A hatchet just before dawn’s wrong turn

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

NOBODY SLEEPS IN THE WOODS TONIGHT

3 Stars  2020/18/104m

Director/Writer: Bartosz M. Kowalski / Writers: Jan Kwiecinski & Mirella Zaradiewicz / Cast: Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz, Michal Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska, Stanislaw Cywka, Sebastian Dela, Gabriela Muskala, Michal Zbroja, Piotr Cyrwus.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Fucking locals, B-class Poland – what am I doing here?”


Poland. Land of pierogi, Auschwitz, and questionable human rights for gay people. Our school took us there in the 90s to visit the aforementioned concentration camps. Heavy.

In 2020, the country joined the ranks of Euroslash with this slick looking pick n’ mix of Wrong TurnJust Before Dawn, and Hatchet. Thirty years after a mailman is dragged screaming into the cellar of a remote woodland home, a busload of teenagers arrives at Camp Adrenalina, a rehab joint to prize their cell phones and tablets out of their hands and show them there’s more to life than Instagram and gaming.

Group 4 pits girly Aniela, wannabe player Daniel, shy Bartek, nerdy Julek, withdrawn Zosia, and their guide Iza against the wilderness. They trek, camp, sit around the fire, and find a hollowed out stag. Meanwhile, whatever has been living in that cellar escapes when the old lady who feeds it takes a bad fall and it steals her keys, killing her as it vacates.

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

When Bartek disappears after a sexy night time booty call with Aniela (in a cute twist he turns out to be a virgin) and all that remains is blood on a nearby tree trunk, the others split into two groups – Iza, Julek, and Zosia to look for help or a phone, while Bartek and Aniela remain at the camp in case Daniel returns. The recon team stumble upon the house and run into the hulking deformed maniac, who manages to kill Iza, leaving the teens to save themselves.

From a hermit living in a shack, Judek and Zosia learn that there are twin killers, boys who found a crashed meteor in the woods years earlier, which leaked tar-like shit that turned them into psychotic cannibals overnight, causing their mother to lock them in the cellar and throw down animal carcasses.

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

Elsewhere, Bartek looks for help in a remote church, but finds the resident priest there has other ideas, nodding to Poland’s shitty record with LGBTQ residents, and culminating in a grisly woodchipper demise. Eventually, it comes down to Zosia, who we learn lost her family during a selfie-caused car accident – though why she’s at a camp for tech-obsessed teens is never addressed.

Lots of ideas are borrowed from other films: The sleeping bag kill is a direct recreation of that in Friday the 13th Part VII, and there’s a head-to-groin axe split that recalls Wrong Turn 2, but messier. There’s a great scene where Zosia, given the chance to run, instead creeps upstairs with a large machete and slowly tip-toes into the room where one of the loons is napping to take a gruesome revenge.

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

Nobody Sleeps gets further than a lot of its brethren by carving out nicer characters than expected. Given the need to adhere to certain stereotypes, none of the endangered group fall into assholery, revealing parts of themselves that make you feel sad for them when they meet the business end of an axe. The wheels work loose towards the end, but for a first international horror export it’s pretty damn solid.

Es la misma pelicula! Otra vez.

grave robbers 1989 ladrones de tumbas

GRAVE ROBBERS

3 Stars  1989/88m

A.k.a. Ladrones de Tumbas

Director/Writer: Ruben Galindo Jr. / Writer: Carlos Valdemar / Cast: Fernando Almada, Edna Bolkan, Erika Buenfil, Ernesto Laguardia, German Bernal, Maria Rebeca, Andrea Lagarreta, Andres Bonfiglio, Tony Bravo.

Body Count: 12


Ruben Galindo strikes again! After the amazing Cemetery of Terror, the not-so amazing Don’t Panic, and Trampa Infernal directed by another member of the fam, here comes Grave Robbers. Dig that everything-tastic VHS cover!

For all intents and purposes, Grave Robbers is just Cemetery of Terror all over again. In 1879, a Satanist is axed in the chest before he can complete a ritual to birth the antichrist through a kidnapped girl. Before he expires, he swears vengeance of the bloodline of his captors.

110 years later, teen Tomb Profaners unknowingly stumble in the crypt, hidden beneath a grave they expected to find gold in (thanks to psychic gold-sensing (!?) Rebeca who explains the rich are buried with gold to buy their way into the afterlife). While the girls compare jewellery finds and talk about all the clothes they’re going to buy, their boyfriends open up the sealed tomb and take a sacred chain and the sacred axe, the removal of which allows the fiend to reanimate as a sort of sub-New Blood Jason critter.

ladrones de tumbas / grave robbers 1989

Unaware of this development, the teens flee to the surface with their booty but are stranded when their truck gets stuck in the mud. Evil creature comes along, retrieves the axe, and begins killing everyone in sight, starting with two poor locals who offered to help move the truck.

Local sheriff Captain Lopez rocks up and finds the teens standing over bodies and arrests them all then goes looking for his daughter, who has gone camping with three gal-pals nearby. And they are ancestors of the cursed bloodline. Of course. The cloaked fiend kills the other girls but cannot be put down by bullet, then tracks down the grave robbers in jail to start getting rid of them until he can find the captain’s daughter for his ritual back in the tomb.

While it functions on a high-cheese level, there are some pretty gnarly kills in this one, with heavy bloodletting as we see axe blade pulled through the neck, a hand coming out of a guy’s stomach to retrieve the talisman thingy that can hurt it, and a creepy concrete-arm that slowly forms out of a wall.

ladrones de tumbas / grave robbers 1989

Not quite up to the bonkers fun level of Cemetery of Terror but it’s virtually a Xerox of that script with a few tweaks, so is still very much worth your while.

Blurbs-of-interest: The three main female cast players – Bolkan, Buenfil, and Rebeca – were all in Cemetery of Terror.

Cold Blooded

never hike in the snow 2020

NEVER HIKE IN THE SNOW

3 Stars  2020/31m

Director/Writer: Vincente DiSanti / Cast: Thom Mathews, Vinny Guastaferro, Bryan Forrest, Courtlan Gordon, Anna Campbell, Vincent DiSanti.

Body Count: 2


Released on the same day as the all-encompassing Friday the 13th Blu Ray box set, this prequel to the 2017 54-minute fan film that out fanned and out filmed all of its competitors serves as a sort of ‘expansion pack’ to build on its new little Jason-verse.

A teen photographer flees through the snow-carpeted forest floor in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake but is caught before he can reach his car by an unwelcoming Jason, who’s probably just trying to kick back and stay warm in his cabin. (J uses a bow and arrow for what feels like the first time?)

Local Sheriff Rick Cologne – Part VI alumni Vincent Guastaferro, one of the few second-tier characters to survive originally – instructs a young deputy to salt over the bloodstains while he goes to talk to the mom of the missing teen, discovering he’d purposefully gone looking for the old camp.

A spanner is thrown into Cologne’s approach in the form of Tommy Jarvis, who is intent on finishing off Jason all over again. Things culminate with the young deputy happening on the camp and seeing a light in a window… Don’t do it, dude.

never hike in the snow 2020

Because it doesn’t have the contained story Never Hike Alone afforded itself, Snow feels a tad superfluous by comparison, but with the knowledge the producers plan on further films, it’s a necessary puzzle piece. In its favour, it’s as marvellously made as its predecessor, with majestic aerial shots bringing us in, has great acting from everybody involved and even a glimpse of Mrs Voorhees.

Most Wanted

As I type, 40 years ago they were likely coming to the end of the Friday the 13th Part 2 shoot and during post-production and MPAA back-and-forths, much of Carl Fullerton’s marvellous FX work would be scissored from the movie, seemingly forever.

VHS came and went, with a much-seen shot of this absent gorefest on the back of the box of a European release. I first saw the film in the summer of 1996 and was curiously disappointed about its omission. When DVD came along and several insert shots in some of the later films were restored, we all hoped Part 2‘s shish-ke-bob impalement kill of Jeff and Sandra would show up. Nuh-uh.

jeff sandra friday the 13th part 2

There was the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set with its Killer Extras disc, featuring cut footage from the other movies, but not Part 2. There were the deluxe editions that had ‘slashed scenes’ as extras on the other films, but not Part 2. There was the 2013 deluxe 8-film set on Blu Ray with more new extras for the other films, but still no sign of the excised scenes.

Interwebz rumours had long pointed towards Fullerton possessing the footage and I’ve seen countless petitions and campaigns over the years to try and locate it to no avail.

And then came Scream Factory.

What my friend Ross correctly dubbed ‘the last word’ on the franchise sees all 12 movies together for the first time in one cutely decorated box, 16 discs in all, confined only to Region-A Blu Ray.

scream factory friday the 13th box

So I bought a multi region Blu Ray player.

Amazon Canada were doing the sweetest deal, but then suddenly the page said they couldn’t/wouldn’t ship to Europe. Amazon US were charging more but there were no shipping issues it seemed, just a long-ass wait for Jason’s TransAtlantic voyage (not via the Lazarus), but eventually a 2-day wait from a UK-based eBayer had the box turn up on Saturday morning at 9am.

I rugby dived to the player, dog crazily running around hoping the big box contained biscuits or tennis balls, and in went Part 2. Of course, the player revved up like some Lovecraftian God awakened from centuries of slumber; the TV kept telling me the remote was now usable for the player as well; the don’t-copy-this-disc warning seemed to remain on screen for hours.

But there it was, on the extras menu: Slashed scenes.

PLAY.

A mere song-length of extended and unseen takes from my favourite slasher movie of all time unfurled before my hazy morning eyes.

  • Alice vs. Icepick
  • Crazy Ralph’s last hurrah – 12″ extended disco mix
  • The doomed Deputy’s hammer-to-the-head
  • More of Scott’s savage throat slashing
  • A micro-second longer of poor wheelchair-bound Mark’s blade to the face
  • Vickie’s stabbing
  • An I-can’t-see-a-difference Jason-through-the-window take
  • Mrs Voorhees’ head.

But the reason I signed on for all this madness, ordered the damn thing three times, and have become a Blu Ray lackie: Jeff and Sandra.

Maybe it’s my age, but compared to the other scenes, this is the only one I think was a real loss for the movie, an actual robbery of essential content, unlike slightly longer shots of the other denouements, the entire removal of what happens to them subtracted a lot of power from the scenario.

It lasts longer than I thought, comprising several shots as they writhe silently (no sound made it for any of the footage) and Jason grinds the spear through them in an almost humiliating demise.

I was 2 when this was shot. I’m 42 now. Thank you Scream Factory. It was worth the wait.

me-friday

Murder on the Dancefloor

discopath 2013

DISCOPATH

2.5 Stars  2013/81m

“Disco isn’t dead, but you might be.”

Director/Writer: Renaud Gauthier / Cast: Jeremie Earp Lavergne, Sandrine Bisson, Ivan Freud, Ingrid Falaise, Katherine Cleland, Mathieu Lapage, Francois Aubin, Pierre Lenoir.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Calm down miss, YOUR FRIEND IS DEAD!”


There are precisely two awesome scenes in this uneven French Canadian flick, which posits that a guy who saw his dad electrocuted by recording equipment is driven to murder nightclub babes anytime he hears the pulsating rhythms of disco music.

In 1976, our loon-to-be Duane is fired from his diner job in NYC and hooks up with a girl who takes him to Seventh Heaven nightclub where he loses it to what sounds like a Hi-NRG disco mix of Flight of the Bumblebee and attacks his date. As she tries to escape, Duane ends up accosting her beneath the light-up dancefloor, where she shrieks hysterically, pounding her hands against the underside of the platform while people shake n’ shimmy inches above her head.

discopath 2013

It really is a great scenario, executed well, ending with a nice zoom out of her face, barely visible under the floor until it’s eclipsed by spinning and twirling revellers.

Duane flees New York for Montreal and things skip ahead to 1980 where we find him posing as a deaf-mute handyman at an all girl’s Catholic school, attempting to block out the tempting bops of Donna Summer and the Village People with secret ear plugs. When school empties out for the weekend, he hears two loitering girls playing – gasp! – disco music and doing naked lesbian things, slashes them up with a broken 45 and takes their heads.

discopath 2013

He’s also kidnapped a teacher from a discotheque and is holding her captive in a basement somewhere while he dances around her, buck naked, swinging the two decapitated heads about like fire poi.

Cops investigate. The original NYC detective reads about it and travels to Montreal. Duane crashes a televised show called Discomania and strangles a girl, all shown via strobe lights, which is the other awesome scene.

Then, and I don’t know what the fuck this was about, Duane disguises himself as a nun to ram cars from the funeral procession of the murdered girls and a teacher while the Kiss classic I Was Made for Lovin’ You plays from an eight-track. Cops chase, Duane throws himself off a parking garage.

discopath 2013

The film is essentially over after about 73 minutes with no real resolution or explanation, no real main character to speak of, just a bunch of scenes spliced together that either don’t drive the plot at all (the priest yelling during the funeral service?) or occur with no raison d’etre. Why give so much screentime to the other teacher if she dies so randomly by electrocuting herself? Why not kill off the priest who wanted to pull a Mayor Vaughn and re-open the school before the killer was caught?

A weird experience if ever there was, but the two dancefloor murder scenes and some eyebrow raising male nudity save it from being tossed into the Disco Demolition Night bonfire.

Blurb-of-interest: Gauthier also directed the 2019 waterslide slasher pic Aquaslash.

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