Tag Archives: after they were famous

THE CARETAKER

caretaker2.5 Stars  2008/18/82m

“Not all love stories have a happy ending.”

Director: Bryce Fridrik Olson / Writer: Jackie Linder Olson / Cast: Kira Verrastro, Jennifer Freeman, James Immekus, Andrew St. John, Jennifer Tilly, Victoria Vande Vegte, Diego Torres, Judd Nelson, Jonathan Breck, Will Stiles, Lola Davidson.

Body Count: 9


The Zone Horror channel has given me the opportunity to see quite a few slasher films since I first had access to it about a year ago. Plenty of these films are bad – The Gingerdead Man, Crazy Eights – and some have been pleasant surprises – StagKnight, Pray for Morning. The Caretaker lands somewhere inbetween. It’s one of those instantly forgettable B-movies populated by fresh faced, enthusiastic thespians and a couple of has-beens signed on for the pay-cheque…

Here, Jennifer Tilly and Judd Nelson graduate from their 80’s teen roles to being “the adults” – namely a nympho teacher with a penchant for low-cut tops and a concerned father of the obvious final girl respectively. Elsewhere, Jonathan Breck (The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers) has a limited, but effective role as a questionable limo driver taking three teen boys and their dates to an abandoned house at a grapefruit grove (orchard?) where an old legend about a psychotic caretaker who kept his beautiful wife shackled in their house, then murdered her family and eventually her when she tried to leg it with their newborn daughter.

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In a sort of diet-Hell Night evolution, it turns out those sent to make scary noises from outside have already been murdered and now those inside are to fall victim to the disguised killer, who uses a tweaked fruit picker to skewer everyone to death. One girl says she is bored by everything and opts to walk back to town – and survives! Another girl – in her prom dress – attempts to take off on a quad bike before she is clothes-lined off of it. There’s also fruit-picker to the dick, grapefruit asphyxiation and an overdose of juvenile fart-gag humour. Squeaky Tilly plays it charismatically, further cementing my theory that she and Cyndi Lauper are in fact the same person.

The outcome is pointedly obvious when you make a quick reckie of Judd Nelson’s overall screentime and the number of years between the past murders, all equating to a resolution that’s about as difficult to establish as a three-brick Lego set. Tame, passable teen horror for a boring evening you don’t mind forgetting about.

Blurbs-of-interest: Breck later played the loon in Mask Maker. Jennifer Tilly was in 1989’s Far From Home. Will Stiles was also in Circle.

NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU

noonecanhearyou2.5 Stars  2000/15/95m

“True love never dies…”

Director: John Laing / Writers: Ian Coughlan, John Laing & Craige Cronin / Cast: Kelly McGillis, Kate Elliott, Emily Barclay, Tom Huntington, Kieren Hutchison, Barry Corbin, Daniel Gillies, Craig Parker, Jaime Passier-Armstrong, Joanna Morrison.

Body Count: 10


A killer is carving up families in the small town of Riverhead. It appears the perp is after the gal-pals of high schooler Lisa, whose mum Trish (Kelly) is a local radio journo and trusted media outlet of the bumbling police force. Suspects include teenage hormone bomb Dirk, the aggressively sexual boyfriend of the victims so far and also a hitchhiking visitor to town, who repeatedly tries to contact Kelly and her daughters to ‘give her a present’.

There’s not much to this after-school-special-type export from New Zealand, which masquerades as an American production with a bit of stab and drip added towards the finale, which sees several possible culprits and Kelly’s sprogs hauled up in their remote home during a thunderstorm while mum’s remedial driving skills mean she might not be home in time to stop the carnage.

Points are deducted for showing a picture of the killer on the DVD box (differing to the one above), even if his identity is pretty damn obvious from the first time he appears on screen, but otherwise No One Can Hear You is an inoffensive shelf-filler that few people will ever see. Kelly deserves a better showcase than this.

Blurb-of-interest: Daniel Gillies was later in Evil Remains.

HELL NIGHT

hellnight HELL NIGHT

4 Stars  1981/18/102m

“Pray for day.”

Director: Tom DeSimone / Writer: Randy Feldman / Cast: Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van Patten, Kevin Brophy, Suki Goodwin, Jenny Neumann, Jimmy Sturtevant.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “If you weren’t screamin’…and we weren’t screamin’…then somebody’s trying to mind-fuck us.”


In the cynical we-know-everything days of 2009, a film with a premise so simplistic as Hell Night is likely to be casually dismissed as ancient crap. It’s long and slow with a low body count – why bother? Because it’s one of the best slasher films going.

The Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity and its sister sorority are initiating four new pledges on their annual ‘Hell Night’. The costume party is over, we’ve met the primary cast of just seven young scholars, and we’re off to the unloved grounds of Garth Manor, where the Garth patriarch once slaughtered his entire family, save for ‘gorked out’ Andrew, who is said to still dwell within the creepy old mansion.

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Jeff, Denise, Seth and Marti are sequestered to the venue and instructed to stay in the house until dawn, when they will be let out. Once left alone by the upperclassmen, the quartet briefly explore and then pair off; Seth and Denise engage in overlong foreplay while Jeff and Marti go heart to heart and discuss their lives, the class system and various other things.

Outside, three of the senior collegiates – May, weasely Scott, and uber-prankster Peter – return to try and scare them with a range of pre-organised tricks. Ghosts appear, death-screams echo down the halls and a real killer begins stalking and slaying all those who intrude on his property! Andrew Garth lives! A few killings in, the murders are discovered and Seth manages to climb his way to freedom in a bid to summon help while Jeff and Marti look for a missing Denise and uncover the extent of the nightmare…

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Like the gothic candles that give a creepy glow to the setting, Hell Night is a real slow-burn affair. It’s nearly half an hour before the first killing and afterwards they’re spaced out to maximum tense-effect but it’s seldom boring. In the attention-deficit days we now live in, there’s no way something so relaxedly paced would ring the box office bell, but that’s the beauty of a film like Hell Night. In spite of being helmed by a noted porno director, there’s no nudity and very restrained bloodshed.

hn7aThe appeal is in the straight-forward telling of it all. It’s got classic creaky haunted house origins, aided no end by the period costumes worn by the characters, the candelabras and cobwebs, Nosferatu-influenced creeping shadows, all engineered into a (then) modern slasher narrative. Characters are also well drawn given that the entire thing is set on one night; Linda Blair, all grown up from playing Regan MacNeil, makes for an affable heroine in Marti, a mechanically gifted student. Her three companions range from misunderstood nice guy (Jeff), to surfer dude (Seth) and comical British partygirl (Denise), while the trio of pranksters have less to do. Why the two main guys are Jeff n’ Seth is something we’ll never know I guess…

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The emphasis on atmosphere is a strong selling point here; the house is creepy and the story just offbeat enough to be unsettling. “This was supposed to be a joke,” crows Marti when she and Jeff find time to reflect on the night’s events. All things considered, definitely not a film for all to enjoy. It has that nostalgic ‘this scared me as a kid’ quality going for it, something we’re unlikely to experience again. Karen Carpenter sang ‘Tryin’ To Get That Feeling Again’, Hell Night still maintains a big part of ‘that’ feeling.

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The bad news: a PG-13 remake, almost certainly similar to the dismal Prom Night redux, is due in 2010. Don’t expect any nostalgia there.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Blair made a return to the slasher film in 1988’s hilarious Grotesque;  Barton played Doug in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter; Jenny Neumann had already played the lead in Aussie theatre stalker Stage Fright. Several of the producers worked on other slasher flicks, including Halloween, and Chuck Russell directed A Nightmare On Elm Street 3.

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