Slither n’ Slash

venom 2005 dvd

VENOM

3.5 Stars  2005/15/87m

“He never hurt a soul until the day he died.”

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten & Brandon Boyce / Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Rick Cramer, Laura Ramsey, Meagan Good, D.J. Cotrona, Pawel Szajda, Bijou Phillips, Davetta Sherwood, Method Man.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “You stole it?” / “Well, I wasn’t gonna buy it, it’s too ugly! I felt bad taking a nice one – I have a conscience.”


Kevin Williamson produced this ill-failed feature, for which he was reunited with I Know What You Did Last Summer director Gillespie. It ended up being released within days of Hurricane Katrina – not good for a Louisiana-shot, voodoo-centric teen horror film. Predictably it tanked, raking less than $1million.

In spite of this misfortune, Venom is a handsome critter, which benefits from above average production design, and a brutality absent in other recent slasher films. And there weren’t many around theatrically in 2005. Initially, the film was conceived as a backstory for a pending video game, Backwater, which featured an antagonist known as Mr Jangles. Whether that ever surfaced I do not know.

venom 2005 meagan good agnes bruckner

A mambo priestess in the deep south retrieves a suitcase full of snakes possessed by the evil of people whose bad mojo they’ve sucked out in a ‘milking ceremony’. Whilst transporting it to safety, she, grimy local mechanic/outcast Ray Sawyer, and sexy teens Eden and Eric, are involved in an accident on a bridge, which culminates with the hulking Ray trapped inside the sinking car with the loose snakes.

Ray’s body is retrieved and the mambo also dies from her injuries, but the former is soon up and about, killing the coroner, Method Man’s deputy (what happened to him!?), and a string of teens leading back to the mambo’s house, where her granddaughter CeCe (Good, who is, uh, good) is mourning her loss.

venom 2005

Meanwhile, the demon-formerly-known-as-Ray sandblasts a light-fingered teen to death before heading in the direction of the house where the depleting teens gather to comfort CeCe. After finding their VW Beetle turned on its head (at least it wasn’t completely trashed, gorgeous thing that it is) the assault begins with a ripped-off arm, death-by-crowbar, and even house-wrenched-in-half when CeCe’s voodoo powder-scattering blocks his entry.

Venom goes to some lengths to provide creative demises for all involved, but by doing so adheres to that is-it/isn’t-it true stereotype of killing the black characters first: The first three murdered aren’t white and the ripe opportunity to finally cast a black girl as the heroine is squandered.

venom 2005 bijou phillips

That said, Agnes Bruckner, as Eden, does just fine with the role – running and retaliating where required and I’d forgotten just how long the third act of Girl vs. demon-formerly-known-as-Ray carries on, so her dues are well and truly paid.

Despite reliance on some real contrivances – one of the teens is Ray’s illegitimate son, perfect to make a voodoo doll with – there’s much to enjoy here, from the swampland locus (although why does nobody have a southern accent?) to the comparably luxury production qualities. The characters blue together somewhat, with little to them beyond final girl Eden wanting to go be a doctor in New York, her boyfriend moaning about it, the gay boy, the drunk boy, and a host of ‘other ones’.

venom 2005

Venom isn’t likely to be regarded as a classic by any metric, but it’s definitely worth a look for its surface gloss appeal alone, which is rare in low-end slasher fare, and some MTV hyper-edits aside, ticks all the boxes a fun horror ride should.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gillespie also directed D-Tox; Laura Ramsey was in Cruel World.

Final Girl Power

last girl standing 2015 dvd

LAST GIRL STANDING

3 Stars  2015/18/87m

“What happens after the horror movie?”

Director/Writer: Benjamin R. Moody / Cast: Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos, J.D. Carrera, Laura Ray, Kelsey Pribilski, Ryan Hamilton.

Body Count: 14


I’ve long wondered what happens after the final girl staggers off to freedom having bested the killer: What does Marti/Alice/Sally tell the cops? What’s the process of the investigation, the clean up, the press? How many shrinks do they see? How does their family react?

The Texas-lensed Last Girl Standing doesn’t quite cover these bases, instead opting to skip forward a few years in the life of woodland-massacre sole survivor Camryn. So the first few minutes is a quick meta-overview of Camryn taking down The Hunter, an occult-ritual loon in a furry antlered mask, who offs half a dozen of her friends.

In the now, five years on, Camryn is a lonely, withdrawn figure who works at a dry cleaners, doesn’t have any friends and wakes most nights from flashback nightmares of the murders. However, this all begins to change when new employee Nick enters the picture and takes a liking to her.

last girl standing 2015 akasha villalobos

This coincides with Camryn believing The Hunter has come back, as she’s accosted at her place of work. Naturally, no one else sees a thing and nothing can be proved. Nick offers to accommodate her for the night and she meets his circle of friends, whom she begins to believe will be the next targets of the killer.

Camryn’s episodes unnerve the others as her paranoia grows, and it’s not immediately clear if anything she’s experiencing is real or in her head. She is befriended by Danielle, one of Nick’s friends who also carries some survival guilt. Together, they drive out to the burial site of The Hunter to give Camryn closure so she can be free!

last girl standing 2015 akasha villalobos danielle evon ploeger

But can she? Can she ever really get over it? Last Girl Standing, albeit more of a character study than a slasher film for most of its running time, isn’t able to reach it’s 87th minute without bookending itself with another killing spree – was The Hunter back all along? I ain’t telling.

While the new perspective allows for a fresh take on things, it still doesn’t feel as if we learn that much about the aftermath of Camryn’s experience. It’s not too far removed from Tommy’s character in Friday the 13th Part V, all broody and silent, seeing Jason everywhere, and other sequels where the heroine spends most of the running time trying to convince others that the killer has come back.

last girl standing 2015 akasha villalobos

A good character study in part, the slasher bits deliver as well (though viewers who demand boobs, joints, and skinny dipping in their teen-kill flicks should avoid it), but something is missing, and it’s not as unconventional as it thinks it is – a film set in the days and weeks after the massacre would have been more interesting, although it would likely entail a higher budget than what’s in evidence here. That said, nothing is aesthetically wrong with the production and Villalobos puts in a strong performance as the twitchy title character.

Last Girl Standing would make a good double-header with The Final Girls as writers and directors search for new ways to focus on new aspects of a tired out genre. Not Scream Queens though. That can go fuck itself. Maybe a sequel concerning a survivor’s anonymous group is in order?

Those loved and lost

2016 was regarded as a terrible year for many reasons, a lot of which are political and divisive, but also because of the deaths of so, so many well-loved famous folk. (I hate the word ‘celebrity’, don’t you?)

Naturally, some of those people had a presence in our beloved slasher genre, so it wouldn’t be right to let their contributions become forgotten to career write-ups that conveniently forget the time they ran screaming from a killer…

CARRIE FISHER
1956 – 2016

carrie fisher scream 3 sorority row

Mrs Crenshaw, Sorority Row; Bianca Bernette, Scream 3

Having never been much of a Star Wars type of guy, Carrie Fisher’s tragic loss at Christmas 2016 represented more of a loss of somebody generally important because of the issues she stood for and wasn’t afraid to discuss openly. She always came across as very genuine.

Anyway, Carrie cameo’d as a self-a-like in Scream 3 and later played the awesome Mrs Crenshaw in the 2009 Sorority Row remake, a no-shit, shotgun-toting badass of a housemother.

*

ALEXIS ARQUETTE
1969-2016

alexis arquette bride of chucky

Damien, Bride of Chucky; Greg, Children of the Corn V

The youngest Arquette sibling was more known for supporting comic roles in the likes of The Wedding Singer (the only Adam Sandler film worth shit), and his transition to becoming her, and then back to him again.

Still, let us not forget Alexis’ contributions to two slasher pics, as wannabe goth/killer Damien, and the almost final-boy in the underrated fourth COTC sequel, Fields of Terror).

*

ZSA ZSA GABOR
1917-2016

zsa zsa gabor nightmare on elm street 3 dick cavett freddy krueger

Herself, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3

Reportedly, Dick Clark chose Zsa Zsa Gabor for his cameo in Dream Warriors as she was the stupidest person he’d ever interviewed. Nevertheless, Hollywood royalty Zsa Zsa was at least not taken from us too early, making it to 99 years old!

*

GEORGE KENNEDY
1925-2016

george kennedy wacko 1982

Himself, Wacko; Roy, Just Before Dawn

George Kennedy appeared in all of the 70s Airport disaster movies, but also cropped up at the end of 1982 slasher parody Wacko as himself to warn the audience that “lawnmowers don’t kill people, people kill people,” before getting pounded with cream pies.

And I really need to sit down with JBD again.

*

VANITY / D.D. WINTERS
1959-2016

vanity d.d. winters terror train

Merry, Terror Train

Prince’s former protege died just a couple of months before the man himself. I don’t know a whole lot about her, only that she had this small supporting role in Terror Train.

Thank you all for your contributions to a bunch of films you probably thought no one would ever see. R.I.P.

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: Harvest of Fear & The Path of Evil

I picked this pair of cheapies up in Bali about a decade ago (!) and the discs were warped in a strange way that no others were and would only play on one DVD player, which I no longer have. Oh well, good job they sucked.

*

harvest of fear 2004 dvd

HARVEST OF FEAR

2 Stars  2004/87m

“Killing is in the air.”

Director: Brad Goodman / Writers: Ted Pfeifer & Chris Pfeifer / Cast: Ryan Deal, Carrie Finklea, Justin Ament, Don Alder, Thomas Nabhan, Curt Hanson, Tobias Anderson, Ted Pfeifer, Ina Strauss, Kristen Luman.

Body Count: 18

Laughter Lines: “Although there have been nine murders, we’re not ready to say any of this is connected.”


Another garden variety Friday the 13th Xerox made for the horror shelf at the DVD store, this time concerning murders in the small Oregon town of Devil’s Lake (of course…), which are identical to crimes that happened two decades earlier.

Medical intern Billy and his object of lust, Stacey, attempt to investigate the crimes that the local cops are too dumb to link either to one another or the earlier murders (see Laughter Lines) but also ignore the stalking behaviour of Stacey’s temperamental ex-boyfriend, Jake.

Meanwhile, college kids following ye olde tradition of getting drunk and having sex are being slashed to ribbons by a masked fiend. Never mind that their friends are dead, they decide they’re safe enough to continue partying until they meet inevitable sticky ends. On no less than three separate occasions, couples wander into dark deserted areas and then split up on the understanding that one of them will “be right back”.

Elsewhere, the film adheres to even the most outdated of cliches, including the old man who nobody listens to, and there’s even a hick-accented narrator book ending the film with a summary of events.

The writers (one of whom plays a deputy) have obviously tried to furnish their tale with twists and a litter of potential suspects, and the identity of the killer proves to be a little beyond the expected, but the actors and the dialogue their saddled with doesn’t stack up and the whole thing has an amateur night feel to it.

*

THE PATH OF EVIL the path of evil 2005

1.5 Stars  2005/113m

“After 20 years… the serial killer has returned.”

 Director/Writer: Brad Goodman / Writers: Justin Ament & Ted Pfeifer / Cast: Justin Ament, Ryan Deal, Carrie Finklea, Don Alder, Katie O’Grady, Thomas Nabhan, Brad Goodman, Ted Pfeifer, Curt Hanson.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Devil’s Lake, contrary to its name, is not an evil place.”


Credit for reassembling the surviving cast members from the first film - and even resurrecting a couple of them from the dead! Here endeth the good.

The tables are turned as far as the plot goes, this time focusing on Jake (Ament), the asshole ex-boyfriend from before, as he recuperates from his wounds and tries to win back indecisive girlfriend Stacey, and work out who is behind the renewed spate of killings, six months on from the events of Harvest of Fear.

Difficult enough to digest that Jake is now supposed to be the sympathetic hero and already knowing the probable identity of the killer, the whole project is fleshed out to an excruciating length with scenes of a criminology student writing a paper on the convicted killer.

Ultimately, this subplot has no bearing on the outcome, which not only feels twice as long but also twice as boring as the first time around, grinding on relentlessly for almost two hours and withholding much of the killing until the end, though mercifully all the major players are done away with, erasing hope for a third go-round – although death didn’t stop them before.

Blurbs-of-interest: Carrie Finklea was in Simon Says; Tobias Anderson was in Destroyer.

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