Category Archives: Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: BLOODY MURDER

Another cheapjacker that jacks Friday the 13th for its material: Bloody Murder and its sequel and spin-off are probably the most blatant photocopies of Jason’s adventures at camp going, so much so that there’s even a backstory concerning a hockey-masked psycho killer…

bm1BLOODY MURDER

1999/15/84m

A.k.a. Scream Bloody Murder (UK)

“They thought it was just a game.”

Director: Ralph Portillo / Writer: John R. Stevenson / Cast: Jessica Morris, Christelle Ford, Patrick Cavanaugh, Michael Stone, Peter Guillemette, Justin Martin, Dale Smigelski, Tracy Pacheco, Lindsey Leigh, William Winter, Michael Proshaka.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “If it comes down to it, I’m willing to be with you carnally.”

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Teenage counsellors fixing up Camp Placid Pines hear the legends of Trevor Moorhouse, a hockey-masked, chainsaw-for-an-arm maniac who likes to disembowel the local population and play a bizarre game of hide n’ seek (called Bloody Murder) and shortly after some of them – I stress some – start disappearing, thus giving rebirth to the legends and drippy heroine Julie does a bit of detective work.

Some really shameless elements are lobbed into the mix with a so-called red-herring suspect that a toddler could figure out and a Randy clone who makes the group watch Sleepover Camp Massacre XIV (actually clips from the just-as-crummy Fever Lake) and goes so far as to comment on the prolonged running time of the movie being “unusual for films of this genre.” The prime suspect happens to be named Jason. How much groaning can you exhibit during 84 minutes?

Julie – whose dad went to the camp years earlier – uses her laptop to figure out the mystery but the killer turns out to be someone else who we didn’t really pay much attention to… Up to this point, the film offers up clues to keep you looking the other way but the whole production is juvenile, almost goreless and lazy, with the worst news coming in the form of a dumb twist that virtually promises a sequel.

One good line: “my older sister swears she knows someone whose brother disappeared up here years ago…” And that, my friends, is how rumours get started.

bloodymurder2BLOODY MURDER 2: CLOSING CAMP

2002/15/82m

A.k.a. Halloween Camp

“The second cut is the deepest.”

Director: Rob Spera / Writer: John Stevenson / Cast: Katy Woodruff, Amanda Magarian, Kelly Gunning, Arthur Benjamin, Tiffany Shepis, Ray Smith, Tom Mullen, Lane Anderson.

Body Count: 8

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Extraordinarily, Bloody Murder did something right to generate this decent follow up, easily the best of its ropey franchise, which takes us back to Camp Placid Pines five years after the previous incident (and ironically the same number of years that separate the events of the first two Friday the 13th films).

This time, the teen counsellors have made it through the summer, bid farewell to the campers and are now locking down the place for the off-season. Amongst the group is Tracy, whose brother Jason disappeared first time round, a fact she feels the need to remind everybody of to the point of nausea. Stories of Trevor Moorhouse circulate and are dismissed as sub-standard summer camp myths by the know-all who becomes the first victim of a masked, machete-favouring killer in a ghoulish plastic mask.

It should have been easy to avoid the potholes the first film continually buckled its wheels into and Closing Camp starts out sticking to the genre rules like flypaper with the standard teens having sex, wandering off and getting slaughtered amidst repeated nods to ‘the rules’ of horror movies, yet again featuring the black guy who bemoans that he won’t last long.

This all entertains for the most part but the after-school theatrics of Tracy’s detective work mar the payoff as similar turns did in the first film and as the film moves into the third day with several deaths and disappearances, you wonder why the remaining kids aren’t just put up in a local hotel instead of hanging around the death camp and – unbelievably – splitting up to look for clues!

Once this season’s killer is revealed and the motive spurted like Betsy Palmer’s outtakes, it’s followed by almost exactly the same twist as first time around! Strangely, the film elects a sort of secondary final girl who survives along with Tracy and, as was the case in #1, there is only one female fatality. What is this, BM, pro-feminist slashing?

Merit for half-succeeding in getting it right…if only they’d continued with the same enthusiastic outlook.

graveyardTHE GRAVEYARD

2006/84m

A.k.a. Bloody Murder 3

“Fear is buried here.”

Director: Michael Feifer / Writer: Michael Hurst / Cast: Lindsay Ballew, Markus Potter, Patrick Scott Lewis, Lief Lillehaugen, Erin Michelle, Trish Coren, Chris Stewart, Eva Derrek, Natalie Denise Sperl, Sam Bologna, Mark Salling.

Body Count: 8

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Another teen prank goes fatally wrong in this sequelly-spin-off instalment of the “series”. Puck from Glee is the victim after a fake scare in a cemetery, which ends with him impaling himself.

Several years later, his six friends reunite at Camp Placid Pines, where a masked killer who holds them equally responsible begins the olde eliminado game. Good girl Michelle tries to keep things together and reacclimatize Bobby – who took all the blame and spent five years inside – to the rest of the group, while ringleader Jack seems more interested in reigniting his failed relationship with Allie, even after his new girlfriend goes missing (read: is murdered in the shower).

Cue red-herrings tossed in at every given opportunity, although it’s pretty damn obvious who the killer is before long and it seems physically impossible for them to have flit between murders and group searches for missing buddies. Other characters appear only to be killed off minutes later and, of course, no modern DTV slasher flick would be complete without T&A and a butch lesbian. There’s also a crap Sheriff who prioritises a burglary over an alleged murder and is credited for saving the day at the end!

Any credibility gained in the so-so Bloody Murder 2 is tossed into the campfire, thanks to dire plotting and god-awful dialogue, which rarely strays beyond “quit screwing around” mentality but casually throws a “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…” into the mix as things go from bad to worse for the viewer of this rubbish. I never thought I’d miss Trevor Moorhouse…

Overall-blurbs-of-interest: genre regular Tiffany Shepis was also in Dead Scared, Home Sick and Scarecrow as well as a blink cameo in Detour; Mark ‘Puck’ Salling was also in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering.

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Bloody Murder 2 was re-titled Halloween Camp for UK DVD and was ‘followed’ by Adam & Evil under the bizarro name of Halloween Camp 2: Scream if You Wanna Die Faster! ‘Trevor vs. Jason’ indeed…

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: CAMP BLOOD

Camp Crystal Lake was known as Camp Blood by the locals, ‘cos of all the, y’know, DEATH. A film called Camp Blood peaked my interest over a decade ago when browsing the bottom shelf of the horror section. It’s time to avoid that section no more once again as I save you from suffering through another stack o’ shite slash…

campbloodCAMP BLOOD

1 Stars 1999/18/73m

“Wide open with nowhere to run.”

Director/Writer: Brad Sykes / Cast: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Michael Taylor, Tim Young, Bethany Zolt, Courtney Taylor, Joe Hagerty.

Body Count: 11


If I’d made this film, I’d forgive you for calling it a pile of shit. I would, honestly. Whether Brad Sykes would forgive you – or indeed me – is another matter…

The title alone informs us that this is going to rip of Friday the 13th to some extent, but there’s also some Blair Witch in there too. Within two minutes we’re privy to some gratuitous nudity and the obligatory slashing that occurs everytime somebody disrobes in the woods. Try it and see!

Four city folk drive out into the woods to spend the weekend at Camp Blackwood but are, of course, stalked and slain by a clow-masked, machete-toting loon. Every predictable element is tossed into this shit salad: the insane old man who declares them to be doomed, a crappy legend that’s about as frightening as goldfish (but still manages to necessitate dialogue such as “I just can’t stop thinking about that story…”), characters who jog as slowly as possible away from the looming killer, cell phones fail, walking near a twig means you’ve sprained your ankle and therefore you can’t walk… It’s unrelenting.

By far the worst thing occurs when the final girl escapes and is accused of being behind it all and the other actors who played her now-dead friends don new roles as cops and nurses etc with barely any attempt to alter their appearances. Jason wept…

*

campblood2CAMP BLOOD 2

2000/18/75m  1 Stars

“It’s not over!”

Director/Writer: Brad Sykes / Cast: Jennifer Ritchkoff. Garett Clancy, Missy Hansen, Mark Overholt, Jane Johnson, Timothy Patrick, Ken X, Lisa Marie Bolick, Courtney Burr.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Sometimes it feels like I’m dead too.”


Before torture-porn there was torture-quality. As if one of these films wasn’t bad enough, the same ‘production’ team return for another helping of the same with absolutely no lessons learnt from their previous outing.

One year after surviving the Camp Blackwood slayings, a director with as little talent as Brad Sykes invites sole survivor / prime suspect Tricia – who has been locked away in an asylum that has an inch-thick wooden door to keep her confined – to be the ‘technical advisor’ on his screen immortalisation of the events according to her statement.

Without any explanation whatsoever, the doctors just let her leave without a chaperone, an electronic tag or a T-shirt that says “Hi there! If I go mental and try to kill you, return me to Loonsville Asylum!”

So she goes along on the shoot and another clown-masked nutter, who’s already done away with some horny teens, comes a stalkin’. Tricia, three actors and the entire crew of three become the victims of more dreadful killing, including machete in the mouth and a person who dies from a severed hand.

More attempted in-jokes – one character is named Adrienne Palmer – and a rushed open ending, in which the killer survives first degree burns that don’t even singe their hair and multiple machete slashes and then gives the clown mask to Tricia who wanders off into the woods with it. That’s the freakin’ end!

There is a third movie, which is called Within the Woods. I point blank refuse.

Blurbs-of-interest: Courtney Taylor played Mary Lou Maloney in Prom Night III, hence one of the characters is called Mary Lou. Tim Young was in Scarecrow, the other cheapjack franchise!

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: SCARECROW

Call me good, call me bad, call me anything you want baby… Today, lazy will do. Yes, it’s three reviews in one hit. Why? Well, is there any point in really going into detail over a trio of films with about as many distinguishing features as Tom Sizemore’s career prospectus? Avoid thy Blockbuster bottom shelf no more – it’s the Scarecrow “trilogy”…

scarecrow

SCARECROW

2.5 Stars  2003/18/87m

“You’ve never been stalked like this…”

Director: Emmanuel Itier / Writers: Jason White, Emmanuel Itier & Bill Cunningham / Cast: Tim Young, Tiffany Shepis, Aristide Sumatra, Todd Rex, Jen Richey, John Moore, Jason Simon, Roxanna Bina, Mark Irvingsen, Belinda Gavin, Sonja Ecker.

Body Count: 17

Dire-logue: “This town…this place…evil lurks here.”


Lonely teenage dork Lester is to his school what a Rubik’s Cube is to a cow: useless. Possibly because he looks 35, he is tormented by the popular kids until be makes a friend in Sheriff’s daughter Judy, played by Pink-lite Shepis. But when Lester sees her kissing one of his bullies, he storms home and picks a fight with his mom’s trailer-trash boyfriend, who ends up strangling Lester in a nearby cornfield, beneath its scarecrow centrepiece and setting it up to look like a suicide.

A short time later, a back-flipping, wise-cracking scarecrow, now possessed by Lester’s vengeful spirit, returns to town to get his own back. Most of the murders are sloppy sickle deaths but there’s also a spade in the neck and death-by-frying-pan. Curiously, there’s only one female victim, Lester’s nasty teacher who gets a board-pointer in the head, odd considering the abundance of female characters.

The Troma-rooted production department do their best to make this outing look good and for the most part they manage to paper over the budget cracks efficiently enough, but poor acting and odious retorts from the rather piss-poor looking foe turn it all into a damp squib. All the same, it’s a cheap night out kinda deal (considering it was shot in 8 days!), which gives thanks to Dario Argento and several famous horror icons in the credits! Bless.

scarecrow2

SCARECROW SLAYER

2003/18/87m 1 Stars

“He cuts to the chase.”

Director: David Michael Latt / Writers: Bill Cunningham, David Michael Latt & Joel Newman / Cast: Tony Todd, Nicole Kingston, David Castro, Steven Schultz, Scott Carson, Todd Rex, Jessica Mattson, Elizabeth Perry, Steven Glinn, Scott Stepp.

Body Count: 17

Dire-logue: “You know, you have a real small penis for a guy who’s a real big dick!”


Scarecrow uno may have been cheap but it looks like a billion dollar project compared to its skid row follow-up, with which was shot back to back. Tony Todd – appearing purely for the paycheque, I must assume – is a nutty farmer who saw his daddy impaled on a pitchfork by a scarecrow when he was a sprog and has since guarded his own ‘crow with a frenzied grin on his face.

When two frat pledges show up with the intention of stealing it, he accidentally shoots one of them dead. Dead dude’s soul is sucked into the scarecrow and he spends the rest of the film following around his Jennifer Love Hewitt-after-bad-reconstructive-surgery girlfriend, killing randoms for no identifiable rhyme or reason. Maybe when you become a scarecrow that looks as convincing as a nine-year-old’s homemade Halloween costume the trauma is just too much to take?

Dorky Lester had motive but the scarecrow here, mercifully devoid of one-liners, has no reason to do anything it does. The other frat boy, Karl, who’s a little bit special in an eerie way, spends most of the time trying to persuade people to go back to the field and fails to react credibly to almost everything that occurs. Karl sacrifices himself and somehow becomes another scarecrow and the film ends with the two of them duking it out like two kids making a home movie tribute for their WWF fandom.

CGI gore-jobs, horrible acting and some of the most stupid characters on celluloid digital ass-rape any enjoyment out of this one, although Jessica Mattson supplies a couple of light chuckles as the ditsy girlfriend of a frat brother. But that’s it.

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SCARECROW GONE WILD

2.5 Stars  2004/15/88m

“He’s the death of the party!”

Director/Writer: Brian Katkin / Cast: Matthew Linhardt, Samantha Aisling, Caleb Roehrig, David Zelina, Ken Shamrock, Kristina Sheldon, Tara Platt, Jeff Rector, Lisa Robert, Travis Parker, Lindsay Douglas, Sean Flynn, Eric Forte, Steve Worley.

Body Count: 15

Dire-logue: “If I hear the words “let’s split up,” I will bitch-slap the both of you.”


The ropey plastic scarecrow returns for its third and final outing and manages to improve on the horrendous effort that was Scarecrow Slayer: a college football team initiate four new players by carting them out to a cornfield…blah blah blah…mythical killer scarecrow…blah blah…one of them lashes out…blah blah blah…slips into diabetic coma…blah…becomes the scarecrow…blah blah…

The rest of the team and their bimbo girlfriends head off to the beach for Spring Break where carnage of a pavlovian extent unfolds as the scarecrow turns up (yes… it’s a scarecrow on the beach) and sickles them all. The duo of good kids figure out that they need to bring their friend out of his coma to stop all the killin’ but for everyone else it’s just too damn late.

Like the first two films and many other cheapo efforts, the script is hampered by annoying melodramatic altercations between the testosterone-fuelled cast members (“who are you calling bitch, bitch?”) but thankfully they all die. The scarecrow even runs one of them over in a truck! The overlong finale tries to add some tension and fortunately the happily-ever-after ending is skewered in a barrage of gory violence a few (screen) weeks after the massacre (which everyone else has forgotten about).

No more Scarecrow films have turned up yet, but when you’ve sent the damn thing to a beach and had it drive a fucking pickup truck, what can you do next? Scarecrow on the Moon? Scarecrow at the Louvre? For a good scarecrow slasher film, seek out Night of the Scarecrow (not to be confused with Dark Night of the Scarecrow) or if you want something even worse than Scarecrow Slayer, try Dark Harvest.

Blurbs-of-interest: Tim Young was in Camp Blood; Belinda Gavin was in Final Examination; Mark Irvingsen was in When a Killer Calls; low-end horror queen Tiffany Shepis has also been in Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp, Dead Scared, Home Sick and had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in Detour. Tara Platt was in Back Slash. Tony Todd was also in Hatchet, it’s sequel, and the first two Final Destination films (as well as contributing a voice to the third) and also iMurders and Jack the Reaper. Brian Katkin also directed Slaughter Studios.

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