Category Archives: Reviews

Lawnmower Death

wacko 1982

WACKO

2 Stars  1982/15/83m

“The comedy that takes off where Airplane landed!”

Director: Greydon Clark / Writers: Dana Olsen, Michael Spound, M. James Kouf Jr., David Greenwalt / Cast: Joe Don Baker, George Kennedy, Stella Stevens, Julia Duffy, Scott McGinnis, Andrew Clay, Michele Tobin, Elizabeth Daily, Jeff Altman, Charles Napier, David Drucker, Anthony James.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “It’s Halloween, it’s prom night, there’s a psycho loose, so don’t open the door. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t look in the attic. Don’t go to the bathroom. Don’t go into the ocean and don’t go into space ’cause no one can hear you scream.”


The race was on in the early 80s to score the first slasher spoof, so Wacko went up against Student BodiesClass ReunionPandemonium, and the misleadingly titled Saturday the 14th but ultimately lands near the bottom of the pack, eventually gaining a release at the start of 1983, by which time most of its content was dated.

Thirteen years after seeing her older sister sliced and diced by the Halloween Prom Night Lawnmower Killer of Hitchcock High, virginal Mary Graves is now being stalked by the maniac as her own Halloween Prom approaches. Oversexed students at the school are joined by ‘wacky’ teahcers, parents, and other fringe characters who disappear and reappear enough to be considered a suspect by the man hunting the killer.

Things get a little interesting by the time the killer starts work on Mary’s fiends, but any excitement worked up is short-lived for the revelation of the killer’s identity, virgin jokes galore, and a pie in the face for George Kennedy at the end.

Blurbs-of-interest: Julia Duffy was in the more straight-laced Night Warning in the same year; George Kennedy was also in Just Before Dawn; Charles Napier was later in Camping Del Terrore and Maniac Cop 2.

Dub Stop.

flashback 2000

FLASHBACK

3.5 Stars  2000/18/94m

Director: Michael Karen / Writer: Jimmy Sangster & Natalie Scharf / Cast: Valerie Niehaus, Xaver Hutter, Alexandra Neldel, Simone Hanselmann, Erich Schleyer, Katja Woywood, Elke Sommer, Nicola Etzelstorfer, Christian Nathe, Fabian Zapatka.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Why do parents always think their kids will get killed if they vacation alone?”


The teen-horror revival of the late 90s (“this type of movie is very popular right now!”) naturally spilled over to regional European imitations of Scream, of which this German slasher is likely the most fun.

Blah years ago (probably ten, as is the norm), a psycho wearing galoshes, a woman’s wig and a heinous floral dress is on the loose, first offing a couple of sexy teens on a train, and then entering the home of the Fielmann family, where he slaughters the parents and dog of young Jeanette, who later developed amnesia and cannot remember what happened after the loon cornered her by the door (the key is on a hook out of her reach).

flashback 1999

In the present, Jeanette is offered a position by her shrink, teaching three spoiled teenage siblings French at their remote chalet in the mountains, while their father is away on business, scuppering their summer of partying. No sooner does she arrive then we begin seeing a cross-dressing, sickle-toting stranger everywhere (starting when she’s taken to see The Relic in a movie theater more raucous than the one in Scream 2), and it’s not much longer before friends of the three siblings, as well as domestic pets, begin getting hacked up a cross-dressing, sickle-toting stranger.

Jeanette, meanwhile, becomes romantically entangled with the brother, Leon, much to the annoyance of Elke Sommer’s cranky housekeeper. She also begins to dream back to the murders, remembering a little more every time. There’s a whole thing about ‘the secret in the barn’ and a mid-point twist that’s partly confusing given what’s already supposed to have occurred by this point, its attempted explanation by a throw-away line is a little desperate.

flashback 2000

Plot convolutions aside, Flashback has some super awesome ‘classic’ visuals, with the camera at weapon-level as the killer closes in on victims, a fun chairlift murder, a long chase involving a guy for once (poor dude cops a sickle in balls and has to limp away holding them together), and death-by-pool-cover for the person who earlier said “no one ever died in our pool!” The relatively high-end production values elevate this above most Euro-slashers, though it loyally checks every box on its way, with a particularly vicious streak in hacking and blending cute animals as well as obnoxious teenagers.

Most releases of the film outside its homeland suffer from pretty horrendous dubbing, which gives the film an unintentional (?) cheesiness thanks to the less than committed American voice actors and verbatim translation, which turns regular Germanic sentences into bizarre gibberish – we’re talking Bloody Moon levels of poor here.

flashback 2000

There’s also some distractingly odd slapstick humor thrown in, with one poor guy repeatedly getting gunked in blood from various bodies that turn up, and a running gag about a body in a car. But when your killer is a guy in wellies and the dress grandma was buried in, it’s hard to play it too po-faced.

Worth a look but probably much better in German with subtitles – if such a version is out there.

Get all the big names you want – it still sucks

schizoid 1980

SCHIZOID

2 Stars  1980/18/85m

“Dear Julie, don’t let me do it again.”

A.k.a. Murder By Mail

Director/Writer: David Paulsen / Cast: Klaus Kinski, Marianna Hill, Craig Wasson, Donna Wilkes, Richard Herd, Joe Regalbuto, Christopher Lloyd, Kiva Lawrence, Flo Gerrish, Cindy Donlan.

Body Count: 4

Laughter Lines: “He doesn’t want to hurt me, he just wants my help.”


Despite some heavyweight names attached, Schizoid is mostly a nonsensical bore with a scissor-wielding killer offing the female member of Kinski’s therapy group – all to the tune of a crappy synth score. Why? Well, the motive is never really explained and by the time you find out who the killer is – if you haven’t already guessed from all the stupid plotting – you won’t care anyway.

Hill is a columnist receiving cut-and-paste letters from a psycho wants to kill her, while she’s screwing Kinski, who in turn is trying to build bridges with his snotty daughter. It relies on so many coincidences it’s unreal, and why the killer only targets the women is never resolved, just an excuse for the producers to get their femme cast members to bare some skin and then get cut up.

The usual bunch of red herrings are lobbed into the mixing bowl to throw the viewer off the scent, but they’re too transparent to consider, like Christopher Lloyd’s pervy repair man. In a turn of huge convenience, all of the suspects happen to be gathered at Hill’s press office for a climax that already sent you a letter six weeks ago telling you it was coming. If anything, it does reverse some of the damage done by Paulsen’s previous effort, Savage Weekend.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kinski was previously in Slaughter Hotel; Craig Wasson later appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3; Donna Wilkes was also in Blood Song and, later, Grotesque.

 

Tueur de conte de fées

deep in the woods 2000

DEEP IN THE WOODS

3.5 Stars  2000/18/84m

“Don’t go there alone.”

Director/Writer: Lionel Delplanque / Writer: Annabel Perrichon / Cast: Clotilde Courau, Clement Sibony, Vincent Lecoeur, Alexia Stresi, Maud Buquet, Francois Berleand, Denis Lavant, Thibault Truffert.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “It’s not my fault those bitches got killed!”


Promoted in its native France as a contemporary to Scream, this lushly produced twist on Little Red Riding Hood (titled Promenons-nous dance les bois – A Stroll in the Woods) concerns five young actors who are hired by Baron de Fersen to perform their offbeat version of said fairytale to him and his autistic grandson, Nicolas, at their manor in the forest. Deep in the forest.

One play performance, some weird dreams and gratuitous amounts of semi-tasteful nudity later, somebody dons the creepy-ass wolf costume from the play and goes after the thespians one by one. Characters number among them lesbian lovers (…le sigh), a pervert groundskeeper who cuts up a wild animal in the film’s grossest sequence, and a mysterious policeman who turns up out of the blue, claiming to be looking for an AWOL rapist.

Directed with the kind of expert visual flair the French are famed for, the style here leaves many genre directors far behind, flawed only by some weak characters and a killer who can barely scrape the remnants of a motive together. Sharper scripting and a little more clarity would’ve been welcome (though perhaps the latter was lost in translation), but perhaps the misty-eyed dream-like quality of the whole thing is kind of its point.

“It’s way too 90s horror.”

scary movie 2000

SCARY MOVIE

3 Stars  2000/18/85m

“No mercy. No shame. No sequel.”

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans / Writers: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer / Cast: Anna Faris, Shannon Elizabeth, Jon Abrahams, Shawn Wayans, Dave Sheridan, Cheri Oteri, Carmen Electra, Regina Hall, Lochlyn Munro, Kurt Fuller, Marlon Wayans.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “Lose the cape, it’s way too 90s horror.”


The tsunami of 90s teen horror was always going to end up with this happening. The eventual combo of two parody projects, originally to be titled Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween, Scary Movie came before the endless onslaught of affiliated productions including Date MovieEpic Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet the Spartans, and four – count ‘em – sequels to this. Yes, the tagline told porkies.

Naming their film after the working title of Kevin Williamson’s script, Scary Movie works best when it’s specifically parodying the teen slasher tropes, too often straying toward fart gags, gay jokes, and pothead humor as a fallback. But the slasher ones are at least good.

scary movie shannon elizabeth 2000

After sexy teen Drew Becker (Carmen Electra) is killed by a Ghostface masked loon, the students of the local high school worry that they may be targeted in payment for running over a fisherman and tossing the body in the sea a year earlier (though the victim wasn’t even involved in that, so no idea why they’d think it?) Virginal Cindy Campbell (Faris, in a career-making role) is at the centre of it all – could it be her booty-thirsty boyfriend Bobby? Angry jock Greg? Two-faced Buffy? Then there’s Officer Doofy, ball-busting reporter Gail Hailstorm, and various other possibles.

The plot is actually entirely redundant, as the film moves from joke set-up to joke set-up, at its strongest when Cindy is in full Sidney Prescott mode, with side-jabs at The Matrix thrown in to good use, great send-ups of Tatum’s “wanna play psycho killer?” moment, the cinema murder at the start of Scream 2, and the soon-to-be overdone Blair Witch and Sixth Sense parodies.

scary movie anna faris 2000

Plenty of the cast die only to reappear in the sequels as the same character; some are killers but then not; some seem entirely surplus – was Shorty supposed to be Randy?? – and a good chunk of the gags have become entirely cringe-inducing in the intervening years. Avoid the sequels like the plague.

Blurbs-of-interest: Faris played it straight in Lovers Lane and weird in May; Shannon Elizabeth was in Jack Frost; Lochlyn Munro later appeared in Hack!Freddy vs Jason and The Tooth Fairy; Jon Abrahams was in House of Wax.

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