Girls on top

tragedy girls 2017


3.5 Stars  2017/99m

“Friends who slay together, stay together.”

Director: Tyler McIntyre / Writers: Juston Olson, Chris Lee Hill, Tyler McIntyre / Cast: Brianna Hildebrand, Alexandra Shipp, Jack Quaid, Kevin Durand, Timothy V. Murphy, Craig Robinson, Savannah Jayde, Josh Hutcherson, Nicky Whelan, Elise Neal, Andy Bethea, Keith Hudson, Katie Stottlemire.

Body Count: 9 (+123)

Laughter Lines: “This is some serious Final Destination shit!”

A teen couple make out in a muscle car on a lonely bridge. The girl hears a noise outside. They ignore it. The noise sounds again. She convinces the boy to go check and a hulking figure buries a machete in his face and chases down the girl. He runs into a wire and a second girl appears, they taser him and drag him back to their garage where they explain they’ve been baiting him for months and need him to work with them so they can gain followers of their true crime blog @tragedygirls.

tragedy girls alexandra shipp brianna hildebrand 2017

Sadie and McKayla are the titular BFFs, who will do anything to draw attention to their social media presence, hoping that their insights into the later-named Rosedale Ripper will catapult them into the spotlight. But real life isn’t that easy and it’s assumed the first victim is a runaway (for reasons unknown they destroyed the body in lye), and their next is written off as a motorcycle accident. Irked by the slow take-up, the girls ensure that victim 3 cannot be mistaken for anything other than a murder.

While the girls continue to hold their pet killer, Lowell, captive, Sadie becomes close to Sheriff’s son Jordan, who begins to suspect McKayla knows more about what’s going on than she’s letting on – and things go from bad to worse when Lowell escapes and has them firmly in his crosshairs.

tragedy girls 2017

More complications ensue as the girls try to clean up their mess, stay alive, and eventually fall out when Sadie is hailed as a singular hero when she fights off Lowell’s next attack, prompting McKayla to take the game into her own hands.

Tragedy Girls is a fine looking product, stirring in elements of Mean Girls to its slasher groundwork, and satire of the shallowness of external validation culture. As a comedy, it’s acid tongued good times, with a disturbing painted-on smile to its couple of psycho leads. The horror end of things doesn’t quite take flight so well, despite some grisly denouements throughout (the woodwork class and gym scenes – the latter featuring the awesome Craig Robinson – are great), but little else. Durand is a hoot as the captive wannabe psycho, as his threats to the girls are met with emasculating giggles, and both leads sell their friends-till-the-end bond well.

tragedy girls 2017 brianna hildebrand alexandra shipp

Creepily, Brianna Hildebrand looks like the long lost twin of my friend Alisha, so I’ll be treading carefully around her for a bit.

Blurbs-of-interest: Josh Hutcherson was in Detention; Elise Neal was Sid’s roomie in Scream 2.

VIP’s of Slasherdom: Chewie

While I often opine that the 2009 Friday the 13th reboot peaked in the opening 20 minutes, with the rest of the film merely a serviceable slasher yarn, one character really stood out in the group of college kids on the conveyor belt of death… It’s Chewie! (who I thought was named Troy for ages).

aaron yoo friday the 13th 2009

“Shoot the boooooot!”

Why is he there? Dorm-dwelling collegiate, bong-enthusiast, best bud of Lawrence, and pretend-friend to the arsey rich host, Trent, Chewie is on the trip for the chance to see how the other half live. Not because he likes Trent or anything. Duh.

What does he want? Like most boys who visit the shores of Crystal Lake, Chewie just wants to get stoned and get laid, preferably by Bree, but admits he has more chance of fucking a penguin.

Why we love him: Yoo was able to inject so much into what amount to probably less than 15 minutes of screentime with pitch perfect delivery of lines, even babbling to himself as he drunkenly explores the toolshed and helps himself to rich folks’ wine.

Or treat?

trick 2019


3 Stars  2019/101m

“Always choose treat.”

Director/Writer: Patrick Lussier / Writer: Todd Farmer / Cast: Omar Epps, Ellen Adair, Kristina Reyes, Jamie Kennedy, Tom Atkins, Thom Niemann, Kya Taylor Brickhouse, Max Miller, Jerome Charvet, Dani Shay, Todd Farmer.

Body Count: 32

The third sibling of Hell Fest and Haunt? Spoilers ensue!

At a Halloween house party in 2015, a game of spin the knife ends up with pumpkin-masked Patrick ‘Trick’ Weaver, taking the blade to others in attendance, before he’s stabbed with a fire poker. In hospital, he manages to escape his handcuffs, attack homicide detective Mike Denver (Epps), and off a few more schmucks before being shot out of a window by Denver and the local sheriff (Adair). But when they get down to ground level, the body is gone, nobody really knows who he is, he has no address, no social media profiles, and no parents…

trick 2019

At a Halloween dance in a nearby town ion 2016, Trick reappears and knives a few more patrons; in 2017 he lays yet more teens to waste at a party; and in 2018 comes after some detectives on his trail (those in denial it was the same killer, of course), leading to Denver being forced to retire early. In 2019, he returns to the original town where it looks like Trick might be back – or could it be one of his many twisted online fans?

While deputies walk into traps, surviving friends of the original killings, Cheryl and Nikki, take Nikki’s niece and nephew (or friend’s kids. Can’t remember) to the horror maze owned by local curmudgeon Mr Talbott (Tom Atkins) and naturally Trick kills and replaces a maze actor so he can run amok, seemingly in an effort to finish off those who escaped before. Curiously, one of whom, Troy, who is still in high school in his head and falsely took credit for stabbing Trick with the poker, just vanishes from the film entirely.

trick 2019 jamie kennedy ellen adair omar epps

Things culminate with another game of spin the knife before the big twist is revealed. The trick, if you will. Anyone who’s read Kevin Williamson’s original idea for Scream 3 or seen The Following should see where it’s going, although it made effective use of the in-plain-sight angle and, because I was waiting for the more obvious revelation that ultimately came later, I wasn’t expecting it.

The trick elevates Trick somewhat, but it’s sloppily realised and leans heavily on chance, which makes it feel contrived and a bit obnoxious, in the same way that Scully was always just outside the door when aliens would appear in The X-Files; the first couple of times you go with it, but later it just pisses you off, the same as the script necessitates characters to make stupid decisions – even when told not to, deputies pursue the killer into an inescapable space. The concept just feels a decade or more out of date, and attempts to divert the audience from the neutered presence of Jamie Kennedy only serve to shine the light more in his direction. As soon as his character was acknowledged, I knew he’d be involved in one way or another.

trick 2019 kya taylor brickhouse

Even with a body count that spirals into the thirties, there are no chase scenes. Most victims are pounced on and stabbed while that wet-lettuce-dropped-on-the-floor squelch sound dominates the audio. The opportunity to go for laughs is avoided to the point where its po-faced seriousness almost becomes the joke, stubbornly trying to avoid the high camp that its pedalling with the outrageous things occurring on the screen. Trick is certainly no treat, but there’s enough sugar so that you won’t completely spit it out in disgust.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lussier and Farmer previously collabed on My Bloody Valentine 3D and the unproduced Halloween III script; Farmer also wrote Jason X; Omar Epps was in Scream 2, with Jamie Kennedy, who was also in the original; Tom Atkins was in MBV 3D and Maniac Cop.


city in panic 1986


2 Stars  1986/85m

A.k.a. The AIDS Murders

“A deadly secret… A psychotic killer… A reign of terror!!!”

Director: Robert Bouvier / Writers: Peter Wilson & Andreas Blackwell / Cast: David Adamson, Leeann Nestegard, Peter Roberts, Edward Chester, Gary Bryant, Bonnie Beck, Derrick Emery, John Tench.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “Who’s responsible – the makers of slasher films?”

Those of us old enough to remember playground taunts of the 1980s will doubtlessly recall other kids screeching “You’ve got AIDS!” at the top of their shrill little lungs. This film is largely the embodiment of that. And that Team America song Everyone Has AIDS.

A serial killer in a black coat and a fedora is slashing up (mostly) gay men and carving an M into their torsos. Straightforward homophobia? Being the mid-80s, you’d think so, but as City in Panic unfolds, while the gay community is largely without a voice, the only anti-gay character is coded as an idiot detective and shouted down several times.

Radio talk show host Dave Miller is at war with another journalist, whom he accuses of exploiting the situation for readers, and investigates on his own, arguing with his enemy and a radio shrink who says it’s “too soon to say” if the killer has an agenda given the sexuality of most of the victims.

city in panic 1986

Intermittently, men ‘doing gay things’ are stalked and killed. Only a couple of them have any dialogue: A bartender from Dave’s choice tavern who is caught doing inverted sit-ups in a deserted gym, and a security guard sticks his cock through the wrong gloryhole. Refreshingly, the film doesn’t overtly condemn any of them, and Dave educates his dim girlfriend on a couple of points when she compares AIDS to the Plague.

The killer’s identity becomes obvious at the clock runs down, although it wasn’t entirely clear beforehand, although the use of the ‘M’ is pretty random and pointless, but as they wail “They had AIDS!” when confronted by Dave, I couldn’t not fall about laughing. HIV, by the way, doesn’t get a look in. Seems like in this universe you get AIDS, and a short time later you’re gone.

A bad movie, but not necessarily a bad-hearted one. The producers latched on to a hot topic and rode with it, which was a brave choice for this era, politically. It’s just about balanced enough to be neither here nor there, but as a comedy is an absolute riot.

And, honestly, some of the fashion on show is more offensive than anything.

Bear Essentials

pandamonium 2020


2.5 Stars  2020/18/86m

“This panda means business.”

Director: MJ Dixon / Cast: David Hon Ma Chu, Oriana Crystal Charles, Will Jones, Dani Thompson, James Hamser-Morton, Lee Mark Jones, Charlie Bond, Will Marshall, Chloe Badham, Derek Nelson, Tatiana Ibba, Charlie Clarke, Nad Abdoolakhan.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “This guy is a professional killer, not a Dairylea Triangle.”

On Arielle’s first day as their office junior, the sleazy solicitors of Killmore & Percival decide to throw themselves an after hours party and invite strippers to entertain them. Yes, it’s Psycho Cop Returns anew!

If this weren’t bad enough, the hootenanny is crashed by a suited, panda-masked killer with a thing for big knives and one-liners, and he begins to eliminate the security guard, employees who stayed too late, and finally the drug-addled Sixth Floor assholes and the strippers, while Arielle – an ex-stripper herself – and fellow newbie Daniel try to find a means of escape.

Panda-killer is played by a friend of mine, multidimensional performance artist David Hon Ma Chu, whose dulcet Mancunian tones give the loon an almost cuddly edge, if you could get close enough without receiving a knife in the gut.

pandamonium 2020

The micro-budget means that a lot of the film is done on the cheap, but it has a decent production polish and some amusing moments, my favourite being two of the strippers discussing cleaning products before they’re interrupted by a client and spring into alluring mode.

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