THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW

houseonsororityrowTHE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW

3.5 Stars  1982/18/88m

A.k.a. House of Evil (UK video)

Director/Writer: Mark Rosman / Cast: Kathryn McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Lois Kelso Hunt, Christopher Lawrence, Harley Kozak, Janis Zido, Robin Meloy, Jodi Draigie, Ellen Dorsher.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Can’t you find another place to fuck?”


Brian DePalma’s former assistant wrote and directed this predicament slasher flick, which boasts a decent score and impressive visuals and has remained criminally underrated long enough for somebody to snap up the rights for the forthcoming 2009 remake, titled just Sorority Row.

hsr1Things begin in the misty blueness of 1961, June 19th to be exact, and the birth of a child in a house. Looks and sounds painful. Twenty-one years later, the house – now the sorority of the title – is being evacuated by seven graduating sisters; Liz, Stevie, Katherine, ditzy Morgan, straight-talkin’ Diane, little girl-like Jeanie and rich bitch Vicki. Their miserable housemother, Mrs Slater, wants them out ASAP but they need to stick around to throw a graduation party…

Nothing really ever happens on June 19th – it’s not famous for anything. I know this well as it’s my birthday too! Finally somebody made a slasher flick out of it!

hse2A watery altercation between Slater and Vicki makes the girl mad enough to plot a revenge prank to really sock it to the old beeyatch. Naturally, the prank goes askew and Mrs Slater is shot dead. The girls panic, fight, scream, cry and are eventually forced to hide the body in the unused pool when all the stuff for their party arrives. Guilt and paranoia take over as the sisters attempt to keep up their facade of all being well while the party rages on… But somebody is outside and has Mrs Slater’s iron cane and wants to insert it into those responsible for her untimely death – or is it Mrs S herself?

hsr3Well, no… We knew that really, didn’t we? But the girls don’t and they begin to fall victim to the cane-toting madman, her mentally unstable son, Eric, all the time remaining out of sight. Their party continues in the background when they come to realise Mrs Slater’s body has gone walkabout and they split to try to find her, find her, and then try to get rid of her again, electing to bury her beneath an open grave in a handy nearby cemetery…

hsr4Smart girl Katherine steps up as the reluctant heroine who wanted to call an ambulance right from the start. While Vicki leads the naive ones around trying to cover up their crime, Katherine investigates the mysterious room in the attic, avoids her dorky date and is the first to second guess the disappearances of her friends. Meanwhile, the killings continue, all carried out with the iron cane but largely bloodless and possibly cut down. Rosman reportedly didn’t want much on screen gore in the film and it doesn’t really require much to remain effective.

hsr5Things begin to wrap up with a crazy scientist, Katherine getting doped up, an eerie clown and lots of hallucinations. Rosman has gone for an almost surreal approach to his tale; from the unbelievable reaction the majority of girls have to the accident to their demises, some of which feature dizzying visuals of the pulsing corridor in the sorority house as Jeanie, dressed up like a six-year-old with ribbons in her hair, runs and stumbles before her savage death. At least half of the girls poll sympathy and it’s hard to watch them tortured, something that probably won’t be an issue in the remake, but this forms the essence of the horror so is just about forgivable.

hsr6It’s rare to see a slasher film so in touch with its medium that there’s obvious effort in making it look stunning, taking what worked in its ancestors and recycling it to better visual effect. There are flaws but not many and hopefully the film will be remastered and given the special edition treatment once the remake surfaces.

Ugh...get the plunger, Jeanie's blocked the toilet again

Ugh…get the plunger, Jeanie’s blocked the toilet again

Harper’s Island – Episodes 3, 4 & 5

harpersCumilative body count so far: 8

I had a little Harper-thon on Friday night and watched the last three episodes back to back. While it’s safe to say things are getting better, there’s still a sense of reservation about this series that bugs me a bit…

One of the girls who died in Episode 2 went without mention all the way through 3 and possibly 4 until somebody mentioned she’d gone back to the mainland and would return for the wedding. I’m sure this was totally omitted and it felt like the script had to backtrack to cover up something it’d forgotten…

Anyhoo, as I can’t distinguish between what happened in which of the three I watched, details could be out of chronological order here… While our final girl Abby reaquaints herself with her father, the Sheriff, father of the bride Thomas decides to send his daughter’s sleazy ex away having failed in his bid to win her affection and ruin the wedding. Henry and his frat pals charter a boat for a day of fishing and find a speedboat with a dead body aboard and a bag containing $250,000 which they bicker over, eventually ending in the most ridiculous death so far when a character dies from shooting themself in the leg and bleeding out. No murder that episode! No, just death-by-stupidity.

There’s some stuff about an affair between Trish’s stepmother and brother-in-law; a psychic comes to read for the girls’ bachelorette gig and creepy kid Madison says the spirits told her she’d never get to be a flower girl. The psychic freaks Abby out with some assembly-line cryptic rubbish: ‘you must leave, you will die, blah blah blah…’

Episode 5 was where things took a leap as Trish and her dad were accosted by a rabid dog and Abby discovered that her father is obsessed with the idea that John Wakefield (her mom’s killer) is still alive and killing elsewhere, an idea Kelly had alluded to before she was murdered. Things end with the death of one of the major characters that occurs in front of everyone else – or does it? We cut to black before it could be definitively chalked up so we’ve got to wait two damn weeks for Episode 6…

I’m still betting on the same suspect as I did in Episode 2, mainly because it’s the kind of thing American shows tend to ‘do’, but I hope it’s not that simple.

Wait. What?

skeletonmanSKELETON MAN

1.5 Stars  2004/18/86m

“Some myths are real.”

Driector: Johnny Martin / Writer: Frederick Bailey / Cast: Michael Rooker, Casper Van Dien, Sarah Ann Schultz, Nils Allen Stewart, Jackie Debatin, Lisa Oliva, Jerry Trimble Jr., Noa Tishby, Eric Etabari.

Body Count: 39 – yes, thirty-nine!

First-rate Fatality: boom-boom-boom like a hammer to the (explodey) head…


When somebody tells you that something has to be seen to be believed, they’re normally telling you about their trip to the Great Wall of China or some circus sideshow they saw… However, when somebody says this to you in reference to Skeleton Man, they’re not lying.

From Nu-Image, who normally make creature-features about spiders, octopods and crocodiles with imaginative titles like Spiders, Octopus and Crocodile - all of which had sequels, can you guess what they were called? Anyway, this knowledge on board, Skeleton Man is a bit of a departure for them. It’s a slasher flick, make no mistake about it, with some unexplained supernatural elements thrown in for good measure no real reason.

Some archaeologists dig up a skull and then a cloaked figure appears and murders them (plus a couple of more schmucks who get in the way). ‘Tis the skeleton man of course, and he manages to kill one guy by lifting him in the air… From there, some other guys are killed, army dudes, and a few weeks later a group of eight soldiers is sent to the region (which I thought was supposed to be South America but gradually looks more and more like a Californian national park). The group is led by Michael Rooker as the Cap and Casper Van Dien is also there but only says about eight words. He has a scar, ‘cos he’s like, y’know, “seasoned”. Four of the men are Delta Force and they’re joined by four women, all of whom we’re asked to believe are in the military but look like catalogue models and cry when they find dead bodies.

skelmanThrough the medium of flashback part I, we learn what happened to the previous team, they met the Skeleton Man, and the body count reaches double figures within fifteen minutes. The group then stumble upon a blind Indian who uses flashback part II to explain that the killer once killed loads of tribal folk and is called ‘Cotton Mouth Joe’ – almost like the song. Almost. The skeleton man appears, usually on horseback, through weird little CG vortexes (that everybody sees but nobody mentions) and begins chopping and skewering the soldier dudes and dudettes, brings down a chopper with a bow and arrow and appears impervious to bullets, which doesn’t put any of the team off wasting their rounds.

Eventually, skeleton man goes to a chemical plant to kill more people, sending the body count soaring to nearly forty by the time Rooker explodifies the joint. But who is skeleton man? Where did he come from? Why does Casper Van Dien commandeer that truck? Why does it explode for no reason? How come it stops for him to leap out but is still rolling along in the next shot, huh? Well, you’ll never find out, never! It’s like cheap wine, it gets you drunk and you giggle, but you never want to see or hear from it ever again.

Blurb-of-interest: Casper appeared in Tim Burton’s sort-of slasher Sleepy Hollow.

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

amityville2
3 Stars  1982/18/100m

“If these walls could talk… they would SHRIEK!”

Director: Damiano Damiani / Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace, Hans Holzer, Dardano Sacchetti / Cast: James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Erika Katz, Brent Katz.

Body Count: 5


‘Tis not a slasher film, you say. ‘Tis right, it ain’t. It’s for the Final Girl filmclub and, frankly, I could do with the traffic, so here it is. Suck it!

I think I’ve seen all but two of the Amityville films and, shockingly, this is the best one and the most slashy-like, so the wisest choice for a review here, methinks.

Most folks should know the story of Amityville, Long Island. A family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue after the previous occupants were shot dead by a family member and promptly bailed out less than a month later after a series of ghostly shenanigans, which have been attributed as hoaxes in the following decades, after several books, nine films (including the horrendous remake), and loads of morbid curiosities which ended with the house proper being renovated and changing it’s address detail.

But the film. It’s a schlocky exploitation affair, a prequel to the James Brolin/Margot Kidder original of ’79, loosely based on the DeFeo family who occupied the place until they were murdered by their eldest. Mom, Dad and four kids move into the waterfront property and straightaway become the targets of an invisible force of eeeeevil who lived there first and likes its own company. Breezes blow, nobody knocks on the door at midnight, brushes paint a giant pig on the wall and numerous rooms are trashed.

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Prize-prick Dad, Anthony Montelli, blames everything on Sonny, the oldest son and likes badmouthing everybody and generally being an arse. At one point, a mirror falls off the wall after Dad hung it up. Somehow, it’s Sonny’s fault despite the fact nobody was anywhere near it! Mom Dolores (the fab Alda), tries to keep it together, while daughter Tricia somehow enters into an incestual relationship with Sonny after he’s porked by the malevolent spirit one night.

"What's...happening to us?"

“What’s…happening to us?”

As time plods on, Father Adamsky drops by to bless the house and realises how eeeeevil it is and racks up a few boxes worth of guilt coupons when he ignores Tricia’s pleas for help and Sonny takes a shotgun to the whole clan. This occurs around about an hour into the film and thinking of the two or three times I’ve watched this film, I can never seem to remember what happens next. It gets boring, I’ll tell you that much. The haunted house stuff is all well and good, nicely dealt with and making great use of a floaty steadicam that locks many scenes into single shots. The major flaw is the first two thirds is that it all just looks…silly. Kinda like a parody with every cliche in the book tossed in to a spooky salad.

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OK, so when it works it is somewhat creepy – Sonny’s alone time in the house, the basement scenes – but the family largely over act their parts to the point where I burst out laughing at some of the dire-logue: Adamsky attempts to seek help from his superior who gives him wonderful advice to this effect:

“I thought I saw a ghost once. It could have been a ghost. I don’t think it was a ghost though. I think it was something else… Not a ghost.”

F&%£$^!!!! Stop saying ghost!

Then there’s the spirit itself. Sonny slowly morphs into a freaky-ass looking thing with the demon in full residence, which talks to him through his retro foam-capped headphones, “why didn’t you pull the trigg-urrrrr?” it asks in a weird accent. We see it at the end where the film most likely earns its 18 certificate and it looks a bit dumb, but still gross.

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In the end, I was too bored to worry about the impact of the ending and what it all meant, wishing a director with a name was cool as Damiano Damiani had had the sense to edit it down to 70 minutes, finishing at the murders. It proves that the Amityville franchise is a bit rubbish, but at the very least the first two films and the one with that lamp are good for a laugh.

Blurbs-of-interest: Alda turned up in a few horror films around this time, she was Mrs Mendrakis in the original When A Stranger Calls, as well as appearing in Girls Nite Out and You Better Watch Out! Andrew Prine was in The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

Harper’s Island – Episode 2

harpersCumilative Body Count so far: 5

Dire-logue: “Do as you like: hunt, fish, kill – I don’t care.”

Week 2 on the Island of Death for us and the mystery thickens like milkshake that’s in danger of spending too long in the mixer…

Abby meets Kelly, an islander whose mom was another of the Wakefield victims seven years earlier, then she spends time with her ex-beau Jimmy and his dickheaded friend Shane and there’s mucho talk about how they all used to get along or, in some cases, didn’t.

First to bite it is a friendly old Reverand and then the wedding guests embark on a scavenger hunt around the island, conveniently splitting them up into smaller groups and making easier targets for the killer.

Some characters are totally absent, but they could still be involved…and I’m thinking there are maybe two killers, or three!! No creepy little girl today and, for me, no suspects as yet. Can we discount anybody though – even Abby could be the psycho, stranger things have happened. Definitely a progression from week 1, it looks like the murders might be discovered next time…

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