Category Archives: Reviews

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.

prom-4-pics2

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).

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…

hellbent-2-pics2

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.

BLOOD LAKE

BLOOD LAKE

1 Stars  1987/82m

“A quick dip in the lake turns into a blood bath of horror.”

Director: Tim Boggs / Writers: Doug Barry & Tim Boggs / Cast: Doug Barry, Angela Darter, Mike Kaufman, Andrea Adams, Travis Krasser, Christie Willoughby, Michael Darter, Darren Waters, Tiny Frazier.

Body Count: 5


More regional shot-on-video shite that looks like its entire budget was used to hire a ski-boat that a sextet of teens (two of whom are younger siblings of about thirteen) play with during a weekend break on post-apocalyptic vacation area of choice, Cedar Lake, where they are menaced by a plodding, overweight Dom DeLuise look-a-like (bad hat included!), who’s pissed off because he wants the cabin to himself. Nothing happens for the first 45 minutes and, when it finally does, it’s all crap, backed with a dire thrash metal soundtrack and miniscule body count that spares most of the annoying cast. The bizarre final twist – credited to God – isn’t funny either. Gimme Crystal Lake any day. Bugger off, Blood Lake!

MEMORIAL DAY

MEMORIAL DAY

1.5 Stars  1999/18/79m

A.k.a. Memorial Day Killer - UK DVD

“Beers. Burgers. Bloodshed. Gonna be a long weekend…”

Director: Christopher Alender / Writer: Marcos Gabriel / Cast: Therese Fretwell, Marcos Gabriel, Andrew Williams, Erin Gallagher, Jasmine Trice, Derek Nieves, Adam Sterrit.

Body Count: 9


A boy drowned in Memorial Lake. Three years later, his sister Rachel and her friends return there for a weekend getaway in one of the cabins by the water. Sound familiar? Mrs Voorhees would sue.

This special needs slasher gained slight notoreity for being one of the first digital features, but it’s so damned cheap and grainy it doesn’t matter one bit. It’s strictly amateur night all round, with acting that rivals a GCSE drama production and has a killer in a mask that not only appears to be made of crate paper, but is also shaped like a hockey mask!

A so-so twist prevents things from being totally risible but it’s a case of too damn little, too damn late. One trip down memory lane not worth taking.

Scooby Don’t

THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II

3 Stars  1984/18/87m

“So you think you’re lucky to be alive…”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Cast: Kevin Blair, Tamara Stafford, Michael Berryman, John Bloom, Janus Blythe, Penny Johnson, John Laughlin, Willard Pugh, Colleen Riley, Peter Frechette, Robert Houston.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “What’s the big deal about taking a little shortcut?”


The old mind struggles but this may well have been the first slasher flick I ever saw, late night Bravo channel stuff with my dad and my sister in the early nineties and there are no two ways about it, this film sucks. It’s the epitome of cheesy, schlocky, teen-kill trash and once considered a contender for the all-time worst sequel. But I fracking love it!

Craven’s ’77 original pitted a whitebread family trapped in the middle of the desert against the hill-dwelling insurgents who wanted to pillage their number. It was a thought-out tale of families from opposite ends of the spectrum thrown together in an explosion of violence and screaming and scratching and biting and stuff, remade to malevolent excess by Alexandre Aja in 2006 and followed by an equally grisly sequel the following year.

Claiming he ‘needed the money’, Craven signed on to write and direct this sequel, reportedly shot in 1983 and not released until 1985. Evidently driving under the influence of Friday the 13th (even drafting in Harry Manfredini to sort out the score), Craven wrote a cast of teenagers into the equation to serve as knife, axe and machete fodder for the extended family of psychos. After a couple of flashbacks from Bobby, who made it through the events of the first one, we’re reintroduced to Ruby, the turncoat, who, with said headband-wearing teenies, embarks on a cross-desert bus trip with some miracle motocross fuel that will make them all rich and/or famous. I wasn’t really listening to the intricacies.

With bike-ridin’ trio Roy, Harry, Hulk (!) and mechanic Foster, there are their tag-along gals, Jane, Sue and blind psychic Cass, who we could tell is going to be the final girl even if we were blind. Rounding out the group is the best character to return from the original – Beast the dog, now sporting a yellow scarf, Littlest Hobo-style. Remember him? He saved the day before, chewing up the ankle of nasty hill psycho dude Pluto. No? Still hazy? Well, never fear – Beast can certainly remember as he barks us along into his very own flashback! No, really… The screen goes all wavy and blurs into old footage of his pro-middle class savagery.

The gang realises they forgot to account for the time zone difference and, in an effort not to be late for whatever it is they’re going to, they vote to cross a desert track, which soon disables their funky red bus and they end up at an “abandoned” ranch-cum-mine.

The biker dudes decide to rev off into the wilderness in search of gasoline while the others explore the locale and Cass passes time by using one of those embossed label maker things to stick a love message to Roy on his (bike) helmet and starts to ‘sense’ things. Bad things, of course. It would have been nice if she sensed it was a sanctuary for unloved donkies and waterbuffalo, but it’s not and she doesn’t. She senses…eeeeeevil.

hhe2-beast-ruby-pennyMaybe the eeeeevil that Cass senses is closer than she thinks… Maybe it’s her friend Sue! Maybe her psychic powers allow her to see that Sue is no other than Sherry Palmer, neo-first lady and scheming wife to President Palmer in 24!!! It’s all a cunning disguise, the headband, the lycra… That’s her below left, beneath Beast and Ruby, Penny Johnson a.k.a. Sherry Palmer in one of her earliest roles. I’m not sure what she’s doing with herself there but she didn’t get a great many close-ups in the film.

Disappointingly, it transpires that Sue is not the killer and the real trouble comes in the form of a duo of hill-eye-havers, Reaper and the not-so-dead Pluto. Ruby – arguably looking worse in her cosmo-80s wear than she did in her rags – comes clean and ‘fesses up to being the girl-in-the-story that was conveniently told on the bus and spouts the usual ‘we’re all in danger’ garb. Meanwhile, Harry is killed and Roy incapacitated by the killers, who, as darkness sets in, descend on the ranch and it’s dim-bulbed newcomers.

This is where the cliches come thick n’ fast, but they’re enjoyable cliches. Hills II is one of those slasher flicks with a bit of a sense of humour to it. The characters are shallow but likeable; we care about them in the sort of temporary way we care about people we meet by the pool on holiday and the way we cared about the counsellors of Camp Crystal Lake. They’re just fun loving kids doomed to fates worse than, uh, not dying.

Pluto and Ruby have a confronation that is intercepted by the springiness of Beast, who soon scares him away, while Reaper stalks and slays the others, who defy Ruby’s warnings and canter off for showers or private rendezvous until Reaper bear-hugs and throat-slashes them into the next realm.

While Beast licks Roy back into usefulness and helps him do away with Pluto once and for all, Cass discovers the bodies of her friends, identifying them with her fingers and then catawaling their names along with the odd “why!?” Reaper follows and she manages to escape long enough for Roy to save her and formulate a plan that puts an end to both Reaper and their miracle bike gas, so that they and Beast and can enjoy the hike back to civilisation.

Minimal bloodshed, strangely lucid killers, token blindness and a dog with the ability to recall events from eight years ago… The ingredients of tripe, surely, but I’d rather watch this entry than the original or either of the ‘re-imagined’ films. Wes Craven scripted the 2007 Hills Have Eyes II, which sadly opted not to replicate the story here and was only a notch above total suckiness.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kevin Blair (later Kevin Spirtas) was the hunky hero in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood; Michael Berryman was also in Craven’s Deadly Blessing, and Penny Dreadful and Mask Maker.

1 130 131 132 133 134