October Face-Off: CHILDREN *ARE* EVIL!

“You were a child once!” quips anybody I dare express my anti-social feelings towards their Little Darlings. OK, so I don’t loathe kids, but they seem to be at the root of most annoyances in life: making horrible shriekly noises at the movies/on the bus/at the library; existing to warrant prams the size of Humvees that hog the entire pavement (soon to come with razor-edged wheels to really show those nasty adults!); and influencing their parents to shoot visual daggers your way should you dare to express facial disatisfaction at such a minion blocking your mobile trajectory or screaming so loud your ears threaten to short out…

Anyway, kids become teenagers and we like teenagers because they serve to get hacked to frack in all manner of slasher flicks, but some such films have dared explore the notion that prepubescents are just as capable of homicidal evils as much as any backwoods dwelling sack-headed psycho…

Regarde:

MILO (1997)

Three women go home to the town where another galpal of theirs was murdered years before for the wedding of a fourth friend – however she’s just perished in a car accident. The heroine, Claire, believes she has seen Milo, the rainmacked brat who was responsible for their friend’s death as kids. She tries to warn her pals but, of course, nobody believes her and they all end up dead. The explanation has something to do with abortions, Vincent Schiavelli, and kids who can’t grow. Can’t remember it now, but it sucked… And from the creator of Anaconda! Sold.

Evilness of Child: 66%


DEAD KIDS (1981)

Somehow this film is set in Illinois despite being shot in New Zealand… Maybe one of the experiments going on at the local college has something to do with teleportation. Whatever they’re up to, they’re making the neighbourhood kids into psychopathic killers who don’t think twice about slicing up those who get in their way. A kind of pre-cursor to Children of the Corn (see below) but crossed with some sci-fi gobbledeegook. There’s a great scene where the local busy-body babysitter drops in to make a snack for an 11-year-old, only to find her charge being carved up in the bathtub by a zombified teenage girl! Bonus points for maliciously offing a kid – gotta love that.

Evilness of Children: 18% (they didn’t know what they were doing – same excuse the tabloids use.)


BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

Three 10-year-olds who share the same birthday are evil. In my experience, most kids become quite evil around their own birthdays. “I want! I want! I want!” Here, instead of tantrums over playing statues or the guaranteed horrendous bow-tie or dress* they’re forced to don for the party, Debbie, Steven and Curtis lack certain emotions that translates into remorseless children of DEATH!

They shoot their teacher, parking couples, interfering older sisters and try to run down whiny astrologically-informed heroine Lori Lethin and her little brother. The climax is pretty bizarre too, with action evidently tamed so the brat actors can’t be harmed (grr). It’s trash, to be sure, looks like Graduation Day on the surface of it, and the kids annoyingly don’t get what they deserve…

Evilness of Children: 85%

*gender depending, though not always. My 8th birthday is one to be remembered.


CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

Coming from Stephen King’s short story but going in a vastly different direction, Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton are a bickering couple on their way to Seattle when they run over a country kid on a back road in Nebraska. Contrary to the advice of your assembly line aged gas station owner, they look for help in the small town of Gatlin, which ‘has religion’. It’s got religion alright; three years earlier, all the adults were slain by their own offspring under the leadership of creepy Isaac, who takes advice from He Who Walks Behind the Rows, later revealed to be piss-poor flamey animation. One of the better killer-kid opuses with some creepy small town ambience but the wheels gradually work progressively loose until they fall off the wagon completely come the end. Nevertheless, it obviously did something right, spawning an unbelievable six follow-ups, some okay (2, 5 & 7), the rest leaving an aftertaste worse than a KFC cobette.

Evilness of Children: 59%


Victor: Bloody Birthday. Debbie, Steven and the super-eeeeevil Curtis win this one with their brand of bratty adulticide.

Don't fall for that sweeter-than-sweet bullshit - they want you DEAD!

Don’t fall for that sweeter-than-sweet bullshit – they want you DEAD!

What Have We Learned From This Horror?

I’d recommend avoiding kids in yellow rainmacks, never babysitting kids with steely glares, or becoming a teacher…or a parent. And don’t go to Nebraska.

Scream Queens

HELLBENT

3.5 Stars  2004/15/81m

“When the night belongs to the devil, the party goes to hell.”

Director/Writer: Paul Etheredge-Ouzts / Cast: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips, Samuel Phillips, Hank Harris.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Wouldnt you wanna kill us? C’mon, we’re fucking fabulous!”


Gay men seem to really like slasher flicks. Weird huh? It’s true! Seriously. While we’re known for being ‘vanguards of all that’s camp’, most folk would equate slice n’ dice teen horror with its chiefly adolescent heterosexual male target audience, hence all the tits n’ stuff.

But think about it for a mo (har-de-har-har) and you might see why. Final Girls are intrinsic to the genre, strong girls who ‘don’t belong’ in the norms of society. Often, she’s the part-outsider, a factor which aids her in seeing and subduing the maniac who’s been laying her dim-witted friends to waste while they screw each other in the woods or the abandoned cabin.

P’haps we benders identify with her. Or maybe the killer? He’s an outsider too and he likes to rid the world of stereotypical teens who, we can arguably assume, are so self-absorbed that they’re everything-phobic. Jocks, bitchy cheerleaders, not historical Friends of Friends of Dorothy in the slasher realm.

Endless rantable theories aside, Hellbent is one of two existing queer slasher flicks around. The other one is lez-fest Make a Wish, in which girl-lovin’ girls go camping, get laid, get knocked off. Hellbent is a slicker affair, pulling focus on a quartet of Californian goodtime boys, out to party at a Halloween carnival, only to be stalked by a buffed up maniac, dressed as the devil and equipped with a sickle that most would think was a harmless costume shop toy…

hellbent-2-pics2

Things begin with the requisite double murder of shagging couple…in car…parked by the woods…after dark. But, of course, here it’s two handsome guys who’re caught doing naughty things.

We meet our Final Boy, John Barrowman-alike Eddie, an all-round nice guy working for the cops, possibly hoping to be one. He’s held back for a reason that later becomes cringingly evident in a scenario never before seen in a slasher pic! He and his three buddies; pill-popping sex addict Chaz (cowboy-gay), his younger brother Joey, the shy newcomer to things (S&M gay), and Drag Queen for-the-night party dude Tobey (uh…Drag Queen gay). They fill archetypal victim and gay roles, neither as responsible nor watchful as Eddie.

Once the carnival gets swingin’, the killer turns up, having previously spied the quartet at the site of his previous slaying when they stop for a looky-loo. Meanwhile, Eddie encounters James Dean-wannabe biker boy Jake, tempting and sexy, just what Eddie needs. Now, the killer is no puritanical Reverend or member of the Phelps church, he’s a gym-pumped Adonis in a horned Devil mask who appears in the shadows, in the dimness of the forest or the strobe lights across the dance floor. Sticking to the genre rules like flypaper, Eddie is attacked by the killer but is too late to save his friends, who are either off their heads on pills or simply off their heads. Period.

The executions are dripping with claret, albeit computer generated grue, they’re still quite brutal. But then if you’re going to collect gay-heads then it’s not going to be something Kim & Aggie would approve of when it comes to mess-management. Unless you’re Dexter.

Things are capped off when the killer visits Eddie’s home to crash his intended kinky consummation with Jake – featuring handcuffs! Severed heads fall out of cupboards, sickle blades pierce flimsy apartment doors. There’s a whole lot of Halloween to it.

As the gay loveletter to John Carpenter’s flick, Hellbent is effective and fun but lacking in queer-soul that gives homo dramas like The Broken Hearts Club depth, like helmer/scribe Etheredge-Ouzts was too busy trying to make the film blend in with its straight bretheren to bother making sure it was wearing its Pride flag on its sleeveless muscle shirt. It’s a thin line so I may as well perch on the fence over the issue and be thankful there were no morality-play allusions. I’m shutting the hell(bent) up now.

Blurbs-of-interest: Andrew Levitas (Chaz) played Provoloney in Psycho Beach Party. Executive producer Joseph Wolf (who died in 2005) was also involved in the productions of Halloween II, Hell Night, Fade to Black and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

BLOOD LAKE

BLOOD LAKE

1 Stars  1987/82m

“A quick dip in the lake turns into a blood bath of horror.”

Director: Tim Boggs / Writers: Doug Barry & Tim Boggs / Cast: Doug Barry, Angela Darter, Mike Kaufman, Andrea Adams, Travis Krasser, Christie Willoughby, Michael Darter, Darren Waters, Tiny Frazier.

Body Count: 5


More regional shot-on-video shite that looks like its entire budget was used to hire a ski-boat that a sextet of teens (two of whom are younger siblings of about thirteen) play with during a weekend break on post-apocalyptic vacation area of choice, Cedar Lake, where they are menaced by a plodding, overweight Dom DeLuise look-a-like (bad hat included!), who’s pissed off because he wants the cabin to himself. Nothing happens for the first 45 minutes and, when it finally does, it’s all crap, backed with a dire thrash metal soundtrack and miniscule body count that spares most of the annoying cast. The bizarre final twist – credited to God – isn’t funny either. Gimme Crystal Lake any day. Bugger off, Blood Lake!

MEMORIAL DAY

MEMORIAL DAY

1.5 Stars  1999/18/79m

A.k.a. Memorial Day Killer - UK DVD

“Beers. Burgers. Bloodshed. Gonna be a long weekend…”

Director: Christopher Alender / Writer: Marcos Gabriel / Cast: Therese Fretwell, Marcos Gabriel, Andrew Williams, Erin Gallagher, Jasmine Trice, Derek Nieves, Adam Sterrit.

Body Count: 9


A boy drowned in Memorial Lake. Three years later, his sister Rachel and her friends return there for a weekend getaway in one of the cabins by the water. Sound familiar? Mrs Voorhees would sue.

This special needs slasher gained slight notoreity for being one of the first digital features, but it’s so damned cheap and grainy it doesn’t matter one bit. It’s strictly amateur night all round, with acting that rivals a GCSE drama production and has a killer in a mask that not only appears to be made of crate paper, but is also shaped like a hockey mask!

A so-so twist prevents things from being totally risible but it’s a case of too damn little, too damn late. One trip down memory lane not worth taking.

Scooby Don’t

THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II

3 Stars  1984/18/87m

“So you think you’re lucky to be alive…”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Cast: Kevin Blair, Tamara Stafford, Michael Berryman, John Bloom, Janus Blythe, Penny Johnson, John Laughlin, Willard Pugh, Colleen Riley, Peter Frechette, Robert Houston.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “What’s the big deal about taking a little shortcut?”


The old mind struggles but this may well have been the first slasher flick I ever saw, late night Bravo channel stuff with my dad and my sister in the early nineties and there are no two ways about it, this film sucks. It’s the epitome of cheesy, schlocky, teen-kill trash and once considered a contender for the all-time worst sequel. But I fracking love it!

Craven’s ’77 original pitted a whitebread family trapped in the middle of the desert against the hill-dwelling insurgents who wanted to pillage their number. It was a thought-out tale of families from opposite ends of the spectrum thrown together in an explosion of violence and screaming and scratching and biting and stuff, remade to malevolent excess by Alexandre Aja in 2006 and followed by an equally grisly sequel the following year.

Claiming he ‘needed the money’, Craven signed on to write and direct this sequel, reportedly shot in 1983 and not released until 1985. Evidently driving under the influence of Friday the 13th (even drafting in Harry Manfredini to sort out the score), Craven wrote a cast of teenagers into the equation to serve as knife, axe and machete fodder for the extended family of psychos. After a couple of flashbacks from Bobby, who made it through the events of the first one, we’re reintroduced to Ruby, the turncoat, who, with said headband-wearing teenies, embarks on a cross-desert bus trip with some miracle motocross fuel that will make them all rich and/or famous. I wasn’t really listening to the intricacies.

With bike-ridin’ trio Roy, Harry, Hulk (!) and mechanic Foster, there are their tag-along gals, Jane, Sue and blind psychic Cass, who we could tell is going to be the final girl even if we were blind. Rounding out the group is the best character to return from the original – Beast the dog, now sporting a yellow scarf, Littlest Hobo-style. Remember him? He saved the day before, chewing up the ankle of nasty hill psycho dude Pluto. No? Still hazy? Well, never fear – Beast can certainly remember as he barks us along into his very own flashback! No, really… The screen goes all wavy and blurs into old footage of his pro-middle class savagery.

The gang realises they forgot to account for the time zone difference and, in an effort not to be late for whatever it is they’re going to, they vote to cross a desert track, which soon disables their funky red bus and they end up at an “abandoned” ranch-cum-mine.

The biker dudes decide to rev off into the wilderness in search of gasoline while the others explore the locale and Cass passes time by using one of those embossed label maker things to stick a love message to Roy on his (bike) helmet and starts to ‘sense’ things. Bad things, of course. It would have been nice if she sensed it was a sanctuary for unloved donkies and waterbuffalo, but it’s not and she doesn’t. She senses…eeeeeevil.

hhe2-beast-ruby-pennyMaybe the eeeeevil that Cass senses is closer than she thinks… Maybe it’s her friend Sue! Maybe her psychic powers allow her to see that Sue is no other than Sherry Palmer, neo-first lady and scheming wife to President Palmer in 24!!! It’s all a cunning disguise, the headband, the lycra… That’s her below left, beneath Beast and Ruby, Penny Johnson a.k.a. Sherry Palmer in one of her earliest roles. I’m not sure what she’s doing with herself there but she didn’t get a great many close-ups in the film.

Disappointingly, it transpires that Sue is not the killer and the real trouble comes in the form of a duo of hill-eye-havers, Reaper and the not-so-dead Pluto. Ruby – arguably looking worse in her cosmo-80s wear than she did in her rags – comes clean and ‘fesses up to being the girl-in-the-story that was conveniently told on the bus and spouts the usual ‘we’re all in danger’ garb. Meanwhile, Harry is killed and Roy incapacitated by the killers, who, as darkness sets in, descend on the ranch and it’s dim-bulbed newcomers.

This is where the cliches come thick n’ fast, but they’re enjoyable cliches. Hills II is one of those slasher flicks with a bit of a sense of humour to it. The characters are shallow but likeable; we care about them in the sort of temporary way we care about people we meet by the pool on holiday and the way we cared about the counsellors of Camp Crystal Lake. They’re just fun loving kids doomed to fates worse than, uh, not dying.

Pluto and Ruby have a confronation that is intercepted by the springiness of Beast, who soon scares him away, while Reaper stalks and slays the others, who defy Ruby’s warnings and canter off for showers or private rendezvous until Reaper bear-hugs and throat-slashes them into the next realm.

While Beast licks Roy back into usefulness and helps him do away with Pluto once and for all, Cass discovers the bodies of her friends, identifying them with her fingers and then catawaling their names along with the odd “why!?” Reaper follows and she manages to escape long enough for Roy to save her and formulate a plan that puts an end to both Reaper and their miracle bike gas, so that they and Beast and can enjoy the hike back to civilisation.

Minimal bloodshed, strangely lucid killers, token blindness and a dog with the ability to recall events from eight years ago… The ingredients of tripe, surely, but I’d rather watch this entry than the original or either of the ‘re-imagined’ films. Wes Craven scripted the 2007 Hills Have Eyes II, which sadly opted not to replicate the story here and was only a notch above total suckiness.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kevin Blair (later Kevin Spirtas) was the hunky hero in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood; Michael Berryman was also in Craven’s Deadly Blessing, and Penny Dreadful and Mask Maker.

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