EVIL JUDGMENT

EVIL JUDGMENT

2 Stars  1981/93m

“A homicidal maniac bcomes judge, jury and…executioner!”

Director: Claude Castravelli / Writers: Claude Castravelli & Vittorio Montesano / Cast: Pamela Collyer, Jack Langedyk, Roland Nincheri, Nanette Workman, Suzanne De Laurentis, Walter Massey, Septimiu Sever, Sam Stone.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: Dino – “You know, where I come from they strap hookers to a mule and run ‘em out of town.” April – “Yeah, is that how your mother came to America?”


My third Let’s-Celebrate-Halloween-by-the-medium-of-VHS outing.

I possess a strange fantasy about living in Canada. But maybe it’s not all trees, lakes, and Celine Dion. At least, if the Canadian embassy handed out copies of Evil Judgment instead of DVDs showing video of the a fore mentioned things, I might change my mind and go for Australia instead. Hmm…don’t like the sound of those killer spiders.

EJ isn’t a dire film. Canada makes good slasher films as it happens. Except for Study Hell. Alas, this is no Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine. This possibly explains why it wasn’t released until 1984. Unlike those other films, EJ is an ambitious little tike, deciding to take a handful of stalk n’ kill and shove it in the mouth of some gritty cop thriller and sprinke a Mafia plotline overhead. When I was young I didn’t think the Mafia was real. Chalk that up there with the Canadian life-plan.

Anyway, Janet is a bit of a wimpy, naive waitress who moans enough about her lack of cash that hooker gal-pal April talkes her into accompanying her on a little menage a trois at some wealthy judge’s mansion for $200. Janet reluctantly goes but soon regrets it when both April and the judge get their throats slashed.

She wakes up in hospital and is told by arsey detective Armstrong that she tried to kill herself. ‘Bullshit,’ she says, ‘I so escaped from a psycho looney killer!’ He’s all; ‘who’d believe a junkie whore?’ and she’s like; ‘I’m a waitress, man!’ The only person who seems to take her seriously is her hot n’ cold boyfriend Dino, who’s the dude with the Mafia connections.

The killer returns to try and do away with Janet and she and Dino decide to play Fred and Daphne and soon discover a whole conspiracy to do with the murdered judge, Armstrong and some botched trial. I lost interest here for a while until the killings were reignited. The assailant finally puts in an appearance and here I paid my dues for not paying attention as I wasn’t sure who he was or what was going on. I’ll blame the aged VHS copy and the tracking on my player. I don’t feel like watching it again.

The main shortcoming in EJ is the acting. Or, lack of. Pam Collyer, as Janet, isn’t so much bad, more that she feels the need to annunciate each and every word of her dialogue, robbing it all of any tension or meaning. The film’s rarity meant it escaped being scissored and there are some grisly throat slashings chucked in (mainly women of course) and, with a higher budget and more taut scribing, this could have been a minor cult classic. As it is, there’s not much her to earn a recommendation from me. Of course, feel free not to pay heed and dive in headfirst, it’s what I’d do. And should ‘judgment’ have a second E? J-U-D-G-E-M-E-N-T ?

Blurbs-of-interest: Roland Nincheri (Armstrong) had walk-on parts in Visiting Hours and Terror Train.

HOLLOW GATE

HOLLOW GATE

1.5 Stars  1988/87m

“When Mark Walters throws a Halloween party, Freddy and Jason wouldn’t dare to come.”

Director/Writer: Ray Di Zazzo / Cast: Addison Randall, Katrina Alexy, Richard Dry, Patricia Jacques, J.J. Miller, Ted Buck, Mario Hernandez, Pat Shalsant.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Just a few Halloween nuts… Is that all you old bitches want? Happy Halloween, you filthy old hag!”


Yesterday was Halloween. I was at work, but managed to watch a certain famous flick about the day in question. It was amazing. Eerie, creepy, perfect all round 30 years on. I also watched Hollow Gate.

Now, the killer in Hollow Gate, Mark, had his head held in the apple-bobbing bowl by his beer-choking pop at a kids’ party. This actor’s name is Bartholamew Bottoms, which might explain why such a thing might happen to him off-screen. Title cards tell us that ten years later, on Halloween Night (despite it being daylight), he teaches two nasty classmates a lesson when they mock him and his gas-pumpin’ job by setting their tank alight and watching them burn. Another two years pass and, on the same day, he attacks a shop girl who won’t have ice cream with him (“I don’t like ice cream! I don’t like the movies!” -who’d want to date this chick?)

Some undisclosed time later, Mark is living with his dotty Grandmother at Hollowgate, a fat-ass mansion outside the town limits (somewhere in Oklahoma). His live-in nurse has been dismissed and, when she suggests throwing a costume party on Halloween to resocialise Mark, Granny gets a pair of scissors in the eye. A couple of weeks later, two teen couples on their way to a nearby rave opt to deliver a few costumes to Hollowgate in exchange for free wigs. Yes, really. They’re soon trapped on the grounds after Mark shows them what’s left of Grandma and, for each ensuing murder, he dons a costume and plays its respective part (drill sergeant, redneck farmer, snooty British fox hunter…) This is assumedly, Hollow Gates ‘niche’, it’s ‘hook’. Sucks, don’t it? Well, not half as much as the film itself.

The teens in peril are an ensamble of am-dram rejects for sure. They squeal their lines and overact to the point of a lunacy that rivals Mark’s madness. Equally, their decision making abilities should be called into question: at one point, they elect to run across a plain one by one for no obvious purpose. The last girl goes and notices a combine harvester coming towards her in the distance. Now, you can outwalk a combine harvester, especially when it takes between five and ten seconds for each machine appendagey part to lower itself to ground level. But no, she stands there and screams, keeps still so the killer can shoot her and then run her over in said vehicle. She literally had over a minute, during which she could have crawled to safety!

Worse is to come. Another teen is mauled by Mark’s rabid…Golden Retrievers!!? Yes. The friendliest, most placid canine species is cast as a savage killing machine. I have a Labrador Retriever and the only living thing I’ve ever seen it eat is a spider. By the time the last girl is on the run and screaming at everything, two cops whose respective ‘stories’ we’ve had the displeasure of returning to throughout events the film come a-rescuin’ and things are wrapped with that old killer’s-eye-opens-in-the-hospital thing.

Low body count, rubbish gore, characters who should die but don’t – this is only made bearable by the bewildering lack of acting talent. Slam the gate shut upon your departure please.

CAMPING DEL TERRORE

CAMPING DEL TERRORE

3 Stars 1986/18/83m

“…Now the woods are alive with the sound of screaming.”

A.k.a. BodyCount / The 11th Commandment / Camping Della Morte

Director: Ruggero Deodato / Writers: Alex Capone, David Parker Jr., Sheila Goldberg & Luca D’Alisera / Cast: David Hess, Mimsy Farmer, Charles Napier, Nicola Farron, Bruce Penhall, Luisa Maneri, Andrew Lederer, Stefano Madia, Nancy Brilli, Cynthia Thompson, Elena Pompei, John Steiner, Valentina Forte.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “Does your moose have a sister?”


If you were channel surfing late at night around, say, Halloween and you happened to catch a few minutes of the wonderfully titled Camping Del Terrore, I’d forgive you for thinking it was a nameless Friday the 13th sequel, something like No. 6 or 7. ‘That’s Camp Crystal Lake,’ you might say to any companions you happen to have. ‘They’re counsellors…'; ‘there’s Jaso- Oh, wait a sec…’ Yes, Ruggero Deodato, who directed Cannibal Holocaust back in the 70s, is so very similar to Vegan Voorhees’ fave franchise that you could probably slip the video tape into a Friday box and fool small children and your grandma.

So, what’s the sitch? Well, it’s most certainly the mid-80s and that means that necking teens should know better than venturing into the woods at night for romantic trysts and pre-marital sexualisations. This doesn’t stop a couple of big-haired luvvers, who are summarily knifed by a hag-faced scary person who goes as far as to pre-prepare a wig similar to the hair of the local doctor’s daughter in order to fool her dumb jock boytoy. Actually, this happens, like, years earlier, so maybe their naivety can be overlooked…

cdt-3-pics2In the proper 80s, not those intrusive fake 80s, a camper-load of teens – some of whom suspiciously have Italian accents – roll into the Colorado campground where the murders, blamed on the standard local tale-of-doom character the ‘Old Indian Shaman’, occurred and subsequently sent admissions plummeting. The camp is owned by super-unhappy couple Robert and Julia, who very briefly cheer up when their son Ben hops out of the camper, having returned from the army and hooked a ride. Robert is played by David Hess, one of the loonies in Last House on the Left and directed the almost-enjoyable To All a Goodnight. He’s not very nice to Julia, which explains why she’s screwing the local Sheriff.

No sooner do more campers show up, so does the ‘Old Indian Shaman’, ready and able to make holes in nubile teenage meat with knives n’ stuff. To us, it’s obvious that the Shaman is little more than some psycho in a cloak and mask, unless mythical monsters wear hefty black boots. But who could it be? Moody Robert? Oppressed Julia? One of the teenies? Extra suspects are tossed into this Italian gore salad by way of ‘The Doctor’ (…not David Tennant), dad of the opening victim who scowls ‘I hate campers!’ to the Sheriff when a couple of soon-to-be extinct lovers paddle by in their canoes.

cdt-3-more-pics2The teen-wasting project soon begins with a hunt for a missing chick after her boyfriend stumbled back to camp and then lapsed into a coma (!). Unfazed by this development, the rest of the gang continue to flirt, strip off at a moment’s notice, play juvenile pranks and obsess over ‘doing up’ a dilapidated shower block they find in the woods, which happens to be the scene of most of the killings that ensue.

To oblige the audience’s growing need for some death, dodgy Doctor recalls the demises of another couple of teens fifteen years earlier… The Sheriff thinks a bear got them. Sure, man. Bears hide under beds and wait for dumbass girls to lie on them before shoving a machete through the underside and through said dumbass. A lack of swirly screen visuals ruins this little flashback, which we must suppose occurs in 1971, when fashions were spookily similar to those of 1986…

Back in the proper 80s, fat comic relief dude fancies shaggy perm girl (who is admittedly hot), but she’s into goody-two-shoes Ben, who is putting up with his parents’ respective weirdnesses and dreams about jars of maggots and such. Another flirty couple are killed in the outhouse and again, nobody seems to worry about them, even when morning comes the next day with no sign of them returning…

At this time, the Shaman obviously grows bored of how long it’s taking to kill people and attacks biker-dude Dave (Bruce Penhall), who, along with moody Carol, has hastily been shoved into the role of hero/survivor as if Deodato completely forgot about electing a Final Girl until the finale loomed. Ben rescues Dave and, without any rational thinking whatsoever, no brainstorming, no information gathering, concludes that the ‘Old Indian Shaman’ is back to KILL! KILL! KILL!

About now, things get a little complicated… Julia finally has a violent reaction towards Robert and thinks she’s killed him and when moody Carol runs in after finding some of the bodies, Julia, assuming she means Robert, confesses to murder and follows moody Carol into the woodshed where, it turns out, Robert is far from dead and, in turn, fatally slashes his wife down. THEN… shaggy perm girl also discovers the same bodies moody Carol did and, when fat comic relief dude comes to rescue her, he makes the undoable error of running into a complex bear trap.

Take a breath… OK, moody Carol tries to chainsaw her way out of the woodshed and is eventually rescued by biker Dave and the remaining few people take shelter in the main cabin and the Sheriff shows up. Some additional death transpires before the ritual unmasking happens. Things go down like a gored-up episode of Scooby Doo before the two surviving teenies are sent on their way to assumedly live happily ever after following their fifty-four second relationship blossomization from earlier on and the Sheriff takes the law into his own hands, only to – possibly – be thwarted by a real ‘Old Indian Shaman’! Alas, we end on a freeze frame and never find out the truth. Well, not a version of it that you could reasonably swallow anyway.

cdt-3-pics-3-2Camping Del Terrore is 80s horror epitomised: nobody does anything sensible, there are subplots that don’t mean anything and the whole package makes no immediate sense. It’s like a toasted cheese sandwich where the bread is made out of big hair and tinny pop-metal. Still tastes pretty good though. When I first bought it on VHS an acquaintance said ‘Bodycount… that was in every video store in the 80s.’ Well, yay, I say. Let’s hope lots of people rented it and thought it rocked, because it did. For me and those like me (smirk…) it still does, more so in the face of all the crappy, heartless remakes doing the rounds right now. Deodato, nobody may have saluted you at the time for this one, but Vegan Voorhees does.

It’s The Breakfast Club, ayyy?

STUDY HELL

1 Stars  2004/87m

“School’s out forever.”

Director: Mark McNabb / Writer: Jeff McArthur / Cast: Lindsay Dell, Brian Austin Jr., Steve McDougall, Shaylyn Doyle, Ryan Fisher, Michael Henry, Paul Pinel, Karen Dunn.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “The cool kids look at me as a geek, the geeks kinda see me as too mainstream, so I’m stuck in the middle.”


Everyone should love The Breakfast Club, it’s the essential brat-pack flick. Molly Ringwald’s in it for frack’s sake! I’m sure some who saw it back in the day wished the cast would bite it Jason-style. Well, their wishes have been answered and they only had to wait 20 years!

OK I’m lying. Sort of. Molly Ringwald did do a slasher film though. So did Judd Nelson. And Ally Sheedy had already been in Deadly Lessons a couple of years earlier. Instead of these has-beens starlets of the past, we’re given five ‘updated’ versions of them. The likenesses are uncanny as you can see from the trailer…

But wait a minute…this isn’t Shermer, Illinois… What’s with their accents? They’re saying ‘abowt’ and ‘ay?’ Are they- are they Canadian? Actually it’s about the only memorable thing here, I like the Canadian twang; it’s a nice combo of American and Australian soundages, ask my Vancouverianian friend August.

Anyway, with detention in full swing and the same assignment handed out by dorky looking teech Mr Keller, ’tis he who rapidly descends into madness and decides the wayward students must DIE! DIE! DIE! We want this too, as they’re very annoying and cannot act very well.

There’s a rubbish explanation courtesy of the janitor (who ain’t no John Kapelos!) to do with ‘Nam and murdered cheerleaders. The athlete, princess, geek and ‘criminal’ (yes, he’s the bespectacled one) all bite it, leaving the Sheedy-clone to face off with the killer. Some weird-ass twist is sellotaped on to the end, which, when added to the rubbish FX work, divided by the sub-drama class acting, multiplied to the power of shit equals one waste of the six or so hours it took me to stream this flick. And I was sick that day. And I missed  Murder She Wrote to watch it. Boo@Study Hell.

Singular blurb-of-interest-that-should-be-taken-as-a-heeding: many of the cast and crew also produced Dark Fields, which couldn’t possibly suck as hard as this…could it?

Disco Deathtrap

PROM NIGHT

4 Stars  1980/18/89m

“If you’re not back by midnight… You won’t be coming home.”

Director: Paul Lynch / Writer: Ron Oliver / Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton, Michael Tough, Antoinette Bower, George Touliatos, David Mucci, Marybeth Rubens, Joy Thompson, Sheldon Rybowski, Pita Oliver, Jeff Wincott.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “For a guy so fast on the dancefloor, you are the slowest!”


Life is a ballet where the dancer falls, or some such wisdom once sang the lovely Bucks Fizz. Indeed, if life is one big, merry dance made up of moshers, ballroom, jivers, Steps-lite routines and High School Musical glee, then why not swirl it all together in one big cocktail of super-fun-happiness-yeah!

Now, mixing the rumba that is Halloween with the delicate ballet of Carrie sounds pretty cool – but tossing in the grooves of Saturday Night Fever!? That’s Prom Night for ya! No, not the shitty remake. That was akin to mixing ice cream with shit. We’re talking about the original, one of the earliest and most successful low-rent attempts to take what John Carpenter did, go to Canada, and add a bit more stab n’ drip to it.

As was the case in all of the stalk n’ slashers of olde, things begin in the past. Not 1732 or anything, but six years before the main section of the film. At a creepy old school, four kids are playing a macabre version of hide and seek they call ‘Killer’ – totally a riff on the formula. Along comes Kim and her younger siblings, boy/girl twins Robin and Alex (in matching stripy sweaters just to labour the point), who are, in no uncertain terms, told to go away by Kim’s classmate, Nick.

Kim and Alex continue in different directions while little Robin decides to take a closer look at the workings of the game of ‘Killer’, which culminates in the nasty little brats ganging up and scaring her until she takes a tumble backwards out of a window…to her DEATH!!!

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs - Prom Night has everything

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs – Prom Night has everything

The kids quite coldly under react and make a pact never to tell and the death is blamed on a handy mental patient who is then burnt by fire and incarcerated. Six years later – to the day, natch – Kim and Alex, now model teenagers and offspring to straight-laced Principal of Hamilton High, Leslie Nielsen (!), are prepping for the school’s senior prom, where Kim will be crowned queen along with her boyfriend… sister part-killer Nick! Complex, ay?

Being that Kim is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, we know she’s the final girl from the outset and, as usual, JLC delivers a great performance in spite of her worst slasher hair-do (including her looney-bin wire mop from Halloween: Resurrection). Nick (the late Casey Stevens) is the only participant in Robin’s death who seems to harbour any remorse. Two of the others, Kelly and Jude, are Kim’s best friends! You’d think they’d be smart enough to give her wide berth considering they killed her lil sis! But no, this is a slasher film and thus character sensibility has no place here!

Jude is the not-as-pretty girl who couldn’t get a prom date until porky wannabe-playa dork Slick turns up and inexplicably wins her affections. Kelly is the jittery chick who can’t work out whether or not she should let her pushy boyfriend enter unchartered territory. Then there’s Wendy, former ringleader of the guilty group, bratty then, mega bitch now…and clingy ex-girlfriend of Nick’s. Wendy therefore hates Kim and recruits school bad-boy Lou to organise a prom prank that will see them sabotage the crowning ceremony and humiliate Kim and Nick forever! Ooh, the melodrama! It’s just like an early incarnation of Degrassi Junior High.

...plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

…plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

Meanwhile, Kelly, Jude and Wendy have all received crank calls from a whispery fiend who says he’ll see them at the prom. Despite their past crime and some major hinting from the caller, none of the girls seem to take much notice of the warning. Nick blissfully misses his call altogether. Elsewhere, the man convicted of Robin’s murder has conveniently escaped from his mental insitution and murdered a nurse in doing so. The rent-a-shrink supposes he could return to town to seek revenge! There’s also the slow, drooling school custodian who turns up to stare at pretty young girls intermittently (especially when mooned) – is he more than just a red herring. Is he, huh?

The pieces are on the board, now it’s time for action! Yes, the prom finally begins and brings with it some much needed killing. It’s almost an hour’s wait for the debut murder, a vicious throat-cutting with a shard of broken glass. However, this horror pales when compared to the disco-dance scene when Kim and Nick decide to ‘show Wendy how it’s done’, cheered on by their evidently high classmates, the overlong sequence is overflowing with horrible moves that make the sugary routines in High School Musical look like funeral marches. Jamie Lee spins, twirls, makes bizarre Semaphore-like signals with her arms, and does this bizarre above-the-head clapping motion…

More sanely, Jude loses her virginity to the ironically-named Slick while Wendy and Lou scheme to hijack proceedings. Alas, the killer intervenes on both counts, doing away with the young lovers first and then chases Wendy for ages around the deserted school. It’s a great scene, the best in the film, and has rarely been matched in subsequent efforts, flawed only by the fact that ultimately we don’t get to see the film’s nastiest character buy it on screen, having to settle instead for hearing the thwacks of the ski-masked killer’s axe going into her head.

The piece de resistance of the killer crashing the prom proper and mistakenly beheading Lou instead of Nick is the sweet topping on this cheesecake. It leads to a disco-floor showdown between the ‘mystery’ killer, Nick, and Kim, which is almost as awkward as the dance scene from 20 minutes earlier, and backed by the same over-energised disco songs (“prom night / no more feeling uptight / everything is alright…”) that sound like the worst of ABBA covered by Alvin & The Chipmunks… Kim manages to subdue the fiend and the requisite unmasking occurs with heartbreaking results for her.

prom-4-pics2

Prom Night is essentially a nicely done revenger but leaves a few loose ends – some primary cast members disappear from the film completely with no explanation. The premise was echoed in I Know What You Did Last Summer seventeen years later, despite being based on a book written in 1973. It gains more from its cheesy composites than it loses, with a good cast playing mostly nice characters, Wendy’s great chase scene, the paperthin cloak n’ dagger act and the broadcast ‘thoughts’ of some of those involved. A lot of people don’t like Prom Night because it’s slow and not very wet with grue, and I’d like to say they’re WRONG! But my inner-Buddha democratic self will not allow it. For Vegan Voorhees, it doesn’t get better than disco NRG, an axe-wielding killer and Jamie Lee fucking Curtis – what more could there be!?

The sequels were variable and largely unconnected aside from Hamilton High’s presence in all four; #3: The Last Kiss is the best of which. The 2008 remake recycles only the brand name and general theme but was so watered down it doesn’t merit being affiliated with the franchise at all. It’s horror for 12-year-old girls, and an antithesis of its own genre.

Blurbs-of-interest: Curtis has made six slasher flicks altogether plus the TV series Scream Queens; Anne-Marie Martin, who played Wendy under the name Eddie Benton, has a tiny role in Halloween II and later wrote Twister with hubby Michael Crichton. Antoinette Bower (Curtis’ mom) was in peculiar Frankie Avalon slasher Blood Song. Jeff Wincott is brother of Michael Wincott. Director Lynch also turned in Humongous the following year. Brock Simpson, who played Young Nick, appears in all four Prom Night movies in different roles (dying in 2 and 4).

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