Cloak and Dagger. And Axe. And Hammer.

fox trap 2016FOX TRAP

3 Stars  2016/18/98m

A.k.a. Don’t Blink (DVD)

“It’s hunting season.”

Director: Jamie Weston / Writer: Scott Jeffrey / Cast: Becky Fletcher, Therica Wilson-Reid, Richard Summers-Calvert, Kate Greer, Alex Sawyer, Julia Eringer, Klariza Clayton, Scott Chambers, Carey Thring, Charlene Cooper.

Body Count: 10

A very nicely put together and impressively acted British slasher mystery, which is thankfully closer in quality to Braxton Butcher than it is the Unhinged remake (ironically featuring the lead actress here), or 12 Deaths of Christmas.

Eight years (OMG, not ten!!) after their stupid prank leaves a girl paralysed, the responsible group are invited to a bogus reunion at the remote country house of a girl murdered at the start. There, they’re all in receipt of boxes containing creepy dolls, and a Truth or Dare-type card game that aims to shine the light of truth on what they did.

Frankie (Fletcher) took the fall for everyone and ended up doing time; Anna is genuinely sorry and will do anything to repair their broken friendship; ringleader Connie didn’t give a fuck then and doesn’t give a fuck now. With a couple of extra boyfriends in tow, a killer wearing the same cloak and white mask combo used in the gag rocks up and starts to do away with them by axe, hammer, and cellophane.

fox trap 2016

While the film follows the expected route of discovery, panic, failed attempts to drive away for help, the creators have thankfully taken extra care to use players who can actually act well for the most part, set up decent shots (the coat hook moment at the start is a little gem of a shock), and write good dialogue for the tension-thick scenes when the past crime is discussed over dinner.

Fox Trap runs maybe 10-15 minutes too long and the identity of the killer isn’t much of a challenge to guess, but there still are plenty of nice developments as we go, from Frankie and Anna discovering a room with the fiend’s plans neatly laid out, a good chase scene, and even a mercy killing. This benefits from not straying too far from tried and tested groundwork, carefully tweaking the tropes of its situation to its advantage. Good stuff.

Blurb-of-interest: Becky Fletcher and Kate Greer (under a different name) were in the aforementioned Unhinged.

Hell Hath No Fury: The 13 Best Female Killers

Traditionally, society leads us to believe that killers are men, victims women – even more so when people address slasher films without having seen one. But wait up, a certain movie way back when totally changed it up when it led the audience into thinking they were watching a guy kill that string of sexy teens, but then BAM! it turned out to be a middle-aged woman with a grudge.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, the adage goes, and boy – or girl – can they bring the hellfire when they want to.

Here are my 13 favourite lady killers – spoilers, obvs.


mandy lane amber heard all the boys love mandy lane 2006Mandy Lane (Amber Heard)
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

Victims: 2

As the title suggests, aaaall the guys at school long to get in the pants of Mandy Lane – future Mrs Johnny Depp, and then ex-Mrs Johnny Depp, Heard (wasn’t she a lesbian at some point as well?)

Anyway, ATBLML has us believe that her friend-zoned pal Emmett is the killer, only to reveal that he is but her puppet, having manipulated him into offing her clique of high school friends, then betray him and crown herself final girl at the end to win the affections of the hunky ranch hand.


diane payne sally kirkland fatal gams 1984

Diane Payne (Sally Kirkland)
Fatal Games (1984)

Victims: 5

In an academy for aspiring young Olympians, a javelin-toting maniac is getting rid of the members of the so-called Magnificent Seven, who potentially may eclipse their own past successes.

Turns out it’s the level-headed nurse Diane, who had a sex change after a scandal to try and compete as a woman, but was disqualified over this too! Suckfest. Watch as she pitches her weapon of choice down difficult corridors in an effort to silence the teen who discovers her secret. Kirkland played again the killer in 2006’s Fingerprints.


jill roberts emma roberts scream 4 2011

Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts)
Scream 4 (2011)

Victims: 5+

Sidney Prescott’s 17-year-old cousin is the criminal mastermind behind the new Woodsboro Murders. Sick of hearing aaaaall about her cousin, Jill intends to take the shortcut to fame and fortune, by setting herself up as the new Sidney and reap the rewards of professional victimhood. Emma Roberts does the nasty bitch schtick well, with a IDGAF attitude to go with her handy knife and, like Mandy Lane, ability to manipulate a boy into doing much of the leg work then take the fall for her.


mrs tredoni alice sweet alice 1976

Mrs Tredoni (Mildred Clinton)
Alice Sweet Alice (1976)

Victims: 4

Devout Catholic Mrs T. can’t stand the bratty daughter of single mom Catherine Spages, and when she kills the wrong sister, goes about setting up Alice as the one responsible, digging herself a hole that a million Hail Mary’s won’t get her out of. A real sting in the tail of this viciously anti-religious pre-Halloween flick.


victoria engels barbara steele silent scream 1980

Victoria Engels (Barbara Steele)
Silent Scream (1980)

Victims: 2

One time prom queen Victoria sits in her secret attic room staring into a mirror covered by a photograph of her younger self, listening to old 50s records and pretending it’s all good – until students move into the rooming house her mother and brother run, and they serve only to remind her of her youth to the point she goes even more cuckoo. Horror Queen Steele is as awesome in the role as you think she’s going to be.


mary lou maloney prom night ii hello mary lou lisa schrage 1987

Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage/Courtney Taylor)
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1987/89)

Victims: 14

Promiscuous prom queen Mary Lou is burned to death by one of her many ex-boyfriends on the night she’s crowned queen at Hamilton High, 1957.

Thirty years later, her spirit is unleashed and she embarks on a supernaturally assisted killing spree, returning again in the third movie as a female counterpart to Freddy Krueger, serving up all manner of inventive demises for teachers and students, including making lockers squish a girl, death by ice cream, battery acid, and super-charged football.


daphne zuniga terry fairchild the initiation 1983

Terry Fairchild (Daphne Zuniga)
The Initiation (1983)

Victims: 9

Ye olde evil twin cliché is realised excellently in this late-to-the-party slasher, which sees college kids undertaking their sorority hazing menaced by a shadowy killer after hours in a huge department store.

Turns out the weird dreams heroine Kelly has about broken dolls, a fire, and many reflections, are actually memories of her until-recently institutionalized crazy twin, who intends to kill and replace Kelly with herself. The revelation scene is camper than a row of pink tents.


ann thomason tracy bregman happy birthday to me 1981

Ann Thomason (Tracy Bregman)
Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Victims: 7

Wah wah wah, nobody came to my birthday, bellows weepy heroine Virginia to her best friend Ann, hostess of the party they all went to instead. Years later, when both girls are members of the Crawford Top Ten – popular clique at a prep school – it turns out to be Ann who is offing the grown-up teens who dissed Virginia’s party years earlier, because they’re half-sisters blah blah blah. The camp-tastic Scooby Doo ending salvages the movie from being a write-off.


tiffany valentine jennifer tilly bride of chucky 1998

Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly)
Bride of Chucky (1998)

Victims: 5+

In life, Charles Lee Ray’s girlfriend Tiffany Valentine might have killed a few schmucks here and there, but in death and resurrected as a doll companion to Chucky, she goes into homicidal overdrive, infamously shattering a glass ceiling over a canoodling couple on a waterbed below, doing it with an evil grin throughout. Check out the scene in Seed of Chucky where she attempts to apologise to family members of her victims.


brenda rebecca gayheart urban legend 1998

Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart)
Urban Legend (1998)

Victims: 9

“You used an urban legend to kill my boyfriend, and noooow…” Although the physical requirements of the killer in Urban Legend look to be way more than model-esque Brenda could hope to live up to, unless she’s packing major muscle out of sight, the revelation that she’s offed nine students and staff of Pendleton University and based each murder on an old sleepover tale is nothing short of amazing. If you thought the bitchy exposition at the end of Happy Birthday to Me was sending the needle over the end of the camp-o-meter, this practically breaks the fucking thing.


mrs loomis debbie salt laurie metcalf scream 2 1997

Mrs Loomis/Debbie Salt (Laurie Metcalf)
Scream 2 (1997)

Victims: 2+

Kevin Williamson wickedly paid homage to Friday the 13th when unveiling the second killer at the end of Scream 2. In contrast to everyone else I know, I guessed the other killer but not Mrs L., so it was a juicy surprise when it turned out she was the brains of the project, designed to reap revenge of Sidney Prescott for killing her dear Billy.

Nobody does deranged quite as theatrically as Metcalf (see also the episode of Desperate Housewives where she held a supermarket full of shoppers hostage) and her furious rantings during the final act haven’t been equalled by any of the late-90s slasher crop.


Angela Baker (Felissa Rose)angela baker felissa rose sleepaway camp 1983
Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Victims: 11

Who would suspect the shy girl at Camp Arawak could be behind the bizarre series of deaths that plagues the joint? From wasps nests thrown into bathroom stalls to death by curling iron, Angela is a particularly inventive psycho, and even if it turns out that she is in fact he, for all intents and purposes the film has a female killer.


mrs voorhees betsy palmer friday the 13th 1980Mrs Voorhees (Betsy Palmer)
Friday the 13th (1980)

Victims: 9

Could there be any other victor? I do wonder if without the final reveal in Friday the 13th the film would have been viewed even less favourably by critics at the time? Who knows, but however you cut it, it was a smart move on behalf of Cunningham and Miller to toy with the audience’s expectations in this way, only to have your average mom turn out not to be all open arms and sympathy, instead coming at you with a knife and the most insane grin to grace the silver screen.

Don’t go near The Black Trees!

scalps 1983


2 Stars  1983/18/79m

“They came out of the grave… To get REVENGE!”

Director/Writer: Fred Olen Ray / Cast: Jo Ann Robinson, Roger Maycock, Frank McDonald, Richard Hench, Barbara Magnusson, Carol Sue Flockhart, Kirk Alyn, Carroll Borland, Forrest J. Ackerman.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “Defiling the graves of the dead will only anger their souls!”

Shot for a measly $15,000, possibly surfing the Native American horror trailblazed by Poltergeist, this early Fred Olen Ray flick was re-tooled by the studio and edited into a bit of a nonsensical mess, which frankly drags along at a snail’s pace before the horror begins.

Six students go ahead of their professor to an archeological dig. Actually, I think it was four students and two bitchy, vacuous girlfriends. They’re warned by an ageing Native American man they encounter at a gas station against digging around The Black Trees, a burial area that’s sacred and dangerous to outsiders. But, being a bunch of entitled white folks, they say fuck it and dig there anyway.

scalps 1983

The spirit of Black Crow is soon unleashed and one of the group possessed so that he slowly morphs into a Native American monster (or wears a cheapo rubber mask) and goes after the others: Scalping (only one), bashing the brains out of, and shooting arrows into, while goo-girl DJ squeals that they’ve disturbed forces they shouldn’t have.

Scalps is a bad movie by any standard. Shot via several different cameras that give it a choppy look, with day-for-night scenes and a really fuzzy night-for-night scene that lend to it the feel of a snuff movie (the fact that many of the actors never did another film also giving a kind of credence to that), but really it’s just the cheapness of it all.

scalps 1983

However, as Ray comments on the DVD interview, there is something about Scalps that’s unsettling, an uncomfortable factor that makes it… not scary per se, just creepy, which is something of an unintentional byproduct of the low-end production values, most notable during the truck murder and the slightly too real rape. The gore FX is also quite well done, a decapitation that harks back to Mrs Voorhees’ grim end and the solitary scalping is pretty gross.

Things end with the promise of Scalps II, which never came to be. Possibly a good thing. The Ghost Dance did it all better.

Blurb-of-interest: Ray later directed Final Examination.

The Final Boys

dead dudes in the house 1989


1.5 Stars  1989/18/94m

A.k.a. The House on Tombstone HillThe Dead Come Home

“Where trespassing is a matter of life and death!”

Director/Writer: J. Riffel / Cast: Mark Zobian, Victor Verhaeghe, Sarah Newhouse, Douglas F. Gibson, John Dayton Cerna, Naomi Kooker, Eugene Sautner, Rob Moretti, James Griffith.

Body Count: 9

Filmed as The Dead Come Home and then picked up by Troma and, I guess, re-branded as more of a parody than it actually is and given a whole new title.

Thus, ignore that cover art entirely and strap in for a very slow, very boring yarn of seven college age kids who rock up at an old abandoned house to fix it up and make the fatal error of taking a sledgehammer to a tombstone found in the garden, which unleashes the spirit of a crazy old woman with super strength and looks like Motherface from the ironically similarly titled Dude Bro Party Massacre III.

The house is possessed and locks everyone inside so the old lady can pick them off. But more than that, those who die return for a while as zombies who are also capable of killing the living to the extent where even their heinous wardrobe choices can’t save them.

dead dudes in the house 1989

Within minutes, the film establishes an absolute asshole character who breaks the gravestone, demands beer, unapologetically smokes, and basically complains and yells about everything. Add to him is who I feared would be the final girl, a whiny, moany cow who is first to encounter a zombie, blame the old woman, and everyone else is happy to kill her without seeing any proof for their own eyes, but later recall events they weren’t even present for to justify the violence.

A couple of decent demises, such as the hands chopped off of a guy hanging from a window, and another chopped in two, there’s a fair bit of grue but the resolution was too dark to see much. It’s also one of the few slasher flicks to elect a final boy (for a while, two), which is always interesting. Too bad the 94 minutes feel more like 194.

A love letter from Glen Echo

behind the mask the rise of leslie vernon 2006


4 Stars  2006/15/87m

“Freddy, Jason, Michael. We all need someone to look up to.”

Director/Writer: Scott Glosserman / Writer: David J. Stieve / Cast: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelda Rubinstein, Bridgett Newton, Kate Lang Johnson, Ben Pace, Britain Spellings.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Act normal… it’s the opposite of what you’re doing right now.”

Seen by hardly anybody upon its theatrical release, this genial little film follows a three-person documentary team who have been granted access to follow budding psycho killer Leslie Vernon in the weeks leading up to his big night of teen-slayage at an old farm in the Anywhere USA town of Glen Echo.

Taylor (Goethals, who was one of Macaulay Culkin’s big sisters in Home Alone) is the reporter, while Doug and Todd handle the visual and audio. Leading in with nods to the infamous murder sprees in Crystal Lake, NJ, Haddonfield, IL, and Springwood, OH, the filmmakers meet an amiable, chatty, handsome chap in Leslie, who is more than happy to have them document his preparation, including copious amounts of cardio to be able to keep up with fleeing teens, rigging the old farmhouse for the power to trip out, windows that won’t open, tree branches pre-sawn to prevent escape, etc.

behind the mask the rise of leslie vernon 2006

Leslie introduces Taylor to his mentor, retired psycho Eugene and his perky wife, and takes the crew along to explain how he has chosen his ‘survivor girl’, virginal bookworm Kelly, who intends to go to the party at the old farm with some sexy young friends. Leslie goes so far as to comment on the type of victims he prefers – stoners who are usually too disoriented to run at any speed are “good for getting your numbers up”. The entire film barely misses a trick.

In addition to selecting his final girl, Leslie is thrilled to attract the attention of his own ‘Ahab’, Loomis-type psychiatrist Doc Halloran, a very dry Robert Englund, who is clearly relishing every second.

behind the mask the rise of leslie vernon 2006 robert englund

Elsewhere, Leslie guides Taylor around the rest of the farm, taking time to explain that, all being well, Kelly should eventually find the tool shed and arm herself with a big, hard axe: “She’s arming herself… with cock,” he says, stepping into psychoanalysis of the phallic weaponry, then the birth canal-like road to salvation when she comes through the trees of the orchard for their final showdown.

As the time draws nigh, Leslie becomes concerned that his companions might thwart his plans, accusing them of looking like they can’t just stand by and let it happen, which is when Behind the Mask switches from being a documentary to being a slasher film, forcing Taylor, Doug, and Todd into the narrative and putting them in harms way along with the gaggle of teens, who may not all be as cut n’ dried as Leslie led Taylor to believe…

behind the mask the rise of leslie vernon 2006

Here, several critics accused the film of falling victim to the tropes it previously parodied, but up until this juncture, Glosserman and Stieve never opted to decry the rules of the genre, merely explain them in a comical way. Whereas Scary Movie and its various contemporaries could reasonably be accused of looking down on slasher films in a snarky way, Behind the Mask is merely looking at them, admiring them even, never throwing any accusations their way.

A few budgetary restrictions have an impact here and there, and it’s never clear what happens to Zelda Rubinstein’s character, but these are minimal flaws at best, and they don’t cost the film much. As it is, a criminally neglected gem, certainly one of the best slasher flicks of the 2000s and in need of the in-limbo sequel that’s been on the cards ever since the credits began to roll. This deserves an audience. A big one.

behind the mask the rise of leslie vernon 2006 angela goethals

Blurbs-of-interest: Robert Englund appeared as Freddy Krueger in eight of the nine Nightmare on Elm Street movies, plus HatchetHeartstopperThe Phantom of the Opera, and Urban Legend; Kane Hodder is the homeowner at 1428 Elm Street; Zelda Rubinstein was in Wishcraft.

1 2 3 4 5 6 194