alley, will go unpatrolled so they let loose and end up pissing off guess who?

The Duel-inspired action missing from the previous film reasserts itself to decent effect, as the team’s two cars and Rusty’s truck barrel down the deserted highway, eventually escaping his lethal manoeuvres but far from off the hook, as he succeeds in capturing two of them and holding them to ransom, apparently willing to exchange them for the race car.

joy ride 3 2014

The series ventures further into slasher territory, with gruesome demises including the fingers and then the face of one poor soul forced into a fan, a shrinking chain suit thingy, and a guy’s head squashed between a jack and the underside of a truck. A showdown at a wrecking yard reveals a decent twist so that the predicted survivors are changed around a bit, although they resistance against further sequels proves too tempting for some and, well, you can look out for Joy Ride 4: Full Throttle circa 2020 at this rate of turnover.

A little tight-budgeted but still surprisingly fun stuff.

Overall-blurbs-of-interest: Nick Zano was in The Final Destination; Kyle Schmid was in Fear Island; Jesse Hutch was in The Tooth Fairy and Freddy vs Jason, in which Ken Kirzinger played the hockey masked one and got to squish him with a fold-up bed. Kirzinger was also in Stan Helsing and Wrong Turn 2; Kirsten Prout was in My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Parts 2 and 3; Dean Armstrong was in O’Brien’s Wrong Turn 4.

Mistake, indeed

home sweet home 1980

HOME SWEET HOME

1.5 Stars  1980/18/83m

A.k.a. Slasher in the House

“Be it ever so humble, there is no place to hide.”

Director: Nettie Pena / Writer: Thomas Bush / Cast: Jake Steinfeld, Colette Trygg, David Mielke, Vinessa Shaw, Peter De Paula, Don Edmunds, Sallee Young, Charles Hoyes, Leia Naron, Lisa Rodriguez.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “Please don’t hurt her – I’ll play my guitar for you!”


Of all the calendar holidays to trigger the homicidal leanings of a madman, Thanksgiving has largely been left to curdle like old milk, with only this and Blood Rage representing.

Your basic asylum escapee slasher – musclebound fitness guru Steinfeld – happens across a ranch on Thanksgiving and decides to go overboard on the carving duties. The family of largely unsympathetic, barely named characters provide the meat content for the first hour, until the floor caves in for supposed ‘tension building’, pending the obvious confrontation and the last few people alive keep going to check if windows and doors are locked in virtual darkness.

Crappy acting abounds as people fail to react convincingly to anything and don’t seem to care about the rash of disappearances. Future ‘name’ Vinessa Shaw made her debut as the requisite small child who is immune to the violence (and, aged 4, out-acts the adult cast), but the most memorable character has to be her teen brother, named Mistake, who wears Kiss-lite make-up and tries to convince the killer to stop on the promise of hearing him play guitar for him.

Bloody and weird, but don’t let that stop you.

Blurbs-of-interest: Vinessa Shaw was (much later) in Stag Night; Lisa Rodriguez was in the even worse Terror on Tour.

What have you been smoking?

amster

AMSTERDAMNED

3 Stars  1988/18/109m

“Be glad you’re afraid… It means you’re still alive.”

Director/Writer: Dick Maas / Cast: Huub Stapel, Monique van de Ven, Serge-Henri Valcke, Hidde Maas, Wim Zomer, Tannake Hartzuiker, Tatum Dagelet, Edwin Bakker.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “No more money means no more pussy – and I won’t go Dutch!”


Who could hate the city of Amsterdam? Canals, flowers, the Heineken museum, hookers sticking their asses up against the glass of their windows, pot-laced brownies, uh… Anne Frank’s house?

Although the end reaches for new depths of desperation to avoid a resolution you can see coming miles away through fields of tulips and windmills, this Dutch police thriller-cum-slasher movie is entertaining anyway. When a series of brutal slaughters plagues the canals of Amsterdam, your standard single-father, sleeps-late, has tough daughter, cop is assigned to finding the maniac.

That’s it for plot, director Maas tosses in plenty of action and some pretty good set-ups but can’t escape heavy influence from either A Nightmare On Elm Street or Jaws (!). Good scenes include a prostitute’s corpse hanging from the underside of a bridge that a glass-topped tourist barge ventures beneath, and a James Bond-like boat chase through the canals.

Absorb that dreadful Euro-pop song that graces the credits sequence as well, possibly the scariest thing in the film.

amsterdamned 1988Blurb-of-interest: Serge-Henri Valcke was later in Slaughter Night (SL8 N8).

 

 

 

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