“Do you really think it’s a slasher?”

10 to midnight 1983

10 TO MIDNIGHT

3 Stars  1983/18/98m

“A cop… A killer… A deadline…”

Director: J. Lee Thompson / Writer: William Roberts / Cast: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens, Gene Davis, Wilford Brimley, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeana Tomasina, Kelly Preston [as Kelly Palzis], Iva Lane, Ola Ray.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “If anybody does something like this – his knife has got to be his penis.”


The title of this could be 25 to Four or Quarter Past Eight for all the relevance it has to the film’s content, but perhaps it relates to the time this kind of 80s cop-vs-killer flick always seems to play on late night cable.

Like every other thriller of this ilk, 10 to Midnight pushes forth a rather maverick cop, who has an estrange daughter we know will be targeted by the maniac before the credits roll.In a sort of meta-slasher way, things begin with a crank confessing to murders, stating that when he “catches ‘em breaking the Lord’s Commandments, I slash ‘em with a razor!” while Charles Bronson’s grizzled detective Kessler clacks away at the typewriter.

10 to midnight 1983

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to our skeezy killer, buff young office plod Warren Stacey (Davis), who torments two girls at the movies to serve as an alibi while he creeps out of the bathroom window and drives into the woods where he attacks a pair of lovers going at it in their van, killing the guy straight off, and chasing the nude girl through the trees until she just kinda gives up and cries a lot. What is notable about 10 to Midnight is that the killer is also buck naked when he slashes, so as well as the T&A we expect, there are also some fleeting cock shots, although most of the time his appendage is hidden by branches, bed frames, and other objects in the foreground. Like Austin Powers.

Kessler meets his young new partner, McCann (Stevens), and learn from the victim’s roommate that she kept a diary of every guy she slept with. This information reaches Stacey, who worked with the victim and suspects she may have written about him in her diary, when he attends her funeral. There, he bumps into Kessler’s nursing student daughter, Laurie, who asks if they’ve met before. Stacey breaks into the apartment of his victim to steal the diary – awesomely kept in a a box with ‘My Diary’ emblazoned all over it – and ends up knifing her roomie, who comes home.

10 to midnight 1983

WHAT COULD IT BE???

The cops eventually get to Stacey for an interview and Kessler immediately suspects him, in spite of the cinema alibi, and goes all out to prove it. Stacey takes to stalking Laurie, plaguing her with sexually-explicit crank calls, which leads to McCann hanging around to protect her and them eventually falling for each other, as always happens. This enables the slow repair of father-daughter relationship. There’s a trial, a dismissal, Kessler bugs Stacey until he goes after Laurie and her bouncy nurse friends at their dorm, in the film’s slashiest scene.

10 to Midnight functions entirely predictably when watched anytime after 1990, tidily checking off almost every cliche you could hope for in a Charles Bronson thriller, and is really only memorable for being a bit more exploitative than most, with the liberal attitude to nudity throughout, and the pervy stuff Stacey utters to Laurie during his phone calls.

10 to midnight 1983

It’s clear the character is an amalgamation of Ted Bundy and slayer of nurses Richard Speck: Stacey stalks his nubile victims in his VW Beetle, is athletic and handsome, and ultimately ends up slaughtering most of his victims in their dormitory. When Bundy advised that the cops stage a slasher movie festival to catch the Green River Killer in the mid-80s, he probably would’ve creamed his pants over this one, which borrows heavily from his documented crimes.

Bronson, then 61, looks a little tired out going through the motions, but Eilbacher is a hoot as his sarcastic daughter: “Maybe we should check your prostate?” she says to McCann; “Oh, you’ve got to stop being so shy,” he responds. The other female characters are sketchy at best: Victims who either cower and squeal and make no attempt to fight back, an off-the-shelf mouthy hooker, and the over-acting manager who takes the call informing her of the first murder.

10 to midnight 1983

There’s some surface visual flair, but compared to Thompson’s previous slasher outing, Happy Birthday to Me, which stood out amongst its peers, this seems quite a pedestrian affair. “Do you think it’s a slasher?” someone asks when the murders are being discussed, alluding possibly to early production meetings about what film they were making.

Blurbs-of-interest: Carmen Filpi (the hotel clerk) played the kooky priest who gives Donald Pleasence a ride in Halloween 4; Geoffrey Lewis was also in Out of the Dark and Fingerprints; Wilford Brimley was in Death Valley.

Back to the Bush

wolf creek season 2 2017

WOLF CREEK – SEASON 2

3.5 Stars  2017/312m

Directors: Greg McLean (2 episodes), Kieran Darcy-Smith (2 episodes), Geoff Bennett (2 episodes) / Writers: Nick Parsons, Shanti Gudgeon, Mark Dapin, Greg Haddrick / Cast: John Jarratt, Tess Haubrich, Matt Day, Felicity Price, Julian Pulvermacher, Laura Wheelwright, Jason Chong, Elsa Cocquerel, Christopher Kirby, Charlie Clausen, Ben Oxenbould, Adam Fiorentino, Elijah Williams, Josephine Langford, Stephen Hunter.

Body Count: 24

Laughter Lines: “How the hell could he see [tracks] from there?” / “You fellas are good at maths, we do this shit.”


Beware snakes, lizards, and spoilers, mate.

Season 1 of Wolf Creek is unquestionably the best slasher TV series. Sorry, Harper’s Island, condolences Scream and SlasherFuck off back to hell, Scream Queens.

As a final word of the stabby drippy adventures of Mick Taylor, it was just about perfect: A survivor of his brutality on his trail for revenge. Come the end, Mick was skewered with no less than three rods and bled out – but then a curious and kind of annoying thing happened, albeit an entirely predictable one – they chucked on the ‘is he really dead?’ suffix with a post-credits shot of his sinister truck barreling down the highway.

wolf creek season 2 2017

This moves Mick into Jason, Michael, and Freddy’s turf – a bit unrealistically invincible, especially as there’s no supernatural element at play in the Wolf Creek universe… or is there?

With a brief nod to Mick being out of commission for some time, we’re catapulted on to a bus tour of the outback, led by ‘real Aussie bloke’ Davo, who’s hosting thirteen guests of various backgrounds: The German Webber family – Mutter Nina, Vater Oskar, und 15-järighe Tochter Emma, Canadian gal-pals Michelle and Kelly, Aussie gay couple Johnny and Steve, travel blogger Wade, British shrink Brian, American ex-soldier Bruce, American couple Danny and Rebecca, and Kiwi bus-enthusiast Ritchie, who’s on the trip more for the vehicle than the scenery of the Australian outback.

wolf creek season 2 2017

Normally, details about the characters wouldn’t warrant listing out, but if Season 1 taught us anything, it’s that this is a show that delves deep into its players, and likes to toy with the predictability of their fate, a.k.a. don’t think you’ll know straight away who will die off the bat and who will rise to heroism. In Wolf Creek everyone could turn out to be the main character.

A couple of days into the tour, Davo bumps into Mick at a roadhouse and takes an interest in his group, declaring himself as a real Aussie bloke who could lead such a tour. They part acrimoniously when Davo points out Mick would need to watch his racist, homophobic, and sexist language for the job. This comes back to haunt Davo literally later when Mick hijacks him in a bathroom, kills, and replaces him as leader, Angela Baker style. He tells the group that Davo had to leave for an emergency overnight and he is the replacement, playing the part, offing a few poor schmucks here and there, and drugging the group after a hike so that they’re out for over twenty-four hours.

wolf creek season 2 2017

The party awake to find the bus in the middle of nowhere, they’ve lost a day, the battery has been removed, along with the satellite phone, and Mick is nowhere to be found. Rumblings of tension ripple outward as they scrabble for explanations, until they realise somebody else is missing too. Two of the group decide to hike to a ridge to see if they can spot a town while the others stumble upon Davo’s body hidden in the trailer. Mick returns after dark and shoots the gas bottles, blowing up the bus and killing three of the group in the explosion, seriously burning a fourth. A lot to take in – and this is only Episode 2.

The throttle is mercifully eased down a little as things go the Wrong Turn route of city-folk-against-the-elements as the remaining seven members of the party start their journey for help. This is hampered by stormy weather, ailing water, heart pills, snake bites, mercy killings, and Mick’s unrelenting presence, which scatters the group, enabling him to pick them off one by one, with the final few making it to an abandoned quarry and, inevitably, Mick’s home and its funhouse of subterranean tunnels decked with corpses and angry dogs.

wolf creek season 2 2017

My only real gripe with this season was the endless array of stupid decisions and contrived setups that needed to occur to keep the wheels turning. Where Mick was largely unaware of Eve’s presence in most of S1’s episodes and didn’t feature that much across the board, he’s front and centre this time, making wisecracks while characters don’t cock rifles in time, can’t start cars, strike him once and then hesitate hitting him again while he lolls about – it gets irritating that they fail time and time again, worst of all because I’m rooting for most of them to survive. This hits its summit when two stranded victims decide to blow the place sky high in a self sacrifice that’ll stop Mick once and for all – but they don’t wait for him to be in the immediate vicinity thus guaranteeing his demise, despite having more than enough time to do so.

Plus points for – again – the lush production values afforded, top tier acting from all, and the inclusion of some Aboriginal bit parters who happen into the situation and relay that they’ve heard of the ‘Spirit Man’, and that the area near the crater has bad juju. Though this plot thread is partly wasted in another of the annoying scenes where a Shaman-esque character starts a ritual that has Mick doubling over, only to quit for him to grab a gun and shoot him dead. The supernatural element is wiped as quickly as it’s introduced.

wolf creek season 2 2017

As it was already common knowledge Wolf Creek 3 was on the cards, it’s pretty clear from the start Mick will walk away yet again, but with in excess of fifty victims over the franchise, things are starting to falter towards the ridiculous: Every knife thrown from a distance strikes, he rarely misses a shot, and knows just where to find a fleeing victim. The final episode also leaves the door open for another character to return in a third season.

Like any backpacking adventure, this has ups and downs: The good thankfully outweighs the buffet of hard-to-swallow elements and, taken as a test of survival, it’s up there. If you happen to figure out the circumstances of the revelation near the end (listen out for the dialogue about the press clipping), do let me know what the intention was; I wound it back and still couldn’t work out what they were suggesting.

Blurbs-of-interest: Other than his outings in this role, Jarratt was in Next of Kin and Needle.

January Sale! 5-for-1 on reviews!

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !

Let’s start 2018 with a 5-for-1 special!

*

class reunion massacre 1976 the redeemer

CLASS REUNION MASSACRE

1 Stars  1976/18/84m

“No more pencils, no more books, no more students…”

A.k.a. The Redeemer; The Redeemer: Son of Satan

Director: Constantine S. Gochis / Writer: William Vernick / Cast: T.G. Finkbinder, Gyr Patterson, Damien Knight, Nick Carter, Nikki Barthen, Jeanetta Arnette, Michael Holdensworth.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “You mustn’t make me chase you – I could die of a heart attack!”


The words most commonly associated with this pre-Halloween outing are surely “what the fuck!?” ’76 wasn’t such a good year for the slasher film; with the much-needed influence of John Carpenter and Sean Cunningham’s groundbreakers replaced by the lamentable likes of Blood Voyage and Drive-In Massacre. It’s not very assuring to state that this is probably the best from that year.

After an unthinkably long and boring shot of a quarry lake and a few credits, a hand rises from the water and a mop-topped child wearing flares and a nasty sweater appears and gets on a passing bus that takes him off to church where he is in the choir. Is it supposed to be abstract? Or is it just mental? What the fuck 1.

Meanwhile, a stranger murders the caretaker of an abandoned school and moulds a mask of his face, then cuts out the yearbook pictures of his six chosen sinners who need to be redeemed for various non-descript reasons. Things finally get underway as the Class of ’67 return for their nine year reunion (What the fuck 2) discover they’re: A) alone, say “where is everybody?” three times in about ten seconds; B) locked in and; C) begin to die by blow-torch, shotgun, knife in the head and drowning.

When lesbian Kirsten is the only one left, you expect a long chase before she gets her own back on the killer… but no. Killer then goes back to the church where the flares-and-sweater boy is, and returns to the lake at the end. What the fuck 3.

Explanations? Drugs would seem to the prime suspect. The film manages to achieve absolutely nothing and so just comes across like a Christian propaganda film. I’m guessing that the hordes of other graduates from ’67 were absolutely delightful in every thinkable way then? Hope their nine year reunions were more fun.

*

STAGE FRIGHTstage fright 1980 nightmares

2 Stars  1980/80m

“Screams of terror silenced only by the splintering of glass!”

A.k.a. Nightmares

Director: John Lamond / Writers: Colin Eggleston, John Lamond & John Michael Howson / Cast: Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis, Max Phipps, John Michael Howson, Briony Behets, Edmund Pegge, Sue Jones, Adele Lewin.

Body Count: 8


An erratically paced and schlocky Aussie production that plays as a kind of homage to Hitchcock, with a killer who favours shards of broken glass to do away with the cast of an independent theatrical production called A Comedy of Death.

Could the nutter be no other than schizophrenic beauty Helen (Neumann, pre-Hell Night decapitation) whose nasty daddy blamed her for causing the car accident that killed her mother seventeen years previously?

There’s not a whole lot of mystery going on here so the supposed ‘twist’ is no more than an invitation for the viewer to groan at the lack of imagination the writer has shown. Nevertheless, it’s not all bad. Stage Fright has a mixture of impressive and wonky performances from its cast, which ties in quite ironically with some of the rantings of hack director Phipps, who is tormented by bitter gay critic Howson (both of whom are expected to meet with the sharp ends of a smashed window sooner or later…)

The UK pre-certificate release is notably shorter than the rest of the world’s, even skipping a couple of early murders and leaving a yawn-worthy long gap between the assembly-line ‘trauma from the past’ opener and the first murder; and the incessant POV work in the backstage area becomes annoying. An amusing take on the Psycho shower-scene in the rain is an eyebrow-raiser towards the end but the film is just way too weird to be more than a passing interest for genre dorks.

*

frightmare 1981 the horror star

FRIGHTMARE

2 Stars  1983/83m

“He was terrifying in life. But even more in DEATH!”

A.k.a. The Horror Star

Director/Writer: Norman Thaddeus Vane / Cast: Ferdinand Mayne, Jennifer Starrett, Luca Bercovici, Nita Talbot, Barbara Pilavin, Jeffrey Combs, Carlene Olson, Scott Thomson, Donna McDaniel, Alan Stock.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “We did something bad! I know something is after me!”


There are so many extraneous elements in this one… A group of film students decide to steal the body of recently departed Christopher Lee-esque star Conrad Razkoff from his extravagant mausoleum, and use him as the centerpiece for a party.

Disgusted by the theft, Conrad’s wife employs a medium to communicate with his spirit and inadvertently brings him back to life to kill his captors. Although it sounds pretty inventive when compared to the stack of its contemporaries – more so as it was shot in 1981 and left for two years.

The paper-thin teen characters are dispatched in quick succession, some by Conrad’s puzzlingly unwarranted psychic abilities, some hands-on, but in all cases with little blood. Under-lit scenes plague this film from start to finish – most of which is set in a gothic mansion that the kids inexplicably have access to, but the scenery is sorely underused. It looks a little like Hell Night but isn’t half as good.

*

PLAYROOMplayroom 1989 a.k.a. schizo

2 Stars  1989/18/84m

“Last stop… is hell.”

A.k.a. Schizo

Director: Manny Coto / Writers: Jackie Earle Haley & Keaton Jones / Cast: Chris McDonald, Lisa Aliff, James Purcell, Jamie Rose, Vincent Schiavelli, Aron Eisenberg, Petar Bozovic.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “He sounded like the fucking Exorcist!


Passable supernatural slasher from the same director as Dr Giggles, and co-written by the future Freddy Krueger! Nicely shot in the former Yugoslavia, where Chris Hayden’s family were murdered years earlier during his father’s archaeological dig of an old tomb. Haunted by fractured memories, Chris is attracted back to the site and takes his magazine editor girlfriend, a photographer, and photographer’s vacuous model significant other.

No sooner do they arrive then his ‘imaginary’ childhood friend Daniel reappears to torment him. Is Daniel actually an immortal Prince who took pleasure in torturing local peasants with a variety of nasty devices set up in the hidden chamber Chris’s father died searching for?

Chris eventually locates Daniel’s ‘playroom’ and the fun begins when he offs his cohorts, while girlfriend Jenny is abducted by the man accused and incarcerated for the murders (late professional weirdo Schiavelli) who has escaped to put an end to the madness.

Although there’s a fair bit going on plotwise, Playroom doesn’t go anywhere with its ideas, quickly doing away with the handful of victims before a laughable store window mannequin (representing Daniel’s true form) stalks Jenny for a short while, and Chris prances around with his pickaxe before his gory comeuppance. The stock threat-isn’t-over ending is a letdown considering how annoying Daniel is, but this is one room that should be off limits hereafter.

*

sleepy hollow 1999SLEEPY HOLLOW

2.5 Stars  1999/15/102m

“Heads will roll.”

Director: Tim Burton / Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker / Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Marc Pickering, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Lisa Marie, Steven Waddington, Claire Skinner.

Body Count: 17


Gothic fantasy movies just don’t come more lush than Tim Burton’s efforts, and in this thinly disguised slasher film,  based on the novel by Washington Irving, a legendary headless horseman lops off the noggins of the inhabitants of the small north eastern town of Sleepy Hollow in 1799.

Johnny Depp (looking much more comfortable than his debut in A Nightmare On Elm Street) plays Ichabod Crane, the constable from New York sent to solve the mystery. As it turns out, the horseman is in fact real and is being controlled by whomever has stolen the skull from his grave. Gorgeous Christina Ricci is his beau, and together with Marc Pickering as the orphaned son of a recent victim, they make an attractive team.

The entire supporting cast ends up decapitated by the murderous ghoul, played to the hilt with some fabulous FX and gory enough slayings. The only drawback is that it lacks a certain something in that when it does get going, it’s never for long enough to excite, and the plays for laughs become too frequent, especially when it could have been really eerie. Apart from that, this is everything you’d expect from a gored-up Tim Burton flick.

Blurbs-of-interest: Stage Fright: Briony Behets and writer Colin Eggleston were later in Cassandra; John Michael Howson was in Houseboat HorrorFrightmare: Luca Bercovici was later in Stag Night; Jeffrey Combs was in Castle Freak and I Still Know What You Did Last SummerPlayroom: Aron Eisenberg was in The Horror Show; Chris McDonald was in The Collection; Jamie Rose was in Just Before Dawn; Vincent Schiavelli was in MiloSleepy Hollow: Depp was in From Hell; Christopher Lee was in Funny Man and Mask of Murder; Lisa Marie was in Silent Night; Marc Pickering was in Kill Keith; Casper Van Dien was in Skeleton Man.

School’s Out. Again.

death bell 2 bloody camp dvd 2010

DEATH BELL 2: BLOODY CAMP

3.5 Stars  2010/86m

Director: Seon-dong Yu / Writers: Park Hye-min, Lee Jeong-hwa, Lee Gong-ju / Cast: Ji-Yeon Park, Jeong-eum Hwang, Su-ro Kim, Ah-Jin Choi, Shi-yoon Yoon, Chang-wuk Ji, Hyun-Sang Kwon, Bo-ra Nam, Yoon Seung-ah, Ho Jun Son, Eun-Bin Park

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “How many white girls have you slept with in the States?”


In the 2008 original, top students at a school are forced into Crystal Maze-like traps that kill them should their classmates fail to figure out the brainteaser presented to them.

Well, it’s pretty much a complete retread for round 2, so much so the film runs exactly the same duration and one of the cast members returns, albeit in a different role.

At the end of the school year, the top 30 students at a school are kept back for a week to participate in a study camp to duke it out in the class rankings. We learn that shy Se-hee’s step-sister Cheong-tae apparently committed suicide some time earlier in the school’s swimming pool.

During a late-night study session, the students awake (I’m not sure if they were drugged?) to find the words “When an innocent mother is killed, what son would not avenge her death?” written on the blackboard and moments later a dead body falls through the ceiling. A tanoy announcement informs the group that they will start dying one by one if they cannot figure out what’s happening and why.

death bell 2 bloody camp 2010

Strict teacher Mr Cha and shy newcomer Miss Park do their best to keep everyone calm, but one straggler is slashed up by a motorbike with blades affixed to the wheels, that continually rides up and down the corridor he’s trapped in; a girl’s medication is swapped for poison; another is taken down by a rigged nail-gun trap and Se-hee experiences flashbacks of her life with the late Cheong-tae, whom she secretly despised.

More deaths occur with a couple of puzzles to thwart them that brainiac Se-hee solves, and it becomes clear that those being knocked off are in some way involved with the suicide.

Death Bell 2 is so identical to Death Bell 1 that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching the same film. In fact I began watching the original for several minutes before I realised the discs were mislabelled: Dead girl, mournful friend/final girl, smart kids locked in the school…

death bell 2 bloody camp 2010

The reveal is not as smart but the film can at least boast great visuals, acting, and structure: K-horror unfolds in a non-linear style, with past event flashbacks intermittently appearing to back-fill the story but not always in chronological order. It makes for a fascinating, long-arc style process you’d expect in a TV series.

More character development would help here, as some individuals are barely allotted names before they either die or vanish from the film completely.

Christmasogyny

all through the house 2016

ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE

2 Stars  2016/89m

“There is a creature stirring.”

Director/Writer: Todd Nunes / Cast: Ashley Mary Nunes, Melynda Kiring, Jason Ray Schumacher, Danica Riner, Natalie Montera, Lito Velasco, Cathy Garrett, Jessica Cameron.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Jonathan Curtis ruined my childhood!” / “Strange how you lost your virginity to him…”


Nicely put together but ultimately disappointing chapter in the Killer Santa subgenre, which plays enough like the recent Silent Night remake to make a dog tilt its head in confusion. Spoilers follow.

Non-descript girl Rachel (who is she? what does she do?) drops by to see her potty-mouthed wheelchair-bound grandmother during the holidays, and is cajoled into helping the slightly kooky neighbour Mrs Garrett put up decorations later that night, after some last minute shopping with her gal-pals, who tag along to help out.

Meanwhile, a wackadoo in a Santa outfit and admittedly creepy grey mask is slashing and shearing various locals, chopping the dicks off the male victims, both of whom are ambushed while prepping for sex. Most of the slain are scantily-clad women as usual, including yet another pair of yawn-inducing token lesbians. Seriously, when will this fucking annoying trope end? It’s in everything.

all through the house 2016

Rachel wants to find out the truth about her mother, who she believes abandoned her, and also about Mrs Garrett’s housebound daughter, Jamie, who vanished fifteen years earlier. It’s all related of course, people are keeping secrets, blah blah blah. More women are slashed up until Rachel stumbles into the trap the (obvious) antagonist has set, and the overlong final act/chase/exposition tick-tocks by.

By the end it’s the same old same old domineering mother-raises-genderless-child nonsense. Naturally, this makes the killer angry towards women, but not men. How about an asshole Dad for once who makes his offspring pissed at jackass guys rather than bimbo babes? At the start, it looked as if All Through the Night might elevate itself above the pitfalls that plague low-end slasher films, its better-than-usual production unities aiding to some degree, but the gore FX are overdone and the sexism is uncomfortable.

all through the house 2016Blurb-of-interest: Jessica Cameron was in The Sleeper.

 

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