“It’s 22 years later and Norman Bates is coming home.”
Director: Richard Franklin / Writer: Tom Holland / Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, Hugh Gillin, Claudia Bryar, Robert Alan Browne.
Body Count: 6
Laughter Lines: “I don’t kill people anymore.”
An Australian girl who I used to work with, Tammy, told me a few years back that her father’s girlfriend is the widow of Richard Franklin, and has the knife-in-the-mouth prop from the movie. Envy.
Franklin, who was chosen to direct after his rather awesome Road Games (with Jamie Lee Curtis), and the story picks up 22 years after, as Norman Bates is granted release from his institution, much to the chagrin of Lila Loomis, the kind-of final girl from Psycho, whose sister, Marion Crane, was the infamous shower victim.
It’s a bit of an unlikely contrivance that he’s sent back to the very place where he committed the crimes, but, hey, it’s an 80s horror flick. Provided a job at a Fairvale diner, Norman meets young waitress Mary Samuels, who just happens to need a place to stay after her boyfriend trades up. Norman initially offers her a room in the motel but, upon learning the new manager has turned it into a by-the-hour party joint, so insists she lodge in the house.
Before long, weird things start to happen: Creepy phone calls from ‘mother’, a toilet that overflows with blood, spyholes in the bathroom wall – and also some disappearances. First to go is the sleazy manager, then a couple of horny teens stop by to make-out in the basement and find themselves set upon by a woman in a long black dress wielding a scary-ass kitchen knife…
Psycho II is something of an unlikely horror sequel, which, in later years would’ve been shot the year after the original and called for a re-cast, so Perkins returning to the role is a major plus – indeed the film was planned to be a TV-film until he agreed to star. Franklin, a protegé of Hitchcock, liberally peppers the film with visual homages to the original. High angles, aerial shots, and step-zooms echo the style nicely – that awesome crane shot from the attic window down to the basement is everything.
Several revelations uncapped at various points throughout the movie thicken up a slightly convenient plot, but also push it beyond the confines of the average sequel: is Norman blacking out and dressing up as mom again? Is someone else on the scene? The decision to implement more standard slasher clichés of the era was a wise one and results in some inventively grisly murder scenes, the knife-in-the-mouth being the standout, at the same time retaining the classiness of a high-end movie.
The story segues neatly into Psycho III (released in ’86 but set just a month or two later). This should be textbook material when it comes to creating quality follow-ups.
“Nicky’s having a party… and everyone’s dying to be there.”
Director/Writer: Mark Anthony Galluzzo / Cast: Glenn Quinn, Rick Otto, Lucas Babin, Brandi Andres, Jason Mewes, Reno Wilson, Jeanne Chinn, Daniel Joseph, Nora Zehetner, Majandra Delfino, Grace Zabriskie, Jonathan Banks.
Body Count: 13
Laughter Lines: “There’s a hell of a lot more to life than death.”
The ‘art of murder’ is at the centre of this festival indie flick, rather than rinse-and-repeat teen-bashing.
Nick, a professor lecturing on serial murder, plays host to his friend’s leaving party as friend prepares to relocate with his girlfriend, Jordan, who is also Nick’s ex. Much discussion on serial killers and the fame they achieve ensues between Nick, his creepy colleague Hal (the late Quinn), and Nick’s less-than-impressed friends, who get worried when the guest of honor fails to show up – and is in fact lying dead inside a chest in the middle of the room, in a name-checked homage to Hitchcock’s Rope.
Cue Nick then offing the guests as they leave the party with a nail gun, fire poker, poison, and a guitar string. There’s little blood to speak of, the project prefers steering itself towards stylish humour and well-drawn characters, although things become a little pretentious the longer it goes on. When Hal tosses a spanner in the plan, Nick ‘fesses up to what he’s done, now that only Jordan is left alive and the requisite killer-vs-final-girl scene comes into force.
Good acting helps, though Mewes doesn’t stray far from his tried and tested stoner bit, and Delfino is good as the kooky neighbour. A weird ending that sees the survivors kick back with a joint and laugh that they need new friends partly undoes some of the good work laid down. Your call.
Blurbs-of-interest: Glenn Quinn was in Dr Giggles; Mewes can also be seen in The Tripper (duh) and The Waterman; Grace Zabriskie was in Child’s Play 2; Majandra Delfino was also in Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th.
POOL PARTY MASSACRE
“Worst pool party ever.”
Director/Writer: Drew Marvick / Cast: Kristin Noel McKusick, Margaux Neme, Crystal Stoney, Destiny Faith Nelson, Alexis Adams, Jenifer Marvick, Nick Byer, Mark Justice, Drew Marvick.
Body Count: 11
Laughter Lines: “How about any killer from every horror movie in the 80s? You couldn’t open anything back then without a dead body falling out of it.”
At first glance – both from the cover art and the trailer – this looks like just another sub-bargain basement production to get hot girls to remove their bikini tops, but there’s a little more than meets the eye. But also hot girls removing their bikini tops.
Spoiled rich girl Blaire has run of the roost while her parents take off on vacation, but they’re glad her sensible childhood friend Nancy is there to keep the calm. Soon, Blaire’s vacuous friends Tiffany, Britney, Jasmine and Kelly show up, plus a boyfriend and his horny brother.
Who is the hulking face-off-camera loon who starts doing away with the guests, the neighbours, and the pizza guy with a new weapon each time? It’s actually fairly obvious who it might be from early-scene dialogue, but Pool Party Massacre‘s last few minutes open the curtains to an interesting and amusing revelation.
It’s not a twist that we haven’t seen before, but the script suddenly switches into witty gear, and fears that this would turn out to be on the same level as Spring Break Massacre are mercifully put to bed. It’s a bed with a severed head in it, but a bed all the same.
Given the approach, there’s surprisingly actually only a few topless shots, no annoying girl-on-girl scenes, and some likeable banter between characters who aren’t entirely objectionable, plus some decent camera work reminiscent of the genre films of yore. This isn’t to say I’ll ever watch it again, but it’s a refreshing change from what’s expected and had Marvick used the same level of incisiveness displayed at the end for the first 70 minutes, this could’ve been a fun little companion to The Slumber Party Massacre.
The DVD comes with an awesome reversible sleeve, that has an 80s VHS-style cover on the back.
In 2011 (!) we enjoyed a good long moan about the shitty tropes that keep cropping up in horror movies. Well, now that I’m officially in my 40s I’d better get used to moaning more… Here are another five things that need to fucking fuck off:
Conveniently named towns and/or psychos
A killer who goes to work ridding the local area of virgins in a town that happens to be named Cherry Falls? Or the Tooth Fairy who can’t go into the light torments the townsfolk of Darkness Falls? Gimme a break!
Oh, but then we have loons ‘ironically’ named Marty Sickle, Jack who uses a Jackhammer, and Bobby Carver who likes to carve people up.
Waiting patiently for Bob Knifewielder to start offing the residents of Murderville, Missouri.
The House of the Devil looked the part alright, but suddenly we’ve got all these ‘back to basics’ or ‘lost classics’ tumbling out of the sky: The Sleeper, Lost After Dark, The Final Girls, Terrifier, Pool Party Massacre, Summer of ’84, Party Night… Rough-around-the-edges production attributes are one thing, but missing reels? Rubik’s cubes and Cabbage Patch Kids everywhere while Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Karma Chameleon blast from the radio?
Give your cast short-shorts, big hair, and make them say ‘rad’ a lot, but the biggest giveaway though is always the eyebrows: So preened, so post-millennial. No one is fooled!
5, 10, 20 years later…
Some killers wait a year for their revenge, Kenny Hampson waited three years, Alex Hammond waited six, Mrs Voorhees waited 21… but most appear to be so crippled by OCD that they can only work in multiples of five, with a 10 year wait being the most common anniversary for sexy teens to go hangout at the olde rollerdome.
“What? No nudity!?”
This is more a complaint about the short-sightedness of some genre fans who flock to various forums and boards to complain that any given film is “the worst ever” because it doesn’t feature a pair of tits, seemingly living under the illusion that slasher movies have to have them. Hell Night, My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me… all nudity free. Hell, even the original Friday the 13th shows nothing but a fleeting, under-lit glimpse.
Randy told us: “This is the moment when the supposedly dead killer comes back to life for one last scare!” Unless your surname is Voorhees or Myers, or you exist beyond the plain the rest of us live on, being shot, impaled, burned in an explosion should kill you. Loons who successfully avoid death more than a couple of times are becoming a little too prevalent – Mick Taylor, I’m looking at you here, mate.