Category Archives: Reviews

I Know What You Did 100 Summers Ago. In Sweden.

drowning ghost strandvaskarenDROWNING GHOST

2 Stars  2004/100m

A.k.a. Strandvaskaren (Swedish title)

Director/Writer: Mikael Hafstrom / Writer: Vada / Cast: Rebecka Hemse, Peter Eggers, Jenny Ulving, Jesper Salen, Daniel Larsson, Rebecka Ferguson, Frans Wiklund, Anders Ekborg, Kerstin Steinbach, Kjell Bergqvist.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Three pupils were murdered a hundred years ago. We must celebrate that.”


Sweden is famous for a lot of awesome things: meatballs, Ikea, exquisite songwriting, winning Eurovision, high taxes, beautiful Nordic people…

In recent years, Sweden has become known for its gritty, slick thrillers, on TV or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, most of which revel in the dim light, stoic expressions, and a sense of melancholy.

One would be forgiven for thinking this would transfer well to the horror movie industry, much like neighbouring Norway, with the no-less-than-excellent Cold Prey series. Sadly, Drowning Ghost retains only the good look of a typical Scando-production, and is otherwise terminally dull.

Set against the backdrop of life at the exclusive Hellestad boarding school, where, one year on from the suicide of a lonely female student, a killer begins stalking and doing away with a group of over-aged students. Or could it have something to do with the hundred-year-old legend of a local farmer who slaughtered a trio of boys before drowning himself in a nearby lake? The school is home to a traditional annual celebration of the event, when the ghost of the farmer is rumoured to walk the halls…

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Studious Sara is researching the tale and uncovers factors that may connect the killings to one of the Hellestad board members’ ancestors, much to the vexation of the haughty headmistress. Sara subsequently becomes the target of practical jokes and pranks carried out by said board member’s son, with whom she was previously involved.

The identity of the sack-masked killer isn’t immediately obvious, but the film builds up little that will make you care anyway. For all the fancy camerawork, score, and overlapping plotlines, there’s really not much going on here at all.

The body count is low and many of the killing off-camera, and the only ghost that bothers to show up is one of dead expectations.

Arguably, drowning might be a more engaging experience than sitting through this exercise in tedium.

Blurb-of-interest: Rebecka Ferguson (the unquestionably stunning girlfriend of the nasty guy) went on to star in one of the Mission: Impossible sequels.

Social Commentary or Sleaze?

girlhouse 2014GIRLHOUSE

4 Stars  2014/18/101m

“Enjoy the show.”

Directors: Trevor Matthews & John Knautz / Writer: Nick Gordon / Cast: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine, Alice Hunter, Alyson Bath, Elysia Rotaru, Chasty Ballesteros, Wesley MacInnes, Erin Agostino, Nicole Fox, James Thomas.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “I’ve thought this through completely. I really don’t see how anything bad can happen.”


Sexy girls in a house decked out with cameras so guys can log on and crack one out. No! Don’t go! I know it sounds like two dozen other camcorder exploitation flicks with nothing to offer, but GirlHouse is, hugely to my surprise, a pretty solid slasher flick with some of the best production attributes this side of the millennium.

In 1988, two girls tease a tubby preteen and trick him into a one-sided game of show and tell, which ends with them laughing in his face about the size of his cock and sending him running away. A little later, the ringleader is ambushed as she cycles home down a back road and no amount of sorrys can save her from being thrown off the side of a bridge.

Just this five minute opener packs a punch absent in 90% of contemporary slasher films, evident from the effort going into building an atmosphere. Like the films of yore, the shots fragment all around the victim and we know something bad is going to leap out any second, just not from where… This simple approach, used all the time in the 80s, makes a lot of difference.

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Fast forward to the present, hard-up college girl Kylie needs money enough to agree to go and live at GirlHouse, the pornhub of the future, owned by gay Hefner-lite Gary Preston, who puts his girls up in a huge secluded mansion, location under wraps, where they’re filmed around the clock, performing little laptop shows, playing in the pool, the sauna, eating, watching TV… whatever.

One repeat customer is Loverboy, our grown up psychotic, who worships all the girls and is technically able enough to hack through the firewalls to send a photo of himself to Kylie. Her heart, however, is slowly being won over by old schoolmate Ben, who stumbles upon her online and is prompted by his Ed Sheeran-esque roommate to drive to her college and strike up a conversation.

After a girl evicted for her drug habit is permitted to stay in the house again, she finds Loverboy’s photo – not the most flattering – prints it, and sticks it up on a wall, where he eventually spies it in the background and, humiliated, loses his shit and stomps in the direction of GirlHouse.

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Before long, most the tech and security guys have been murdered (largely off-camera and always fully clothed) and Loverboy seizes control of the house functions, stalking the girls one by one while helpless patrons watch, including Ben and his roomie, who embark on Halloween: Resurrection-esque attempts to help remotely.

One girl has her fingers axed off, making it impossible for her to type in the address of the house to summon help; another is choked on a dildo; one locked in the sauna with the thermostat cranked up… What sets GirlHouse apart from the dreck that share its premise (Voyeur.com comes to mind), is the will of (most of) the girls not to just sit there naked and die: The sauna girl manages to bust out and runs straight for the pool; another thought dead waits for the killer to happen by and strikes out at him; and Kylie, when inevitably the last one alive, pulls all the feeds and lures the killer to the basement where she uses nightvision to fight back and then beats the crap out of him with a camera.

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If there’s a comment on the relationship between pornography and objectification, it’s either too vague or forgotten in a tide of blood. A quote from Ted Bundy kicks things off, though it later falls back on on cliches of sad, fat, drooling loners who hate women. That said, the menfolk prove to be the most dispensable, often blindsided and incapable when confronted with the killer. Or do the unwritten rules of voyeurism apply and the perception is that the audience don’t want to see the murders of men on screen and that it’s the girls who are to blame? Would Guyhouse work? It’s one of the oldest dilemmas to plague the genre. But the genders are equally represented when it comes to dead bodies by the end, and it’s Kylie who does all the hard work when push comes to stab.

Even if elements of the story have to cave to genre tropes to work, GirlHouse succeeds through production attributes alone, something most horror producers don’t even seem to consider, largely under the illusion that T&A and corn syrup splashed on a wall tick enough of the boxes.

Overlook the skeezier elements and there’s a solid gem lurking beneath.

Mourn of the dead

bloodwidowBLOOD WIDOW

1.5 Stars  2014/83m

“Die in silence.”

Director/Writer: Jeremiah Buckhalt / Writers: Chad Coup & Ian H. Davis / Cast: Danielle Lilley, Brandon Kyle Peters, Christopher de Padua, Jose Miguel Vasquez, Kelly Kilgore, Emily Cutting, Gabrielle Ann Henry.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Come on your crazy biiiii-aaaaa-eeee-tch!” (it’s all in the delivery)


Many a horror film claims to take something or other to the next level, but Blood Widow is, for a change, telling the truth. Sadly though, what it chooses to intensify is bad acting.

Amateur night performances are part and parcel when your hobby is collecting slasher films, but this makes the actors in The Dorm That Dripped Blood look like Streep and Nicholson.

With a story almost identical to (the far superior) Mask Maker, a young couple – named fucking Hugh and Laurie!? – buy an old farmhouse, which is situated next to an abandoned girls’ school where something bad happened in the late 90s. I’m thinking it was Nu-Metal.

Friends come to party and disturb the masked psychette still living there, who uses an assortment of sharp things to gut, behead, and de-limb the newcomers. Behind the admittedly creepy doll-mask, she also has ninja-lite moves and would give many a hulking loon a run for his buck.

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After a convenient diary turns up to backfill the questions I didn’t have, the surly heroine asks the couple who sold them the place about the incident next door, they’re like “oh yeah, we should’ve told you but didn’t want to devalue the property…”

Fortunately, everyone dies and the audience exhales at the end of the terrible, terrible acting, which borders on the suspicion that the cast were trying to outdo each other in the suck stakes.

Amusingly, special makeup effects were done by a Michael Gore and, joy of joys, there’s a sequel pending.

Why bother calling it anything else?

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SLASHER

3 Stars  2016/360m

“Everyone in this town has a part. Not everyone has a future.”

Director: Craig David Wallace / Writer: Aaron Martin / Cast: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Christopher Jacot, Patrick Garrow, Dean McDermott, Rob Stewart, Mayko Nguyen, Erin Karpluk, Enuka Okuma, Jessica Sipos, Wendy Crewson.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “He’s made himself judge, jury, and …hangman!”


Harper’s Island, Scream: The TV Series, Scream Queensand now Slasher. The Chiller channel’s Canadian eight-part mystery is the latest loon-with-a-knife outing to go straight to the small screen rather than straight to DVD. The generic quality of the title allows for future seasons to start anew with a body count tale in a whole different place and time.

Eight episodes work out better than Scream Queens’ interminable unending thirteen, as the welcome isn’t completely worn out, hacking through our senses until we can take no more and only seeing Ryan Murphy chainsawed to pieces stands a chance of fixing it.

Here, the small town of Waterbury, Halloween 1988, an expectant couple are slaughtered by a machete wielding loon dressed in a creep executioners garb. Twenty-eight years later, the saved infant, Sarah Bennett (McGrath, recently eaten in Jurassic World), moves back to town with her journalist husband Dylan (the always likeable McLaren, dreads sadly gone, but becoming a familiar genre face). They move into the same house. Where the murders happened. Face palm.

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No sooner has Sarah settled in, opened a gallery, made a few friends, The Executioner returns and begins ridding the township of various individuals based on the Seven Deadly Sins: The abusive old lady across the street goes first, then a merciless developer… Anyone with a dodgy secret has their days numbered.

Sarah turns to her parents’ incarcerated killer, Axl Rose lookalike Tom Winston, for help before The Executioner comes for her, and begins developing a bizarre co-dependant relationship with him, that eventually leads to a rather obvious revelation, given that her late mother turns out to have been giving Maureen Prescott a run for her money. Or rather, more bang for her buck.

Inventive murders include a guy stuck in a hole with a sack of deadly snakes tossed in, a severed head found in a deep fryer, live cremation, eaten by nature, plus the usual stabbings, drownings, and beheadings.

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Could it relate to the girl who mysteriously went missing five years earlier? A cinderblock dropped on to a car from a bridge in 1968? Or something else completely?

Slasher has a relatively tight budget compared to the other recent series’, which results in a smaller, easier to manage cast roster, and a body count that doesn’t go stupidly ballistic. It plays more like a 90s Scream contemporary than anything (aided by the same writer and director overseeing the whole thing), drawn out to cover the episode order. But this is no bad thing, despite some of Sarah’s decision making, which sees her become BFF’s with a murderer, and venture down numerous dark alleyways on her own.

The killer’s identity, revealed a little sooner than expected, doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but things take a real dark turn come the end, which bucks the usual trend of the final girl’s passivity in the face of closure, which was pretty impressive. Here’s hoping Season 2 can at least match the potential on show here, hopefully with a more generous financier.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Brandon Jay McLaren was in Harper’s Island, Scar 3DTucker and Dale vs Evil; Katie McGrath was in Red Mist; Erin Karpluk was the lead in Ripper 2.

Blame it on the girls

hashtag-horror#HORROR

2.5 Stars  2015/98m

Director/Writer: Tara Subkoff / Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, Sadie Seelert, Bridget McGarry, Hayley Murphy, Mina Sundwall, Emma Adler, Blue Lindberg, Taryn Manning, Natasha Lyonne, Balthazar Getty.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “If he’s so rich, why does he dress like that? He looks like Hitler.”


I read an article a couple of years ago where psychologists stated that childhood ‘ends’ at age 11. Hence, while all manner of organisations, parents’ groups, and what have you bleat on about protecting the children, up until they’re, say, sixteen, the kids have all but stopped being kids.

#Horror is a weird and difficult film to classify. Creator Subkoff conceived the idea based on a conversation with a friends daughter, who, when asked what horror was to her, filled Subkoff in on her cyberbullying experiences.

In the film, 12-year-old scholarship girl Sam is sort-of invited to a slumber party at rich girl Sofia Cox’s arty house in the middle of nowhere, one snowy December day. Sam’s only friend is Cat, who it seems has become slightly unhinged since the death of her mother, and whose father is ultra-controlling.

The other four girls are, like the hostess, nasty children of equally nasty parents, who spend their time bitching about how their last house was bigger and, uniformally, cannot be without their phones for more than a matter of seconds, with which they video or photograph everything, competing in a social media site that gives them points based on popularity. It’s all that matters.

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The girls communicate via the medium of put-down (their rule is that if anybody laughs, it’s not mean), bubbling over until Cat is thrown out by the others after she goes too far insulting the requisite tubby girl. Sam convinces the others to lock away their phones for an hour while Sofia’s mother (Sevigny) is at an AA meeting. At this point, they’re forced to open up and have a sub-Breakfast Club conversation about parents who ignore them, divorces, first periods, first kisses… But it doesn’t last: “There’s nothing to do without our phones.”

Cat’s father crashes in looking for his daughter, trying to scare some sense into the girls. Sam goes to look for Cat in vain, and discovers the body of Sofia’s father, who was slashed up at the beginning and, eventually, the killer goes after the girls in the last twenty minutes or so.

Unpleasant characters abound, both adult and child, with Sam the only halfway decent one, and even she shies away from doing the right thing at the right time, so desperate to fit in she goes along with the others’ cruelty.

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Mixed to bad reviews are indicative of a problematic film, mainly because it doesn’t adhere to any set genre and only becomes a slasher film at the very end, but the message is clear that social media is the big villain over and above any nut in a mask, that tweens, girls in particular it would seem, are so vulnerable they’re willing to sacrifice any real friendships in favour of ‘likes’.

A cross between Welcome to the Dollhouse and last year’s Facebook-kills flick Unfriended, with a few visual elements of Scott Pilgrim. Just remember it’s an art film before a horror film, title be damned. And fortunately my 12-year-old niece can just about be pried apart from her phone.

Blurbs-of-interest: Taryn Manning was also in Groupie; Natasha Lyonne was in Madhouse; Balthazar Getty was in The Tripper.

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