“No tee-veee…”

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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!

MATINEE

matineeMATINEE

2 Stars  1989/18/89m

A.k.a. Midnight Matinee

Director / Writer: Richard Martin / Cast: Ron White, Gillian Barber, Jeff Schultz, Beatrice Boepple, Timothy Webber, Don Davis, R. Nelson Brown, Matt Hill, William B. Davis, Kerry Sanomirsky, Stephen E. Miller.

Body Count: 5


This review almost didn’t happen. Y’see, so rare is Matinee that I could find but two pictures of the DVD cover online and both were teeny tiny pixelations. Thus, I was forced to make my own abstract version, which represents nothing to do with the content of the film, but then neither did the existing cover art…

This seldom seen Canadian TV movie begins with an almost shot-for-shot rip off of Kevin Bacon’s murder in Friday the 13th, which turns out to be part of the movie ‘Murder Camp’ that a bunch of teens are watching at a small town horror festival. As the Kevin-imposter bites it on screen, so does some chick’s boyfriend – knife through the neck, exactly the same.

Two years later, the theatre is reopened for another festival, much to the townsfolk’s objections (well, the busybodies). New cop Al Jason is dragged into things when an arsey, mulleted teen dies in a suspect accident. Could the never-caught killer have returned? Elsewhere, projectionist Marilyn is worried about her daughter Sherri’s wayward boyfriend Lawrence, who becomes the prime suspect.

But there’s also sleazy reporter Geoff (Timothy Webber), Sherri’s absent father and horror producer, who has returned for the festival or campy hanger-around Warren, who may or may not be romantically involved with the theatre owner, Earle!

More talk than terror occurs and a few non-explicit murders punctuate the tedium, with some minor tension cranked once the killer turns out to be who we all thought it was and chases their last intended victim. Good casting, but whichever way you cut it, Matinee is for slasher and/or Canuck-completists only.

Blurbs-of-interest: Timothy Webber was Mo in Terror Train; Beatrice Boepple played Amanda Krueger in Elm Street 5; Stephen E. Miller was in The Stepfather and Funeral Homeas were the rest of the Canadian population.

SCAR 3D

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SCAR 3D

2.5 Stars  2007/18/79m

Director: Jed Weintrob / Writer: Zack Ford / Cast: Angela Bettis, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Christopher Titus, Devon Graye, Brittney Wilson, Tegan Moss, Ben Cotton, Monika Mar-Lee, Al Sapienza.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Hey altar boy! Come up here and take my virginity. I’m not graduating with it!”


Released in high-definition 3D for the cinema experience, on plain-old 2D DVD, is Scar up to much sans gimmick? In true Voorheesian mediocrity, it’s a yes and no affair.

Angela Bettis helps matters no end by virtue of the fact that she takes the lead as Joan Burrows, returning to her hometown of Ovid, Colorado (despite the film being Canadian) for the first time since 1991 when she and her best friend Susie were held captive and tortured by silver-tongued serial killer Bishop (Cotton), who plays a brutal game of slashing and maiming the girls in turn until one of them caves in and tells him to kill the other.

Through a series of flashbacks that occur throughout the film, we learn Joan eventually gave the order and managed to free herself and kill Bishop with a funky organ-sucking contraption used to embalm corpses. It’s one of those wicked “yeah, get the fucker!!” scenes.

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Back in the now, no sooner does Joan arrive back home (to stay with her cop brother and his soon-to-be-graduating niece, Olympia) then identikit murders begin, targeting Olympia’s gaggle of friends. Did Bishop somehow survive? Or is Joan so traumatised that it is she behind the madness?

Scar is like a slasher film in fast forward. Everything happens in no time at all with little complication. Things end in a similar fashion to how they began, with Joan bargaining for Olympia’s life. It’s a lot like W Delta Z (more commonly known as Waz) and the torture scenes are quite intense and grotesque. Inspite of male victims outnumbering females 5 to 3, most of the killings occur off screen and we only see pretty young girls being horribly tortured, which says a lot about the project. Also, the killer’s motivation, when eventually revealed, amounts to little more than “I like killing.” Deep.

Not an awful film by any standards, it’s nicely put together with its bleeding heart grossly splattered down its sleeve – it’s just forgettable and proof that grisly effects work, 3D or not, cannot compensate for an under written story and flat characters.

Blurbs-of-interest: Bettis starred in May and the Toolbox Murders remake. Brandon McLaren is also in Harper’s Island and SlasherTucker and Dale vs Evil and Slasher; Brittney Wilson was later in Scarecrow; Ben Cotton was also in Harper’s Island, Stan Helsing, and The Tooth Fairy.

Men are from Mars, women are from crazy

unhinged-coverUNHINGED

3 Stars  1982/18/77m

“Violence beyond reason. Victims beyond help.”

Director: Don Gronquist / Writers: Don Gronquist & Reagan Ramsey / Cast: Laurel Munson, J.E. Penner, Sara Ansley, Virginia Settle, Barbara Lusch, John Morrison.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “I’ll be sure to excuse myself when she breaks out the heroin.”


More of a low-key psycho thriller than an out n’ out slasher extravaganza, Unhinged has a reputation as a shitty, best-forgotten throwback to the cheapo post-Friday the 13th days of slasherama.

Teen girlfriends Terry, Nancy and Gloria are off to a rock festival when they crash their car in a rainstorm. Terry wakes up at the secluded mansion house residence of Marion Penrose and her infirm mother, who rattles around in a wheelchair, abusing Marion and going into unexplained trances at the dinner table when she becomes fascinated with the table condiments.

u1aEdith Penrose is a nasty old hag who hates men, and so Marion’s simple brother Carl is restricted to creeping around outside after dark or in the attic. With Gloria out for the count after the accident, only Terry and Nancy have to endure the rantings of the old lady, sit on the floor like children and play dominos while Marion tickles the ivory and feel generally wigged out by the whole thing.

…And who’s that eye belong to staring at the girls while they shower?

unhinged-2picsNancy elects to trek into town for help the next day and soon meets the sharp end of a giant sickle. It’s a cool, unexpected murder scene, pretty much out of the blue. One second the girl is climbing up an embankment, then next she’s being slashed at with the uber-scythe by an unidentified rainmacked psycho.

u4aBack at Penrose Towers, Terry tries to find out why Marion puts up with her mother’s shit and there are some loooooong scenes of dialogue, some more night-creeping with the creepy-eye putting in another appearance. Gloria is summarily done away with having hardly appeared in the film at all and Terry begins to grow increasingly suspicious. Needless to say, bodies are found, running and screaming ensues and Terry reprimands the culprit…or does she?

u3aHorrible mom-from-hell, creepy old house, extreme close-ups on a gorping eye – all very Psycho. The handyman is even called Norman Barnes! While there’s only a principal cast of four, it’s evident one of them must be the killer – but who? Could mandrist-mom be toddling free of her wheelchair? Is Carl more dangerous than simple? Or is Marion more repressed than we thought?

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The outcome isn’t entirely predictable, in fact it would be pretty clever if so many almanacs and reviews didn’t give it away as the film’s ‘selling point’. Unhinged‘s best asset is the constant sense of dread hanging over proceedings; there’s very little action or standardised horror staples on show, which will undoubtedly make it an endurance test for many viewers, but if you’re into curious C-movies that somehow made it on to the ‘Video Nasties List’ until 2004, then it could leave a bit of an impression.

The film was loosely remade in the UK in 2017.

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