Farmville gone wild

the redwood massacre 2014

THE REDWOOD MASSACRE

3 Stars  2014/18/83m

“Evil doesn’t die easily.”

Director/Writer: David Ryan Keith / Cast: Lisa Cameron, Lisa Livingstone, Mark Wood, Rebecca Wilkie, Adam Coutts, Lee Hutcheon.

Body Count: 21-ish

Laughter Lines: “Maybe we took a wrong turn or something?”


It feels like the last ten slasher films I saw all started with a girl stumbling through the woods at night accosted by a hulking killer. Admittedly I roll my eyes, wondering if we’re also heading for some girl-on-girl and asshole characters.

Twenty years ago – never 19, never 21 – a farmer heard a voice from his scarecrow telling him to chop up his family. He listened, then offed himself. We don’t learn his name, but I don’t think it was Marz. Legend has it that his son, one of the victims, still haunts the Scottish woodland around the area. Why? Dunno. How? Shrug. I’m not sure it was ever explained. Either way, each anniversary attracts hordes of teens to the remote area for ‘the party of the year’.

the redwood massacre 2014

This time, gal-pals Pamela and Jessica rock up for a camping weekend with the latter’s ex, Mark, and his high-maintenance girlfriend Kirsty. Their other friend Bruce is supposed to come too but fails to show up. Hmm… After a few other schmucks are sliced and diced by the scarecrow-masked wacko, Pamela and Kirsty awake to find their friends absent, their phones unable to find signal, and so set out to find them, which leads them to the abandoned Redwood Farm, scene of the murders.

the redwood massacre 2014

Campers are axed, hacked, sickled, and have the old hand-pulls-out-insides gag happen to them. The Redwood Massacre revels in its sticky bloodletting a wee bit too much, allowing other considerations to slide somewhat. One character appears with a whole backstory, but is never allotted a name, claiming to be out for a revenge for the death of his daughter, then when the killer arrives tells him he’s not afraid to die and so…just does.

the redwood massacre 2014

Cliched dialogue and characters who pretty much hang around waiting to die (check out the flashback moment where the girl just lies in place despite having several seconds in which she could flee) are at least buoyed by a good score, sharp and impressive photography, and an almost Wolf Creeky sense of being lost beyond help once we’re down to the last respiring individual, all of which gives the film a fair leg-up from its shortfalls. It’s also Scottish, which means it’s full of sexy accents.

A sequel featuring Danielle Harris (!) followed in 2020.

Bored Games

dead body 2017

DEAD BODY

2 Stars  2017/80m

“This game has no winner!”

Director: Bobbin Ramsay / Writers: Ramon Isao & Ian Bell / Cast: Rachel Brun, Cooper Hopkins, Spencer Hamp, Nic Morden, Jay Myers, Leah Salcido Pfenning, Nate Pringle.

Body Count: 7


Dominic invites his old schoolmate Ilsa to a wooded cabin for a little reunion before they head off to college, only she brings her boyfriend Dwayne, and then Sara, Eli, Marcus, and Rumor all turn up as well. Plus there are two random Japanese exchange students staying.

They drink, dance, and decide to play a round or two of Dead Body, which is kinda like hide and seek with an allotted ‘murderer’. To the surprise of nobody but the cast, someone has taken it too far and real killings begin to occur. The group throw around accusations galore, trap each other in rooms, run off into the woods, split up, die some more…

The killings are pretty tame and uninventive, but a couple of characters simmer with the notion that they may reveal an interesting facet about themselves, but the pot never boils over and we’re left with the pale stereotypes pointed out on the cover art.

The identity of the killer is ridiculously obvious, to the point where I hoped the film was going to hit me with a twist out of the left field, but it never came. The mask was pulled off and it was the person I pegged it as 26 minutes in. Bogus.

Keep calm. There’s a douche bro inside your house.

don't hang up 2016DON’T HANG UP

3 Stars  2016/15/83m

“Be careful who you prank.”

Directors: Damien Macé & Alexis Wajsbrot / Writer: Joe Johnson / Cast: Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne, Jack Brett Anderson, Sienna Guillory, Philip Desmeules (voice).

Body Count: 8


Terror is ‘gendered feminine’, which is why most horror posters feature a babe in peril, why we have final girls rather than boys, and why it’s always a girl alone in the house when the strange phone calls begin…

But what if instead of Scream‘s standard tormented-female, it’s a couple of teen boys who are the ones plagued by creepy calls? Welcome to Don’t Hang Up.

In spite of the above, things begin with a woman who answers a call in the wee hours to be told the cops are surrounding the house because there is an intruder and she needs to block herself in the room. She freaks, worries for her daughter, and just as the policeman tells her they can see the intruder is coming towards her, it’s revealed as a prank.

Douchier than douchey dude-bros Brady and Sam are behind it, with a couple of other buddies douches, and they load their clips online for the LOLZ. Yeah, they’re total toxic assholes and we want them to die from the off, more so when Sam, pining over his distant girlfriend, decides to play Ed fucking Sheeran for long enough to make me contemplate switching off.

don't hang up 2016

The boys get together one night at Sam’s while his folks are away and record a few more phone gags, pretending to be cops telling folks their spouses are dead, ordering pizzas for the neighbours, then calling said neighbour posing as Neighbourhood Watch to tell them thieves disguised as pizza delivery guys are working the block… Assholes.

Then they get a call back from a calm voice who tells them not to hang up, calls them a few names and is generally a bit creepy. They laugh it off and crack a beer, but the guy keeps calling, eventually dropping one of their names into it to get their attention. Seems they’ve pissed the wrong person off.

don't hang up 2016

The caller, allowing himself to be referred to as Mr Lee, plays his hand slowly, showing them he has Brady’s parents stripped and tied to chairs and they’ll die if either of the boys try to leave. The phone signal has been hacked so any attempts to call the cops are redirected back to the stranger, secrets the two of them have kept from one another are revealed, and their punk friends are also being murdered.

For a what-would-you-do dilemma horror, Don’t Hang Up does well enough, insofar as being able to explain away the things most of us would think about trying without the solutions being too obvious or the characters too stupid, and things culminate in a fairly predictable but fitting way. This is one film that actually benefits from the main characters being dicks, as they’re entirely deserving of the horror unfolding on them, with ye olde central slasher pic motif of the prank-gone-wrong.

don't hang up 2016

One part When a Stranger Calls, one part Joyride, another part Unfriended – but with a body count and emphasis on guys being terrorised for a refreshing change. Good stuff.

Ich weiß, was du vor [ ] Sommern gemacht hast

party hard die young 2018

PARTY HARD, DIE YOUNG

2 Stars  2018/89m

“Are you ready for your last dance?”

Director: Dominik Hartl / Writers: Robert Buchschwenter & Karin Lomot / Cast: Elisabeth Wabitsch, Michael Glantschnig, Marlon Boess, Markus Freistätter, Valerie Huber, Antonia Moretti, Hisham Morscher, Thomas Otrok, Alexandra Schmidt, Nikolaas von Schrader, Fabian Unger, Chantal Zitzenbacher.

Body Count: 5


I watched this German-language Austrian film, shot in Croatia, dubbed into Spanish, which I can read and speak acceptably, but am slow translating aurally, due to the tempo at which it’s spoken. So, here I was comprehending what was happening in any given scene about halfway through the next scene. Loco.

From what I could discern, a group of recently graduated friends head to a hedonistic Croatian party island where they’re cordially invited to a huge party – all lasers, EDM, and drunken fools.

Main-girl Julia does not want to tell her bestie, Jessica, that they’ll actually not be rooming together next year, as she’s going to another college. When that secret tumbles out, Jessica storms off, never to be seen again. Julia later receives a text message with a photo of Jessica crossed out.party hard die young 2018

As ever in these things, the others buy the dud message that Jessica’s partying elsewhere and continue their good time, until another girl meets a nasty end – but was it an accident or something more sinister? Another dude bids adieu stating he’s leaving early but ends up getting a bottle forced down his throat.

And so on and so forth. The remaining girls figure out that it has something to do with an old classmate, Anna, who committed suicide sometime after a party they were all at together. Red-herrings come and go, but with the language barrier and an excessively large central cast who are indistinguishable at best, it became difficult to track who trusted who.

Eventually, the final few are captured and the past sin revealed, which involved a game of spin the bottle and, I gathered, a possible sexual assault. The killer makes them play, Julia saves the day, blah blah blah.

party hard die young

Regrettably, too many of the characters survive. Given the group numbers eight-to-twelve at its peak, only four of them are actually murdered – three girls and one guy, leaving the douchiest boys intact (though embarrassed by what happened with the bottle), even though they are the ones mostly responsible for Anna’s suicide it would seem.

Some cool visuals at the party, a cute scene when the plus-size girl goes for it, and Croatian backdrops help, but the story seems to take a backseat and wimps out where it counts the most.

Slice Versa

freaky 2020 vince vaughn kathryn newton

FREAKY

3.5 Stars  2020/102m

“Basic switch. Killer new look.”

Director/Writer: Christopher Landon / Writer: Michael Kennedy / Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton, Katie Finneran, Alan Ruck, Dana Drori, Melissa Collazo, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Magnus Diehl.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “You’re black, I’m gay – we’re so dead!”


Where Happy Death Day would cut away, Freaky is here to provide the slashes and slits we missed in this ‘from the director of…’ recipient of the crown, which is a hop, skip and a jump from a time loop dilemma to ye olde body swap dilemma. The title should tell you as much: it was shot as Freaky Friday the 13th before being cropped down.

And of course, it being ready to go in The Year That Time Wouldn’t Fucking Pass By Swiftly Enough 2020, a big opening was screwed up and it mostly landed on VoD platforms. Sad times. It’s a good thing then, that Freaky is all kinds of fun!

freaky 2020 vince vaughn

The legend of The Blissfield Butcher, who has struck around Homecoming “every year since 1977″, is dissected by two teen couples partying at rich girl Ginny’s house and they quickly fall victim to a hulking loon in a mask not a million miles from something right outta Jason’s wardrobe. Before he leaves, the Butcher takes an antique dagger that Ginny’s collector-father had on display.

We then meet high school sad sack Millie, who is watching life go by to support her alcoholic mom, who is still not over the death of Millie’s father a year earlier. Older sister Charlene – a local cop – is all rules and discipline. But fortunately Millie has best friends Nyla and Joshua to count on. She pines for the attention of off-the-shelf dream-jock Booker, is teased by nasty rich girl Ryler, and cruelly humiliated in front of the class by her shop teacher.

freaky 2020 celeste o'connor misha oshenovich

After mom passes out and forgets to pick Millie up after the big game, the Butcher shows up and stabs her with the enchanted dagger. The moon clouds over, the sky churns, and they both receive an identical stab wound simultaneously: Millie is now inside the 6ft5 Butcher’s body, her is in that of a 5ft5 teenage girl. Hi-jinks shall ensue.

While Millie tries to stay incognito as locals recognise him/her from the composites drawn up of the killer, ‘Millie’ returns to school, all lipstick and bad-ass leather jacket. The boys drool, Nyla and Joshua write it off as PTSD, and ‘she’ starts killing ASAP, starting with Ryler, who is shut into one of the school’s cryo chambers (!?), and topples over, shattering into a gazillion pieces, when Millie-as-the-Butcher finds the body. Then goes mean Mr Shop Teacher, although he nearly makes it, as ‘Millie’ discovers the body of teen girl has its pitfalls in the brute strength department.

freaky 2020 kathryn newton

Real Millie manages to corner Nyla and Joshua and convince them that she’s stuck inside the Butcher’s body. Some research and a convenient Spanish teacher help resolve that the spiritual knife – La Dola – will switch souls and after 24 hours the spell will become irreversible. They need to capture Fake Millie to transfer things back to equilibrium.

Naturally, things aren’t that simple: The dagger is in police custody and even after successfully subduing ‘Millie’, the band of heroes – now including Booker – hatch a plan to switch things back, but ‘Millie’ clearly has other ideas.

freaky 2020 misha oshenovich

Vice VersaLike Father Like Son, It’s a Boy-Girl Thing, and however many versions of Freaky Friday are floating around: Like all of the characters stuck in their mom/dad/enemy’s body, Millie learns about herself, her suffering family, and even enjoys the lil bit of power being a huge guy affords her (the scene with the bathroom bully is great). Vaughn is good as the girl trying to operate her newly acquired huge frame, never camping it up too much, while Newton slots into the cold-hearted psycho role with ease, but it’s O’Connor and Osherovich as Millie’s BFF’s who steal most of the scenes they’re in.

Likeable through and through and, like Landon’s earlier films, is tessellates nicely over more than one genre type, proving there are still a lot or quirky variations on the teen slasher available.

freaky 2020 vince vaughn kathryn newton

Blurb-of-interest: Vaughn played Norman Bates in the 1998 Psycho remake.

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