CUTTING CLASS

ccdvdaCUTTING CLASS

3 Stars  1989/18/88m

“Some people would kill to fit in.”

Director: Rospo Pallenberg / Writers: Steve Slavkin & Bill Butler / Cast: Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt, Martin Mull, Roddy McDowall, Brenda Lynn Klemme, Mark Barnet, Eric Boles, Dirk Blocker, Nancy Fish, Robert Glaudini, Robert Machray.

Body Count: 7

Direlogue: “I’m gonna change my IQ…is 300 too high?”


When you consider that bona fide masterpiece Heathers was made in 1989, it’s difficult to look at its ‘lesser’ contemporaries without making a direct comparison. In a head-to-head, Cutting Class would surely lose, but then, I don’t think any other teen film from that year would best Heathers

So it’s a slasher film with comic trimmings set at Wurleigh High School, where student Brian Woods returns from five years away in the looney bin, where he was sent for cutting the brakes on his father’s car. Fatally so.

Brian attempts to rekindle his relationship with best bud Dwight, who’s keen on anything but, while his girlfriend Paula can’t help but notice the way Brian…leers in her direction a lot. Behold, in true Final Girl stylee (all credit to her), the many stares of Brian:

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This minor in-any-other-film-it-would-be-romantic quirk aside, there’s a homicidal shadow looming over the school as teachers and students fall victim to a lurking mystery killer, who’s inventive enough to utilise pottery kilns and  photocopiers as well as the usual axes and knives to do away with his prey. There are some convenient suspects in the arsey janitor (“I’m the only teacher you’ll remember!”), Roddy McDowall’s pervy principal who enjoys nothing more than letching over Paula and, of course, Brian himself, who is naturally blamed when the vice-principal is photocopied to death…

cc11aAs things trundle on, it becomes clear that the killer is one of two people – Brian or Dwight. So cast heartthrobs Donovan Leitch or Brad Pitt it is! Would it be too obvious if Brian was indeed the psycho rather than Dwight’s basketball ace? It depends how you look at it. Dwight is an asshole, the type of jock-character we want to see dead in any other stalk n’ slasher.

cc-brad-jillPaula, on the other hand, is not only the archetypal nice girl heroine, cheerleader, comfortable virgin and straight-A student, but she’s also played by the fabulous Jill Schoelen, the lesser-known Jamie Lee Curtis of the later 80’s horror circuit.

Paula’s also the daughter of the local District Attorney (Mull) who put Brian away and was the first victim, shot with a bow and arrow on his duck-hunting trip. He actually doesn’t die there and then and we return to the running gag of his attempts to raise the alarm and get to safety…

Things kick into a more entertaining gear once the killer is revealed via a mathematical equation, no less and the memorable one-liners start firing… The fleeing victims’ failed attempt to outsmart the maniac using chemistry is met with a “nice try though” from him and he later asks Paula to “feel his tingle” as she’s pushed to the limit of using violence when running away proves futile.

cc8aCutting Class is a prime example of everything late-80’s, from the quirky music, to the fashions, the hair, and the cars. It’s fun for a once-over, however it unfortunately wasn’t remastered for the DVD release and looks grainy and cheap, with limited and amateur looking blood-letting, exposing its budgetary and creative constraints, in spite of some real names on the cast roster and an indecisive streak that renders it unable to decide between needing John Hughes or John Carpenter! Give it a try.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Jill Schoelen did a few halfway decent horror films, including The StepfatherPopcorn, The Phantom of the Opera (with Robert Englund) and When A Stranger Calls Back before disappearing from the screen for a long, long time. Nancy Fish was also in Dr Giggles; Dirk Blocker was also in Night of the Scarecrow.

ADAM & EVIL

adamevilADAM & EVIL

2 Stars  2004/15/90m

A.k.a. Halloween Camp 2: Scream If You Wanna Die Faster (UK)

“One bad apple…ripe for revenge.”

Director / Writer: Andrew Van Slee / Cast: Sean Arnfinson, Lynsey Brothers, Brody Harms, Barbara Kottmeier, Erica Cerra, Jodie Graham, Allison Warnyca, Clayton Champagne, Kevin Robson, Jeffrey Fisher, Tiffany Patterson, Terran Orletsky.

Body Count: 13


An unengaging standard-issue Canadian export centring around another bunch of jocks and their girlfriends recently done with high school and therefore celebrating with a camping trip. It transpires that two of the boys have a nasty skeleton in their closet, which could – and therefore does - have something to do with the shady psycho who’s bumping off the group one by one.

Best viewed as a parody of itself – especially given the UK title (see below) – with dialogue limited to sexual intonations for the first half and then shouty arguments once the murders are discovered and the group go gung-ho into hunting the killer before he gets them. I watched this one with a checklist and got a stunning score of 100%:

  • Creepy caretaker – YES
  • Murders that occurred at camping spot – YES
  • Creepy diner / gas station stopover – WHY, YES
  • Sex in a tent – YES
  • Dimly lit murder scenes to save on gore effects – YES
  • Glaringly obvious killer – HELL YES!

Yes, this last point is really irritating. The film, in its original incarnation, is called Adam & Evil. There’s a character called Adam, so by logic… There’s an Eve, an Yvette and an Yvonne… And Maureen and Rachel but they evidently don’t matter and die anyway. So…ladies, which of you is the psycho freakshow whackjob? Given how obvious some of the early comments made by the character it turns out to be you’ll be slapping your own forehead at how lazy they’ve been and also how dumb they think you are! Yes, you! You there with the DVD box – put it back!

halloweencamp2OK, the funky UK title. Halloween Camp 1 was the DVD name for Bloody Murder 2. Bloody Murder 1 having already been released as Scream Bloody Murder… Hence, tack on a play on that Geri Halliwell song, a picture from the Halloween Camp 1 DVD box with some pretty teens beneath it and you’re done! Lazy MoFo’s. Maybe if I scream, the producers will die faster?

CRAZY EIGHTS

Crazy Eights (Horrorfest) DVDCRAZY EIGHTS

1.5 Stars  2006/15/77m

“No secret stays locked away forever.”

Director: James K. Jones / Writers: James K. Jones, Dan DeLuca, Ji-un Kwon & Patrick Moses / Cast: Dina Meyer, Traci Lords, George Newbern, Gabrielle Anwar, Frank Whaley, Dan DeLuca.

Body Count: 6


Past midnight? Trouble sleeping? Well, suffer no more! For a side-effect free night of REM sleep, try new Crazy Eights from After Dark Horrorfest.

The words ‘Traci’ and ‘Lords’ attached a serious horror film should trigger an involuntary retraction of the reaching hand as you browse HMV’s horror section. To save 77 minutes of your sanity, here’s what happens:

Title cards tell us that between the 50’s and 70’s, 600 children were ‘volunteered’ into this program where they were experimented on and most were never seen again yadda yadda… In the now, six ex-inmates gather after another old friend dies/commits suicide/bails from production and go to the now closed institute to dig up a time capsule and soon get locked in and hunted by the ghost of girl inmate they used to know.

The title refers to the name of their baseball team but has no other relevance, probably just to give the viewer some sense of mystery, as this apes so many Asian horror cliches; girl ghosts appearing in mirrors, corridors and the like. Only Meyer’s admirable struggle to do something with her restricted role is of interest as there’s next to no bloodshed or scares. You’d need to be crazy to bother with this one.

Blurbs-of-interest: Meyer was Stallone’s doomed wife in D-Tox. Anwar was later in iMurders.

VALENTINE

valentine-box-cover-2VALENTINE

3 Stars  2001/15/92m

“Love hurts.”

Director: Jamie Blanks / Writers: Tom Savage (novel), Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts / Cast: David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Denise Richards, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl, Fulvio Cecere, Daniel Cosgrove, Hedy Burress.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Jeremy Melton couldn’t manage a water fountain without screwing up, I don’t think he’s capable of an intricate revenge plot.”


Urban Legend is my favourite entry in the 90’s slasher movie revival: it had everything I wanted from high pitched screams to a reveal right out of a Scooby Doo episode. Naturally, when I heard its director Jamie Blanks was doing another slasher flick I was, y’know, totally stoked! Valentine is – rather loosely – based on Tom Savage’s novel and harks back to that age old slasher staple of adolescent school trauma turns geek into weapon-toting psycho…

val2aThe geek in this case is Jeremy Melton, a scrawny, bespectacled, buck-toothed teen who’s only sin is to ask five girls to dance at their Junior High Valentine’s prom thingy. Three cruelly decline, one says “maybe later”, and the fifth, outcast fat girl Dorothy, accepts and is later found sucking face with Jeremy by a group of boys who assume he attacked her, which she agrees with, and then pour punch over him, strip him down to his pants and kick the crap out of poor Jeremy in the middle of the dancefloor!

val-2picsJumping ahead thirteen years, Heigl’s med student Shelley supplies ‘the Barrymore role’ of long-sequence-of-death first victim and her friends gather for her funeral. Kate (Shelton) is to-ing and fro-ing back to her jar-tapping boyfriend Adam (Boreanaz); man-magnet siren Paige (Richards) cruises through life with a trail of men after her; fun girl Lily (Cauffiel) is dating a sleazy artist and Dorothy has lost all the weight but is being sucked in by conman Campbell…

After receiving some grisly gifts and cards – including maggot infested chocolates – the girls wonder about who might be behind things and eventually put two and two together (the cards are signed JM after all!) and leave things in the hands of incapable detective Cecere, who is more interested in bedding Paige. Of course, Cherub-Jeremy crops up for more intermittent murders, taking out Lily early on and Kate’s bizarre neighbour, who meets the nasty end of a steaming hot iron. Could Jeremy have possibly grown up into Angel David Boreanaz!?

val4aThings come to a head at Dorothy’s Valentine’s party (in a massive house with lots of deserted areas, natch) when the remaining girls and a line-up of suspects are gathered. More murders occur, Denise Richards pleases a generation of teenage boys by strutting about in a bikini, a powercut empties all and sundry out, leaving Kate to step into the heroine’s shoes and face off with Cupid. It’s here where Valentine loses its way to some degree, thus opening itself up to all the critical slaggery that was piled upon it. What is in fact quite a clever twist is botched by the cutting of a scene that doesn’t appear on the DVD either and so leaves a question mark over the actual identity of the killer. We discover Jeremy is in fact there, but is he… who’s… how… what!?

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Ergo, look at the IMDb message boards for all the twelve-year-olds rowing over who the killer is. Those of us who’ve seen more than five slasher films should be able to figure it out with ease but Blanks misses the shot here. Nevertheless, the film works in spite of itself and is a whole lot of fun. I’m only bothered by the killer’s bizarre motives: four of the girls merely decline his offer of a dance whereas he has the shit kicked out of him by several boys who, strangely, he doesn’t factor in to his revenge plot at all… Additionally, there are male characters who, in any other film, would be killed off with extreme prejudice who make it through in one piece – the ‘wax’ scene practically leaves the doors wide open with cookies and milk to beg the killer’s appearance! Shelton is also a weak link, playing it far too angelic as the final girl to muster up much support, she’s merely the one who doesn’t die rather than struggles against the odds. Richards and Cauffiel are the most fun to watch and Cecere makes a likeable idiot.

"I love you Buff- uh, Kate."

“I love you Buff- uh, Kate.”

Blurbs-of-interest: Cauffiel played Sandra in Urban Legends: Final Cut; Heigl had the lead in Bride of Chucky; Burress was in Cabin by the Lake.

“No tee-veee…”

happyhellnight

HAPPY HELL NIGHT

3 Stars  1991/18/84m

A.k.a. Frat Fright / Hell Night (UK video)

“25 years ago he sold his soul to the devil… Now it’s time to pay.”

Director: Brian Owens / Writers: Brian Owens, Ron Paterson & Michael Fitzpatrick / Cast: Nick Gregory, Franke Hughes, Laura Carney, Darren McGavin, Charles Cragin, Janez Vrhovec, Kate Delay, Ted Clark, Jeffrey Miller, Robert Restraino.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “Technical difficulties – please do not adjust your dicks.”


A rare throwback to the cliches of 80s horror, possibly rendered as such due to its startling similarities to Hell Night proper, the Linda Blair mini-masterpiece about fraternity and sorority pledges being offed by a legendary thought-dead killer. Considering this flick was titled Hell Night for its UK video release and, if you look at the title card, one might think that the producer’s tacked the word ‘Happy’ on as an afterthought once they realised just how alike it was to the older film.

So, it’s 1991 and people were far more attractive than they were in the 80’s.

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A Yugoslavian/Canadian production, HAPPY Hell Night also revolves around a fraternity hazing stunt and the murderous subject of a local legend. The boys of the Phi Delta Sigma frat house are looking to win the competition for the most outrageous initiation prank, which will induct house president Eric’s lil bro Sonny into the brotherhood, thanks to some poking and prodding from dad Darren McGavin, an ex Sigma with some grisly secrets…

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As Hell Night kicks into swing, Sonny and another dorky pledge are sent off to photograph Zachary Malius, a Satanic priest rotting in a conveniently local institution for the last quarter of a century after slaughtering seven Sigma’s and a local girl. Expectedly, they fuck up their assignment and Malius totters from his cell and crashes the party, swinging a nifty ice-axe all the way! A handy powercut ensures most of the party revellers leave and there are some comical shocks; one nymphette is dim enough to handcuff herself to a bed frame and toss the key across the room, and there’s a rocking chair decapitation gag and gobs of nudity as expected.

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In spite of its status as something of a collectible (prior to DVD at least), HAPPY Hell Night is surprisingly well made and adequately violent with a sprinkling of semi-knowns peppered throughout the crowded cast roster: Sam Rockwell plays a young McGavin and future CSI star Jorja Fox is an early victim. One of the inbreds from Wrong Turn also appears as the requisite dorky prankster. The characters are quite intriguing too; brotherly love is tested between Eric and Sonny as they’re both giving it to the same girl, who is the nominal heroine.

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However, Malius is the star, commenting on each kill as he goes with such witty repartee as ‘No TV!’, ‘No sex!’, ‘No hope of international distribution!’ He’s like an overgrown, homicidal E.T., complete with overlarge black blobs for eyes and, admittedly, quite a creepy looking dude. This was one of the first slasher flicks I ever saw and I hated it at the time, but revisits have shown that it’s a fun little timewaster with cheesy dialogue, soap-opera acting and lots of Latin prayer-sayery at the weirdo ending. Try it and see!

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