Minimum Wage Massacre

intruder 1989 INTRUDER

3.5 Stars  1989/18/83m

A.k.a. Night Crew: The Final Checkout

Director/Writer: Scott Spiegel / Writer: Lawrence Bender / Cast: Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Danny Hicks, David Byrnes, Billy Marti, Eugene Glazer, Sam Raimi, Burr Steers, Craig Stark, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “I swear to God, if my brother hadn’t hit him in the head repeatedly with a blender, he would’ve killed me!”

As someone not into The Evil Dead, I was always quite blind to the pedigree of the creators behind Intruder. The intervening years since that first viewing of a heavily-cut version on cable back in the 90s set me right to a degree, but I’m still no fan of that series, or a Tarantino appreciator, so have always been consigned to view Intruder as I would any other slasher flick.

Most of us have hauled boxes and tapped till keys in a supermarket at some point in our lives, and before I saw the film the first time, I often mused about the numerous opportunities a killer roaming the aisles of a supermarket would have. The tiny village Co-op I worked in was a fraction of the size of the Walnut Lake Market, where the employees are told that their days there are coming to an end as the owners have decided to sell up.

intruder 1989

This announcement coincides with the reappearance of checkout girl Jennifer’s violent ex-boyfriend, Craig, who’s just out of the clink and wants an explanation as to why she never wrote him back. A violent altercation ensues and Craig is eventually ejected from the store at closing time.

As products are marked down for clearance, an in-shadow killer starts doing away with the youthful workforce one by one in particularly gruesome ways: Head in a box crusher, eye on to one of those dealt-with-post spikes, head bisection via meat saw… Eventually, only Jennifer remains and stumbles upon the chopped up corpses littered around the store and soon finds herself on the run from the killer.

intruder 1989 sam raimi burr steers

Intruder is cheap looking for the most part, but that hasn’t stopped Spiegel et al throwing their all into creating an energetic slasher flick. The camera angles alone put many more expensively lensed horror films to shame, but that’s nothing compared to the gory denouements afforded to the cast. The uncut version restored almost two minutes from the previous release, where the buzz saw kill was entirely removed, and clumsy edits forced upon it.

The influence of Three Stooges physical comedy is evident, with gushing blood in place of cream pies, comedically huge knives, a killer with a wacky motive (their identity obvious thanks to various releases showing them on the cover), numerous comical touches and a knowing wink to those of us who suffered through our minimum wage summers, nicking ourselves on box cutters, dropping products that little too hard so we could write off the contents and eat/drink it, dealing with asshole customers and managers on power trips. It’s a wonder a crime like this hasn’t actually happened!

intruder 1989 elizabeth cox

A seminal entry late in the game, prone to overratedness by gorehounds, though curiously given some of the sweeping statements made about ‘proper slasher movies’, Intruder has zero nudity and virtually all of the grue is directed at the male cast members, with only one off-camera female kill – be interested to see what Carol Clover made of that.

In spite of the box and promo art work, Bruce Campbell and most of the other ‘names’ appear for all of sixty seconds, which probably angered a few fans of his way back when.

Blurbs-of-interest: Renée Estevez had her turn as final girl in Sleepaway Camp II; Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell appeared in Maniac Cop; Ted Raimi had a bit-part in Blood Rage.

Friday the 13th Part XII.5

never hike alone 2017


4 Stars  2017/54m

Director/Writer: Vincente DiSanti / Writer: Nathan McLeod / Cast: Andrew Leighty, Vincente DiSanti, Thom Mathews, Katie Schwartz, Robert Dubois.

Body Count: 2

I’m not one for fan films really, as they tend to amount to dollar store masks, ketchup, and that girl from fifth period bio convinced to take her bra off, all shot on either Mom and Dad’s camcorder or an iPhone.

However, I started to hear about Never Hike Alone through various Friday the 13th sites and eventually found some time to sit down with it. Actually, it took three sessions: The first ten minutes one day, before other stuff got in the way, then another 25 minutes in the morning before work, and finally the rest when I got home.

Putting it bluntly and after the disclaimer that I know nobody involved or had anything to do with the production of this film… it’s fucking amazing.

never hike alone

Given that those of us loony enough to have the words ‘Camp Crystal Lake’ tattooed on our forearms have waited and waited and waited some more for almost a decade now for anything Jason-y to come out way, it looks like Vincente DiSanti and Nathan McLeod finally said ‘no more’ and damn well did it themselves.

Talk of a Jason-centric TV show for the CW made me cringe, as it sounded like they wanted a Riverdale-esque drama that just happened to be set near Crystal Lake. Nah, guv. No sale. Never Hike Alone, however, is pretty much how I’d have envisioned such a project – vignette-style stand-alone mini-films that show encounters various poor souls had with Jason – although realistically how much variance is there in that idea?

never hike alone

Anyway, we meet up with Kyle, a hiker-vlogger type dude who’s driven out into Wessex County to follow a trail, intermittently stopping to make little how-it’s-going videos, please advertisers by saying nice things about their all-in-one spade/axe/thingy, and just enthuse about being out in nature. The most crucial aspect of the whole thing is realised by Kyle being a decent guy, something we rarely see in slasher flicks of late.

Kyle camps out and, the next morning finds a marked trail not found in his guidebook, then a No Trespassing sign, which will save him time on the trek and feed his curious nature. Soon after, he stumbles across an old, abandoned summer camp, and it’s infamous sign:

never hike alone 2017

Deciding to spend the night there, Kyle regales his viewers with what he knows about the legend of Camp Crystal Lake, leaning heavily on the events of the original film as an axis to pivot things from. He explores, finds creepy tags that indicate where bodies were found, and then discovers that perhaps somebody is still there.

A tustle with his attacker leaves Kyle with some injuries but he manages to outrun Jason and hide, realising this his only chance of survival is to go back to the camp for his medical kit before his cuts get infected. He makes a final broadcast on his dying Go-Pro, and heads back to patch up and get the fuck away from the place – but, of course, Jason is never far away.

never hike alone

What impressed me most here was that DiSanti and McLeod ‘get’ what made the old movies so good – not gory denouements every X-minutes or a T&A quota – the very concept of somebody out there in the lush green woodland, an unstoppable force of nature in nature, the mysticism and campfire tale quality of the legend… Akin to those first twenty minutes of the 2009 rebootNever Hike Alone wades deep into the feel of the early films and plays happily there.

Could my gushing be that I’m just so thirsty for a new Friday the 13th that I’m over optimistic? I thought of that, but the $40,000 short also proves what I’ve been moaning on about for several years – that this series can be kept buoyant without multi-million budgets.

There’s also that cameo appearance in the last few minutes – Thom Mathews (my preferred Tommy) as one of three paramedics who pick Kyle up but don’t hot-foot it out of the woods quite quickly enough. This scene feels strangely surplus, which is strange as without it the body count would actually be zero. It’s not worth complaining about in any way, this film is a love letter to the series, so why the hell not?

never hike alone thom mathews

I’m hoping that the tsunami of goodwill directed at Never Hike Alone might push whomever holds the rights now to seek out DiSanti and McLeod in creating the next big screen film, or, hell, more like this, as what they’ve achieved feels more like the Friday we all fell in love with that the last four or five official entries.

Hair Don’ts II: The Revenge of Aqua Net

Somehow, since last time it’s taken ages to accrue more terrible hairstyles, but here they are:

bad hair final exam 1981

“The Walking Bouffant,” modelled by Final Exam (1981) Matthew Perry-esque frat dude.

I worry about how much hairspray went into creating this bonfire mound of hair, worsened by the centre parting and general volume. It lends well to the character’s general smarminess and eventual knife through the torso.

grotesque 1987 bad hair

“Wind Shear,” by Gang Member from Grotesque (1987)

Looks like actress Bunky Jones – also modelling a huge do in Hide and Go Shriek that same year – stuck her head out the window on the freeway and was hit in the face by a blueberry pie.

sleepaway camp judy bad hair

“The Cricked-Neck Counterbalancer,” sported by Judy in Sleepaway Camp (1983)

The entire 80s Sleepaway Camp franchise is full of fashion faux pas’ and bad hair, and it’s possibly Judy started it all by pulling her entire mane of thick, dry hair into a side-ponytail, which must have had consequences for her skeletal musculo something something.

child's play 3 bad hair

“What ever happened to Tiffany?” on random girl from Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Shaggy perm, scrunchie on top, was this look still around in ’91? I guess so. Perhaps Chucky was too weirded out by it, because this chick exits the film intact.

bad hair girls nite out 1982

“2-for-1 on Bad Hair,” with Pryor from Girls Nite Out (1982)

A classic 80s mullet and 90s curtains together at last, somehow before either became fashionable, on Hal Holbrook’s son as the is-he-or-isn’t-he killer, who understandably would’ve donned that bear costume after glancing in the mirror at this atrocity.

bad hair trampa infernal

“Perm-A-Mullet,” by lead-guy in Trampa Infernal (1989)

This guy is the hero, aided probably by extra protection afforded to the skull by the thickness of his curly mullet. I need to go to Mexico and see if they still have this do.

bad hair grotesque 1987

“The Morning After,” by Shelly in Grotesque (1987)

Grotesque – surely named for the hair-don’ts that litter it – strikes again, with another of the punkz, who looks like she lapsed into a two-week coma under a hairdryer.

christine elise child's play 2 1990

“Push it all aside,” with Kyle from Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Probably the least offensive ‘do on the list, but this is a nice compensation for Judy’s heavy list to one side, with Kyle pushing it all to the other, but with less length to slowly pull her neck over.

bad hair bloodstained shadow

“Insane Asylum Special,” for deranged son of nurse in The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

It may be hard to see clearly, but this poor chap has a standard buzz-cut on top and then a sort of mullet at the sides. The character was kept in a room on a remote island off Italy, so maybe that’s how they rolled there in the late 70s.

linda blair bad hair grotesque 1988

“The Career Flatliner,” from Dame Linda Blair in Grotesque (1987)

Maybe she was possessed by a demon again, as that’s surely the only explanation for this hairspray-OD’d combo of several terrible mid-80s styles, which I fear still exist at roadhouses in the square States.

Omicidio Ha Scritto

bloodstained shadow 1978


2.5 Stars  1978/109m

Original Title: Solamente Nero

Director/Writer: Antonio Bido / Writers: Domenico Malan & Marisa Andalo / Cast: Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, Craig Hill, Massimo Serato, Juliette Mayniel, Luigi Casellato, Sergio Mioni.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “I’m beginning to be frightened again – take me away from here!”

Imagine this as a kind of feature length pilot of Italian Murder, She Wrote, with Capolicchio as a Professor taking time out of his hectic life in Rome to visit his big brother, a priest on one of the small islands off Venice, where a school girl’s murder years earlier remains unsolved.

On his first night there, big-bro witnesses a murder occur outside his window and begins to receive threatening letters from the apparent killer. The victim, a self-professed medium, and her small group of regulars, including a Count who habitually forces himself upon young boys, a nurse providing illegal abortions, and – gasp! – an atheist doctor, are the ones to find themselves hunted down by the black-gloved, face-never-on-screen killer.

bloodstained shadow 1978

Prof. – who looks just like Howard from The Big Bang Theory – joins forces with artist Sandra, who has a painting that ‘speaks to him’ and finds herself caught up in the drama. Together, they go boating, have sex, and talk about paintings a lot. Meanwhile, the Count gets run through with an antique sword, and the threatening notes keep arriving at the church.

Clocking in just shy of two hours, The Bloodstained Shadow grinds on quite relentlessly, but there are some good scenes – the canal murder-by-boat is inventive, and there are some proto-slasher POV stalking sequences to crank the tension, but throw Angela Lansbury into the mix and this could pass for another trip for Jessica Fletcher to visit her nephew’s cousin’s college roommate’s aunt’s dogsitter and become embroiled in a murder. But you’ll probably clock the killer within the first twenty minutes.

Watch out for the world’s only jump scare-by-accordion.

Scream 19

braxton butcher 2015


3 Stars  2015/15/111m

“Every town has secrets.”

A.k.a. The Butchering (USA)

Director/Writer: Leo McGuigan / Cast: Shaun Blaney, Jenna Byrne, Andrew Stanford, Diona Doherty, Ciaran McCourt, Vicky Allen, Joshua Colquhoun, Rachel Morton, Philip Rafferty, Natalie Curran, Stephanie Donaghue, Odhran McNulty, Brandon McCaffrey.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “Ready to be the final girl?”

During the rehearsal of a prank in Braxton Butcher, one character turns to another and says: “It’s too Scream 3, it should be more Scream 2.” And that pretty much sums up what this cute homage is all about. Leo McGuigan, only nineteen when he directed this, is clearly on Team VeVo in terms of ranking the Scream flicks in realising the second one is the best one. Minor spoilers ensue.

It’s a well established fact that the sexiest accent in the world is Irish. Those with a keener ear will be able to delineate between regions therein; but spades being spades, everyone in this film could drop my pants any second with just a few brief utterances. Ahem, anyway…

Cops are called to the Miller house in the small NI town of Braxton after the neighbours hear screams. There, they find Mom and Dad slain, laid out on the bed, their teenage son, Tommy, nowhere to be found. Instead he’s busy crashing a party at the town hall, where he slashes up a number of classmates, leaving survivors Ryan and Cora.

braxton butcher 2015

Ten years later – never nine, never eleven – the two have drifted apart: Ryan has grown up to become a detective, and Cora presents a local radio show. In a curveball turn of events, she and her bratty teen sister are slashed up by a mask and Parka wearing loon, leaving Ryan to investigate with the help of his new partner, Will.

News of the murder fascinates the local teens, who show no sign of calling off their town hall throwdown, even when their own peers begin getting sliced up. Ryan’s seventeen-year-old niece Julie is thrust into the centre of things, as she has a sort of Sidney-Billy on-off romance with Danny, who has been dating bitchy girl Claudia, who is seeing Oliver on the site, despite the fact he’s with Sarah. Confusing.

braxton butcher 2015

Clocking in just shy of two hours is ambitious for any slasher film, and Braxton veers into being quite talky here and there, with a lot of characters to keep track of, but McGuigan has clearly studied what works on a visual level and pushed these elements to the forefront, most commonly extended scenes of characters being stalked or chased. Sure, the budget is probably quite far south of Wes Craven’s but this is still leagues ahead of other recent British efforts that looked like local am-dram groups rented a camera and wrote a stalk n’ slash script in an afternoon: “Yeah, it just needs tits, lesbians, and some ketchup!”

The actors are all game – screaming at the right moments and not really making all the idiotic decisions expected of them in this genre, although the killer opts to terrorise female victims with more drawn out cat and mousery than the boys, who are largely victims of quick stab n’ go drive-bys. Vicky Allen is a hoot as bitchy Claudia, who would have VICTIM stamped on her forehead in any other film, but here is given the chance to redeem herself as the situation heads south.

braxton butcher 2015

I read a couple of effusive reviews that had me thinking I was about to see the next Cold Prey, which isn’t quite the case, but considering McGuigan’s tender age and the effort he and the crew appears to have put in, seeing beyond the usual pitfalls of making a teen-horror film, this deserves more exposure, if not only to see what is likely the beginnings of an impressive career.

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