“LOL”

student bodies 1981

STUDENT BODIES

3 Stars  1981/15/82m

“13½ murders + 1423 laughs = [Student Bodies]”

Director/Writer: Mickey Rose / Cast: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby, Richard Brando, Joe Talarowski, Mimi Weddell, Joe Flood, Carl Jacobs, Peggy Cooper, Janice E. O’Malley, Angela Bressler, Kevin Mannis, Sara Eckhardt, The Stick.

Body Count: 13½


A killer known as The Breather, who wears squelchy galoshes and talks through a rubber chicken, is offing the sexually active couples of Lamab High School, using eggplants, paperclips, and various other bizarre weaponry. Goody-goody heroine Toby is determined to find out who it is before any more of her friends end up dead.

Many-a-joke about farts, erections, urinals, but little to say about the contemporary slasher film trend, bar the first few minutes. Ultimately it knifes itself in the foot with bizarre dream sequences and a really, really confusing ending, plus the feeling it thinks the audience is pretty dumb.

Pandemonium remains the best parody of the era, but at least Student Bodies can declare itself superior to Wacko and National Lampoon’s Class Reunion.

Take a walk down rip-off alley: Final Destination

As the outward ripples caused by Scream‘s splash began to calm, and the likes of I Know What You Did Last SummerHalloween H20, and Urban Legend became the likes of ValentineCherry Falls, and The Clown at Midnight, into our lives came Final Destination, delaying the decline of teen horror a little longer with its undeniably awesome premise.

Surprisingly, Xeroxing the central motif employed in Final Destination - that victims are killed by elaborate ACME-style cartoon accidents – has clearly proven quite difficult to achieve, and so what rip-offs it inspired have been relatively few and far between. Stroll with me now, through the back streets where mysterious forces might drop a piano on your head…

*

999-9999 2002

Thai export 999-9999 came first, in 2002, and introduced us to life at a high school where a group of prankster students are talked into dialling the freaky 999-9999 number, which will grant you any wish.

Despite transfer student Rainbow warning them of the consequences, they each wish for fame, fortune, and Ferraris and, when karma’s bill comes-a-callin’, are killed in weird car wash accidents, drowned and slashed by floating razors (!), perish in fires, fall out of windows, and in one to-be-seen-to-be-believed sequence, sucked into anti-gravity chambers along with lethal buzzsaw blades.

Asian horror is always divertingly fun, and 999-9999 is no different, making the most out of its concept, even with the “OK, what?” twist ending, and some budgetary constraints that make some of the demises a little… ropey, but as a pretender to Final Destination‘s throne, a solid effort.

Death might sue: A speedster drives his new Ferrari into an out-of-order car wash, which, when the fabric is absent, means scratchy, slashy shards of metal are spinning towards you instead.

*

scared 2005

Staying in the warmer climes of Thailand, they fused similar ideas with those founding in Battle Royale for 2005 flick, Scared, which sadly wasn’t released with subtitles to discern the finer details of what’s going on.

This time, a busload of students on a field trip crosses a rickety old bridge, which begins to collapse (possibly influencing those who would later pen Final Destination 5), killing a good portion and stranding others on a seemingly deserted island.

As they explore in search of help, they’re systematically done in either by mysterious killers or stumbling into traps designed to skewer them into several pieces. Come the end, it’s something to do with a reality show where being voted off the island is a more permanent fate than usual.

Death might sue: The poor bus driver cops an almost-slapstick log in the face (and through the head) during the bridge collapse.

*

open graves 2009

At the time Death was prepping for its fourth and ‘final’ outing, in 2009, along came Open Graves, which also knocks on Jumanji‘s door for some inspiration, as a group of surfer buddies vacationing in Spain play a cursed boardgame named Mamba, that gives players cryptic messages as to their fate, and promises the winner anything they desire.

Once the game is over, those who were out are really out as they begin dying in a series of bizarre accidents. Naturally, the non-Americans are first to go: One guy falls over a cliff; Another into into a pit of snakes; There’s a car crash, and the looks-obsessed girl ages to, like, 70 overnight.

I saw this one almost a decade ago and remember very little beyond Eliza Dushku and Mike Vogel from the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre over-do, and the rather uninspired twist ending. Play at your own peril.

Death might sue: The poor chap who takes a tumble over the cliff tries to save himself by holding onto – and sliding down – barbed wire, then landing on the rocks – still alive – for the crabs to scuttle out.

*

wish upon 2017

Into the present we come, with last year’s severely toned-down, teen friendly PG-13 quickie Wish Upon, which I saw last week.

Claire is a down-on-her-luck high schooler whose dumpster-diving dad finds a strange music box covered in Chinese calligraphy and gifts it to her. A convenient Chinese language course and friend are able to declare it a wishing pot, which grants its keeper seven desires, but undoes them if it’s abandoned or destroyed.

Of course, Claire wishes her high school nemesis would rot and the girl develops a flesh eating disease, but Claire’s beloved dog dies. Then she wishes her boy-crush liked her back, an old man down the street falls in his tub and dies. Then popularity, wealth, mother not to have died = kindly neighbour’s ponytail gets caught in the garbage disposal, friend dying in elevator crash, girl skewered on statue etc, etc.

It’s tame, juvenile, and it takes Claire FOREVER to catch on, but the cast is likeable and it’s reasonably well made for a once-over so long as you’re not expecting the ‘accidents’ to have slow, it-could-happen builds like the FD films offer.

Death might sue: Ryan Phillippe supervising the chainsawing of his tree… from underneath said tree. Duh.

*

What does this teach us? Thailand represent! But also that it’s reasonably hard to copy the formula, which is why Final Destination dominated this sub-sub-sub-genre for so long. Will they ever make more? Who knows – lemme ask my Haitian nightmare doll…

To Sir With Blood

bloody reunion

BLOODY REUNION

2.5 Stars  2006/93m

“Class dismissed.”

A.k.a. To Sir With Love

Director: Dae-wung Lim / Writer: Se-yeol Park / Cast: Yeong-hie Seo, Mi-hee Oh, Seong-won Jang, Dong-kyu Lee, Ji-hyeon Lee, Hyo-jun Park, Seol-ah Yu, Hyeon-Soo Yeo.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Just go if you need to shit.”


South Korea has given us a few decent slasher films over the last few years: NightmareRecord, the awesome Death Bell and its sequel. Bloody Reunion sits nicely in the group, the title giving away much that you need to know in terms of plot. Mild spoilers follow.

A group of young adults gather at the home of their elementary school teacher, Mrs Park, whose poor health indicates this might be the last time they get to see her. The reunion has been organised by nice girl Mi-ja, who serves as a sort of live-in assistant to the woman, and the attendees include the usual types: the funny guy, the moody biker type, engaged but seemingly miserable couple, a girl who permanently keeps her shades on and talks about how good she looks these days.

Through intermittent flashbacks, we learn that Mrs Park gave birth to a deformed son who was locked in her basement after her husband, unable to deal with the child’s looks, hanged himself. It also transpires that, despite attending the party, none of the students actually really liked Mrs Park, and each recall her nastiness towards them, be it rejecting her ‘Teacher’s Day’ gifts, highlighting they were from a poor family, or mocking them for crapping themself in class.

bloody reunion 2006

Arguments ensue, weird scenes unfold, a bunny-masked loon begins stalking them with a box-cutter, making one guy swallow razor blades and stapling a girl’s eyelids (open or shut, I can’t remember). Everyone suspects fellow aide of Mrs Park, Jung-won, who was the only member of the group nice to her absent son. Hmm…

Bloody Reunion tosses us a curveball at the end, which makes things certainly more interesting, but a bit confusing in a sub-Haute Tension manner: Did that person even exist? Did any of this happen? Huh? Don’t expect all your questions to have been answered. And don’t eat the cake.

Road to Nowhere

munger road 2011

MUNGER ROAD

2 Stars  2011/18/82m

A.k.a. The Wrong Road

Director/Writer: Nicholas Smith / Cast: Bruce Davison, Randall Batinkoff, Trevor Morgan, Brooke Peoples, Hallock Beals, Lauren Storm, Art Fox.

Body Count: 3


If you’ve ever been stuck in a car in a traffic jam, that feeling of hopeless tedium will sum up what watching Munger Road is like – a film so slow and plodding that a nineteen mile tailback would probably be more engaging. Major spoilers follow.

OK, so the budget was like $200,000, and Nick Smith has at least made a good looking film, but the story isn’t sufficient to fill out a 20-minute anthology segment, let alone an 81 minute feature. And we kinda already had this story in 2006’s Fingerprints.

Legend has it a busload of kids were killed when a train hit their school bus blah years ago, and if your car should come to a halt on the tracks, little ghostly handprints will appear and push you to safety. Uninteresting bro’s Corey and Scott want to catch this phenomenon on tape and sell it to some reality show, so talk girlfriends Rachel and Joe into going along with them.

Meanwhile, a serial killer who murdered six kids in the area has escaped and the local chief (Davison) and his deputy are looking for him before an influx of visitors for a carnival arrive.

munger road 2011

The teens conduct their experiment but then find the car powers out down the road, stranding them there, and there’s also no cell reception. Corey opts to hike back down the road to where they had signal and summon help. Scott, meanwhile, plays back their footage and sees that there was somebody stood behind the car when they drove away initially. Joe then goes to find Corey, Scott and Rachel stay in the car and are tormented by creepy occurrences.

Ultimately, anyone killed is done so entirely off camera. The cops finally reach the old farmhouse where Joe has ended up after being attacked and spared by the killer. They rescue her and get a call saying the escaped guy died the day before, Harry Warden-style. So who is it? Well, the film ends with a kick-in-the-balls ‘To be continued’. This was in 2011, seven years have passed and no sequel has appeared. Awesome.

Cumulatively, there are maybe 15-20 seconds of unsettling visuals here, the rest is a monumental waste of time. Mush together bits of My Bloody ValentineDead EndWind ChillFingerprints, and The Gallows and this is the swill you’re left with.

Unimproved

unhinged 2017UNHINGED

2.5 Stars  2017/15/94m

“Everyone’s dying for a wedding invite.”

Director/Writer: Dan Allen / Writer: Scott Jeffrey / Cast: Kate Lister, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Becky Fletcher, Lorena Andrea, Michelle Archer.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Do we, like, have to cut up the body?” / “No! This isn’t fucking Dexter!


A curiosity emerged in the discovery of this loose remake of the grimy little 1982 flick. The alternative artwork (above) features exactly the same quote from the same source as the DVD box for the recent 12 Deaths of Christmas, another Brit-flick I recently suffered through. What is ‘mind numbingly terrifying’ anyway? Both also feature one of the same players in a similar role. Hmm… Spoilers follow.

That ole ’82 Psycho knock-off would probably entirely obscure were it not placed on the infamous Video Nasty list, although for what reason nobody is really sure, as a little blood splatter and fleeting grue is all it has over a 77-minute runtime and a rock bottom bodycount. Still, the looming sense of dread it boasts meant that I enjoyed it enough to base The Beaten Track on a similar scenario.

Learning someone had bothered to remake it was a strange development. The film is not fondly remembered at all, but the cut-price nature of the plot means that it would be a fairly straightforward task. Or so you’d think.

unhinged 2017

A quartet of girls (three American, one British) on a roadtrip to Melissa’s wedding in her Vauxhall Corsa find themselves stalked by an intense looking bloke the bride-to-be gave a few quid to as the gas station. When he attacks them with a knife, they accidentally kill him and, against their better judgment, opt to bury the body.

Lost in the middle of nowhere – though in England, this is pretty much impossible – and low on fuel, they call in on the first house they find, inhabited by middle-aged spinster Miss Perkins, who has no phone, so invites them to spend the night and wait for the gardener to swing by, who should be able to help them out. Unlike the original film, our Samaritan doesn’t rattle around a huge mansion, but a relatively regular looking and sized house.

unhinged 2017

During the night, the women hear raised voices coming from a garden shed: Standard “why are those sluts here?” stuff, and the next day people start to wander off around the local woodland where they’re attacked by the veil and wedding dress wearing killer, who has also acquired the Halloween mask one of the group inexplicably brought along. Only time will tell if the same wackadoo theatrics that were going on at the Penrose mansion are occurring here…

Lister makes for a good, likeable heroine, and there are some decent moments peppered throughout the later scenes as she first tries to escape and then engage the lunatic in a fight to the death, plus a couple of creepy visuals earlier on – the killer dressed in their garb slowly sliding out of view behind a door in the middle of the night is superbly unsettling, plus cellphone lights in dingy loft spaces, and the cringetastic sound of a metal rake being dragged across concrete.

unhinged 2017

Sadly, much of what I was impressed with sank the film decided firstly to throw in another lesbian make-out scene and then kills them – and only them – off. I doubt this was an intentionally homophobic move on the part of the creators, more a coincidence tied in with the ongoing box-ticking mission of low-budget horror filmmakers to feature hot girls making out in the first place, under the illusion that such inclined straight men are the only demographic worth appealing to. Still, that the only victims are those with fluid sexuality leaves a sour aftertaste from an otherwise okay production, which, with some more cash thrown at it (and a bigger house) could’ve pushed it up the rankings a fair distance; Allen has a good eye for finding creepiness in the ordinary and could be one to watch.

But The Beaten Track is way better.

Blurb-of-interest: Michelle Archer was in 12 Deaths of Christmas.

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