Mish/Mash

they/them 2022

THEY/THEM

2.5 Stars  2022/104m

“Fear doesn’t discriminate.”

Director/Writer: John Logan / Cast: Kevin Bacon, Carrie Preston, Anna Chlumsky, Theo Germaine, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Anna Lore, Monique Kim, Cooper Koch, Darwin del Fabro, Hayley Griffith, Boone Platt.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “I keep expecting Jason Voorhees to come out of these woods.” / “Who?”


Some spoilers.

A lone female gets a flat on a backroad and is attacked by a masked psycho. Same old, same old. The aerial shot pans onward and shows us Whistler Camp, a conversion center for non-heterosexual teenagers, a busload of which arrives in the morning to be greeted by head counsellor Kevin Bacon, in a nice throwback to his never-actually-got-to-do-the-job role of Jack in Friday the 13th.

An assorted group of campers are initially divvied up by gender, which is an issue for non-binary Jordan, who is sweet-talked by KB into the boys’ cabin, and later joined by transgender Alex, who is turfed out of the girls’ block when one of the creepy staff spies on her in the shower.

they/them 2022

Therapy sessions ensue, both in group and with creepy ‘doctor’ Cora (Carrie Preston, who is perfectly unhinged), the girls bake pies, the boys learn to shoot, hook-ups occur and, after what feels like forever, the masked loon reappears and offs an ancillary staff member. Shortly after, the camp’s thinly-veiled sadistic practices begin to show through. The kids decide they want out, and the killer starts to up their game.

As a slasher movie, They/Them (‘They-slash-them’, geddit?) is a bit of a spectacular failure. The killer is obvious from the moment they’re introduced, and their intent to ‘cleanse’ the camp from continuing to do the damage it does, while admirable, renders them largely unthreatening as the campers are off the hit-list, with only the rather one-dimensional counsellors at risk of being slashed to neatly trimmed ribbons. And they’re hypocritical assholes as it is, so why even care?

they/them 2022

The more relative horror in They/Them comes from the invasive in-roads made by the staff to assault their charges: Cora goes through personal belongings to play psychological games with Jordan, all but telling them to kill themself during a session, and the boys are forced to shoot the camp’s ailing hound dog to make them ‘real’ men. It’s disturbing, nicely realised (especially Preston’s leave-the-rest-in-the-dust performance), and sad when you think that such places exist.

The film was hailed as an LGBTQ+ empowerment tale in some places, which makes for some sweet moments between the characters, as they realise their support network is each other, although at times it feels forced within the span of the film and paves the way for a bizarre sing-a-long to Pink’s Fuckin’ Perfect, and some cringe-inducing Drag Race dialogue (I really do not need to hear “Step your pussy up” uttered anymore). It’s as if Logan becomes entangled in the hanging streamers of his plot strands, swinging dangerously close to celebratory musical mode, over to drama, then remembering he’s got a horror film to deliver, so cramming all of the slashing into what little time remains on the clock.

they/them 2022

It was probably a commercially wise decision to render the camp a religion-free zone, but, like the lack of threat posed to the campers, is something of a cop out. The persecution of gay folks is largely rooted in such beliefs and it would’ve been brave to call that out, but I can also see why Peacock didn’t want to go down that route given how extreme fundamentalists would probably mail them explosives with ‘groomers’ written all over it.

A tendency to fall back on to slightly stereotypical character attributes and repressed self-loathing means that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this one, but it’s also hardly the train wreck it’s been made out to be. Probably would have worked better as a miniseries. HellBent needn’t worry about losing it’s gay-slasher crown just yet.

they/them 2022

Blurbs-of-interest: Bacon was also the lead in Hollow Man.

X’s & OAP’s

x 2022 ti west posterX

3.5 Stars  2022/18/102m

“Dying to show you a good time.”

Director/Writer: Ti West / Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Scott Mescudi, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “We’re gonna be rich – feel how hard my cock is.”


It’s a bad thing that Ti West floats out of my mind, but it’s also really good that I forget how good a filmmaker he is, making each film of his I see for the first time a surprise of the best kind. Minor spoilers.

X‘s release just kinda… passed me by at the beginning of 2022 as I was going through a sort of slasher movie fatigue and some five or six months went by since my last new (to me) movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre re…whatever it was. Height of summer, a day off, time to leap back in.

Unlike most period-set horror, West actually succeeds in furnishing his films with contemporaneous set pieces and aesthetics that look high-end and genuine. X, set in 1979, carries a lot of TeXas Chainsaw-ian influence as we join a tiny adult film production squad on their way to a farm to shoot their latest movie, The Farmer’s Daughters.

x 2022 ti west cast

Cameraman RJ blabbers continually about being high-brow he can make the film; perky Bobby-Lynne advocates the right to make sex films; Jackson is just enjoying himself after Vietnam; newcomer Lorraine is quiet and seems to be judging it all as smut; and producer Wayne is schmoozing his way along, confident they’re about to make the successor to Debbie Does Dallas. His girlfriend is actress Maxine, who just wants to be a star. (She has an X in her name, eyes peeled).

Home-slash-set for the night is a farm owned by aged couple Howard and Pearl. The crew quickly start making their flick, complete with a book-chick-a-wow-wow soundtrack, as a stranded motorist seeks help from a farm’s nubile daughter and… yeah, sex. Later, after Lorraine says she wants to be in the film, a pissed RJ stalks off to abandon the rest of them and finds Pearl outside the farmhouse. Trying to help her, she gets a bit too tactile and, when he resists, he cops a knife in the neck.

x 2022 mia goth

In true slasher form, the others discover RJ is missing and go looking for him, culminating in a pitchfork-to-the-face, shotgun blast, and death by alligator, with Howard effectively cleaning up after Pearl, who is pretty much horny for hardbodied youngsters. Maxine soon finds herself the last one standing – but are a couple of octogenarians going to fall to easily?

A porno aspect in a slasher film is usually a shortcut for trash, but despite the tits and ass (and actually some dick), this material is largely secondary in X, a plot device to leverage the themes around the horror of ageing flesh and our failing functions as we edge closer to the grave: Pearl’s homicidal streak is borne out of her undesirability, and the ickiest parts of the films come not from the grue, but a scene where Maxine wakes up to find the old lady touching her up in bed. To further compound this fear, Mia Goth played both nubile heroine Maxine and also Pearl. She later finds herself stuck under the same bed while Howard and Pearl make mechanically complicated love on it.

x 2022 mia goth

Better than expected characters also paint a broader picture, as well as a final act that doesn’t drag on forever, although it’s almost an hour before the horror even begins. feels like a proper grindhouse slasher film of olde, the kind of quality Tarantino wanted, but failed to achieve with Death Proof.

I didn’t flat out love it – the murders could have been more imaginative, and I actually liked it more before the horror even began – but it gave it a grubby quality in the end that likely aided its good reviews. West had the prequel, Pearl, ready to go later the same year. Dedication.

x 2022 jenna ortega

Blurbs-of-interest: Ti West had a role in You’re Next; Brittany Snow was in the Prom Night remake; Martin Henderson was in The Strangers: Prey at Night; Jenna Ortega was in Scream (2022) and its 2023 follow up.

100 favourite slasher movie characters – Part II

There’s no order to this, just a celebration of my fave characters over the years, largely (but not entirely) ignoring final girls and killers. (Some spoilers though – boooo).

final exam radish 1981 joel s. riceRADISH

Played by Joel S. Rice

In Final Exam (1981)

Why? Adhering to many-a-trope of the campus nerd, Radish is a rather scrawny know-all, however rather than being a second reel kill, he’s kinda promoted to the hero role as he discovers the murders and does his best to alert crush Courtney to the danger. Crush, you say? Well, there’s that barely obscured trait of him being more than just a little bit camp. Horror’s first final gay? Almost.

Quote: “It’s happening! The psychopaths are here!”

*

melissa friday the 13th part vii the new blood 1988 susan jennifer sullivan

MELISSA

Played by Susan Jennifer Sullivan

In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Why? Fabulously evil Melissa is as socially destructive as Jason is violent. All pearls and high end boutique clothing, she functions mainly to try and thwart weepy heroine Tina’s closeness with Nick, not notice her rapidly disappearing friends, and cop and axe to the face as the film’s last victim.

Quote: “Like has nothing to do with it.”

*

chris finn wrong turn desmond harrington 2003CHRIS FINN

Played by Desmond Harrington

In Wrong Turn (2003)

Why? One of those ‘clipped’ personalities, Chris is the man who takes the wrong turn that escorts him into a nightmare. Grounded, logical, and a lil bit badass, he doesn’t do a whole lot of emoting, but comes through in the end.

Quote: “C’mon, you motherfuckers… just die.”

*

mother superior silent night deadly night 1984 lilyan chauvin

MOTHER SUPERIOR

Played by Lilyan Chauvin

In Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Why? The epitome of all cliches around a psychologically abusive adult, Mama Sups makes the young life of little Billy hellish, becoming his desired final victim. Despite her counter-evil evilness, there’s something endlessly compelling about the way Chauvin plays it, which, dare I say, is a performance too goo for the film it’s in.

Quote: “I see only greed where there should be gratitude.”

*

kirby reed scream 4 hayden panettiere

KIRBY REED

Played by Hayden Panettiere

In Scream 4 (2011)

Why? Losing Randy Meeks in Scream 2 was traumatic, so his torch was passed to the next gen and wielded by dry-witted Kirby, walking horror almanac for the class of 2011. Although plans for the immediate sequel never went anywhere, news that she did indeed survive and will return for Scream 6 was fantastically received.

Quote: “It was the voice from Stab, or… y’know, your life.”

*

lynda halloween pj soles 1978

LYNDA

Played by P.J. Soles

In Halloween (1978)

Why? She’s the original carefree friend. The one who smokes pot, likes premarital sex, and doesn’t really give a damn about the possible consequences of her actions. But really, who doesn’t think Lynda is just totally awesome?

Quote: “Totally.”

*

shelly friday the 13th part iii 1982 larry zernerSHELLY

Played by Larry Zerner

In Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

Why? The original slasher movie prankster; Shelly just wants to catch up with his better looking mates and find a girl who likes him. When that doesn’t work out, the annoying pranks come out instead. But he’s clearly got a heart of gold and we owe him for furnishing Jason with his mask.

Quote: “They said they were going skinny dipping and I’m not skinny enough.”

*

jeepers creepers 2001 jazelle patricia belcherJAZELLE GAY HARTMAN

 Played by Patricia Belcher

In Jeepers Creepers (2001)

Why? A local psychic who sees the terrible fate awaiting Darry or Trish Jenner and does her best to warn them of the danger with an unsettling call to a diner they stop at. Sadly, as she receives her future information out of sequence, it’s all gibberish. By the time she physically catches up with them at the PoHo County Police Station, her insights are too little, too late.

Quote: “You know what it eats and don’t you make me tell you!”

 *

mo timothy webber terror train 1980

MO

Played by Timothy Webber

In Terror Train (1980)

Why? Boyfriend characters are usually a bit lacklustre in slasher films, and while Mo doesn’t get the chance to play hero at any time to protect Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis), punch out his manipulative ‘best bud’, or indeed ever be consciously aware of the killer’s presence, there’s a likeability to the character lacking in many other contemporaries, thanks in main to the additional care that went into Terror Train‘s script.

Quote: “I’ll get you for this one Doc …I mean it this time.”

*

sissy friday the 13th part vi jason lives renee jones 1986

SISSY

Played by Renee Jones

In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Why? Part of the new counselling staff at Camp Crystal Lake Forest Green, Sissy is the fun, insightful one but, because she’s a camp counsellor, is doomed. She just exudes mid-80s awesomeness though.

Quote: “Think I’d rather deal with ol’ Jason.”

100 favourite slasher movie characters – Part I

There’s no order to this, just a celebration of my fave characters over the years, largely (but not entirely) ignoring final girls and killers. (Some spoilers though – boooo).

Less go!

barb black christmas 1974 margot kidder

BARB

Played by Margot Kidder (R.I.P.)

In Black Christmas (1974)

Why? As the perma-drunk sister of the sorority, fastest tongue in the west Barb is not afraid to bring the drama, from aggravating the loon who has been plaguing the house with obscene calls to calling out people on their shit and pranking the local sergeant.

Quote: “Darling… you can’t rape a townie.”

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*children of the corn isaac john franklin 1984ISAAC

Played by John Franklin

In Children of the Corn (1984)

Why? Leader of the adult-hating kiddie-cult that resides in Gatlin, Nebraska, Isaac is a scheming little con-man, prone to camp hissy fits when he clashes with tyrannical deputy, Malachai. Endlessly entertaining.

Quote: “He speaks to me always …bitch!” (OK I added that last part, but if you watch the scene you’ll know it’s needed).

*

kaym

KAY-EM 14

Played by Lisa Ryder

In Jason X (2001)

Why? In a crowded, anonymous cast, android Kay-Em stands out amongst the pale archetypes as the (ever perky) single hope the crew has to neutralize the threat of Jason, which she does with cutesy enthusiasm.

Quote: “I’m afraid I’m gonna have to hurt you now.”

*

elaine parker brooke bundy a nightmare on elm street 4 the dream master 1988

ELAINE PARKER

Played by Brooke Bundy

In A Nightmare on Elm Street’s 3-4 (1987/88)

Why? Short-tempered, wannabe socialite mother of Kristen, Mrs Parker is what we might today call a typical Karen: She won’t listen to anybody, just whips out the chequebook. I do like, in the series, that the guilty parents are left alive to suffer the loss of their kids, whereas most other series’ would simply kill off arrogant, unpleasant type.

Quote: “Kristen, get away from that house! Andale!”

*

mickey timothy olyphant scream 2 1997MICKEY

Played by Timothy Olyphant

In Scream 2 (1997)

Why? One of many background suspects with minimal impact until he’s revealed to be one of the killers, film-obsessed Mickey wants to be caught to manipulate America’s trial-fixated culture by blaming ‘the movies’ and getting right wing Christian groups to pay his legal bills. Frighteningly, this doesn’t seem that unlikely.

Quote: “It’s bullshit generalisation – many sequels have surpassed the originals.”

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sleepaway camp judy bad hair

JUDY

Played by Karen Fields

In Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Why? Sour teen Judy is the girl all the boys lust after at Camp Arawak – but she’s a total bitch! Her jealousy over attention afforded to shy Angela sets her on a path of nastiness that culminates with death-by-curling-iron.

Quote: “She’s a carpenter’s dream: Flat as a board and needs a good screw!”

*

reese urban legend loretta devine 1998

REESE

Played by Loretta Devine

In Urban Legend 1-2 (1998/2000)

Why? Something of a rarity in slasherdom was the security guard who isn’t an early casualty of the killing spree; Reese is among the first to suspect something fishy going on at Pendleton U, but is shut down by the Dean, and the ultimately plays a hand in saving the day. Twice.

Quote: “Get up against the wall… you looney, psycho bitch!”

*

devon sawa alex browning final destination 2000

ALEX BROWNING

Played by Devon Sawa

In Final Destination (2000)

Why? High schooler Alex’s journey from Joe Nobody to prescient hero makes for an interesting change to the customary midwestern white girl lead in teen horror. He’s likeable without being too earnest and heroic without being annoying and improbably macho.

Quote: “[We will remove you from this aircraft]” / “Fuck you, I’ll remove myself!”

*

seth vincent van patten hell night 1981

SETH

Played by Vincent Van Patten

In Hell Night (1981)

Why? Frat guys in slasher films are usually douches, and while Seth is largely transfixed with getting into Denise’s pants, once the threat is revealed, he switches into hero mode to save his friends, ultimately at the cost of his own demise.

Sad times.

Quote: “If you weren’t screaming… and we weren’t screaming… then somebody’s trying to mind-fuck us.”

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brenda friday the 13th laurie bartram 1980

BRENDA

Played by Laurie Bartram (R.I.P.)

In Friday the 13th (1980)

Why? The ‘sensible girl’ at Camp Crystal Lake, Brenda combines smouldering Hollywood Golden Era looks with an endearing, hard-working personality, that likely made her fun to be around.

Quote: “Fat chance, you’re two steps for Pacific Avenue and Skin City!”

All About Evil

kill game 2018

KILL GAME

2.5 Stars  2018/102m

“No one is laughing now.”

Director/Writer: Robert Mearns / Cast: Sari Sanchez, Michael Galante, Joe Adler, Pierson Fode, Tommy Beardmore, Laura Ashley Samuels, Hilary Anderson, Patrick Zielinski.

Body Count: 11


Some spoilers. Five old friends, who plagued their high school with pranks, attend the funeral of another friend and soon after discover that somebody from their past is fucking with them, ordering a stack of pizzas, removing the battery from a car, sending a sex worker over… Which of their old gag victims could it be?

A seventh friend, jittery walking pharmacy Beth, returns to town and is immediately tracked down by hunky Liam, the estranged twin brother of Brendan, who died years before as a result of a prank gone wrong, which had been masterminded by the recently buried friend. Liam wants to know what happened to his brother, but the seven of them never told a soul.

kill game 2018 joe adler

Thanks to horny cop Blake, the group learn their dead friend was most definitely murdered and via the medium of handy flashback we see him hoisted upside down, naked, over a fire pit, which is lit by a cloaked, Marilyn Monroe-masked killer, who looks like they could go to prom with the cherub from Valentine.

The friends start to reach out to old prank victims and apologise, but Marilyn has other ideas and straps one of the gang to a chair, giving her a blood transfusion from a dead stag in payment for a joke where she’d forged a doctor’s note that informed a nerdy girl she was infected with HIV. Another is burned alive, and one has their tummy tuck procedure fatally crashed by the killer, who also offs the surgical staff.

kill game 2018 hilary anderson

The dwindling group find themselves back at the beach where Brendan died for a big showdown, which is crashed by the cops before we can get answers.

So who is the killer? Well, Kill Game can’t quite seem to make up its mind, though we get a good scene where Beth wakes up in a hospital staffed by several of the prank victims who begin descending on her like zombies. But that’s a dream.

Instead, the actual killer is revealed in the final shot and is someone who has barely appeared in the film at all. Eagle-eyed viewers may recall them from a couple of earlier scenes, but so fleeting are these appearances that it literally may as well have been an old granny or someone who sped by in a car.

And what the hell was supposed to be in that box?

kill game 2018

I see what Kill Game was trying to do here, a grand exercise in misdirection, but instead it kinda just trips you up, having lead you down a blind alley to nowhere for the previous 100 minutes. Personally, I didn’t mind, but I can also envision a few bricks being hurled at screens. As far as I Know What You Did Last Summer/At Camp/At High School/At My Cousin’s Barmitzvah/That Day at IHOP opuses go, it’s fine. Shot in 2014.

Blurb-of-interest: Michael Galante was in Frat House Massacre.

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