Express Elevator to Hell… going down

botched 2007


3 Stars  2007/15/91m

“Russian Mafia, insane hostages, twin serial killers… Ritchie Donovan’s luck has run out.”

Director: Kit Ryan / Writers: Derek Boyle, Eamon Friel, Raymond Friel / Cast: Stephen Dorff, Jaime Murray, Bronagh Gallagher, Geoff Bell, Hugh O’Conor, Jamie Foreman, Russell Smith, Sean Pertwee, Norma Sheahan, Gene Rooney, Edward Duly Baker.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “You have to get the police – various people are trying to kill me.”

Definitely a first for a slasher movie – a virtuoso mix of gore and slapstick comedy, with Dorff as an American grafter caught up in the theft of a sacred Russian artifact. Things descend into chaos when one of his comrades kills somebody and then the thieves and an elevator full of passengers gets stuck on a secret floor in a Moscow building.

Believing the police are on to them, the trio of crap crooks try to bargain their way to freedom with the release of a hostage, who ends up decapitated by a pair of giant shears. It becomes clear that it’s someone other than the cops keeping them at bay – someone with a cache of weaponry, all of it destined to hack, slash, and skewer through the cast.

botched 2007

If this weren’t bad enough, a group of three seemingly nervous religious women decide to take over the situation and turn the tables on the hostages, a jittery journalist joins forces with a wannabe commando security guard, leaving Dorff with a sexy Junior VP (Murray) to go about things the smart way.

The plot makes a few surprising turns as more above the Ivan the Terrible-lite killer and his purpose is revealed, all of it peppered with some great lines, fart gags, and Three Stooges physical comedy, all the while parodying the likes of Hostel with a very British sense of humour. Botched is like nothing you’ve seen before and definitely not for all tastes, but an entertaining hour and half however you cut, hack, or gut it.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sean Pertwee was in Wilderness; Geoff Bell was also in Tormented and Comedown.

VIP’S of Slasherdom: Melissa

One of the first Friday the 13th‘s I saw was Part VII: The New Blood, which, on the back of the original, I found to be pretty lax. There were still enough scraps to feast on as the genre was still new to me then. Aside from the awesome Maddy, and the swoon-worthy Nick, there was, after previous VIP Inductee Wendy, the best bitchy girl found in the genre… bow down for Melissa.

melissa susan jennifer sullivan

“…’Like’ has nothing to do with it.”

Missive: To get Nick (Kevin Blair) into bed at any cost.

Talents: Manipulation, seduction, eavesdropping, but also hair care and modelling those Hamptons-housewife pearls that her daddy gave her for being ‘the perfect daughter’. Hmm… hey Melissa, meet Madison Penrose!

Why we love her: Melissa is just a force of pure evil, rivalling Jason from a social perspective – while he destroys people physically, Melissa and her ilk are destructive in another way entirely, cutting them down with her scheming ways rather than a bladed weapon.

…56 years later

lake bodom 2017


3 Stars  2016/85m

A.k.a. Bodom (original title)

Director/Writer: Taneli Mustonen / Writer: Aleksi Hyvärinen / Cast: Nelly Hirst-Gee, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä.

Body Count: 3

I’ve lost count of the number of horror movies that claim to be ‘based on true events’ over the years, which usually means the source event has been evolved by producers thirsty to bend it into a tellable tale, be it Ed Gein into Psycho and/or The Texas Chain Saw MassacreWolf Creek, or even the folklore used in Urban Legend - at least here, the Lake Bodom murders actually occurred.

In 1960, two teen couples were attacked while camping out at the Finnish beauty spot; three of them were fatally injured, the fourth survived to become the prime suspect, eventually arrested 44 years after the fact, and acquitted, meaning the killer is effectively still undetected.

The story fascinates slightly morbid high schooler Atte, who, with his buddy Elias, dupe gal-pals Nora and Ida into accompanying them to a party at a lakeside cabin his family owns, to be joined by other friends the next day. This is all a ruse for him to investigate his theory on what actually happened 56 years earlier (yay! it’s not 5, 10, or 20 years!), and there’s no cabin either. The girls don’t have meltdowns over it, but are peeved. Atte, it seems, wants to reenact the crimes to gauge the likelihood that he’s got it solved.

lake bodom 2016

As darkness falls and they sit about the campfire by the lake, tiny hints suggest that there might be someone else there – was that a flashlight amongst the trees across the lake? Oppressed religious girl, Ida, is still sore over nude photos of her taken when she was drunk at a party and were seen by the entire school – but who took them?

Lake Bodom tosses a twist into the mechanics halfway through (I half-guessed it), but with so long left, what next? A second twist, unlikely as it is, shifts the film into its Wolf Creek gear, with an excellently original tow-truck scene of terror. It doesn’t go to lengths to explain the connection between what’s going on and the 1960 murders, wisely leaving that cloaked in mystery, as the original killings probably always will be.

lake bodom 2016

Beautifully lensed, with shades of Cold Prey alongside echoes of Haute Tension – European slasher films tend to go further with their production quality, rarely turning out shot-on-video cheapies, and stepping away from tying up every loose end. Nevertheless, it feels like the opportunity to make an amazing straight-up teen slasher film is squandered by the plotting, which is undeniably contrived, and leaning towards disproportionately torturing the female characters.

An exercise in brilliant craftsmanship behind the camera, which is worth it alone.

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.

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