Tag Archives: after they were famous

Children of the railroad crossing


3.5 Stars 2006/18/92m

“Even the dead leave them.”

Director: Harry Basil / Writers: Brian Cleveland & Jason Cleveland / Cast:  Leah Pipes, Kristin Cavallari, Josh Henderson, Andrew Lawrence, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sally Kirkland, Geoffrey Lewis, Sydnee Harlan, Ashley Wyatt, Ginger Gilmartin, Darryl Cox.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines:  “A hair test is the only way to be sure that you’re drug free!”

In the small town on Emerald, Texas, in March 1957, a school bus is hit by a train at a level crossing, killing all onboard. In the years that follow, an urban legend is developed that states if you park on the tracks with the car in neutral, the ghosts of the dead children will push you to safety, leaving tiny handprints behind.

This is naturally laughed off by newcomer Melanie (Leah Pipes, pre-Sorority Row), when her sister Crystal (Cavallari) drives her to their new hometown after a stint in rehab. Her nasty mom doesn’t trust her with anything, but Crystal introduces her to the local high school rabble, one of whom decides to put the local legend to the test, nearly killing a car load of them in the process. At the last second, Mel sees a young girl (one we saw killed at the start) stood on the tracks. Twilight Zone music please.

As she tries to settle in as the new girl, battling her overbearing mother, high school bitches, and frickin’ Lou Diamond Phillips for a guidance counsellor, a couple of horny classmates get themselves skewered by a shadowy killer dressed as a railway conductor.

Mel finds herself haunted by the little girl, who clearly wants help, Sixth Sense-style. When she confides in Lou Diamond Phillips, he tells Mom, who of course goes off the deep end, even more so when the cops suspect Mel in the disappearances of the horny classmates: “You are going to your room for the rest of your life!”

Slowly, some people come around the accepting the legend is real – although its origins, it seems, have been completely made up and Fingerprints ventures down a path not too dissimilar to Elm Street, with mob-vengeance, vital information hidden from the next generation, and cover-ups. Melanie is thrown into the centre when the conductor kidnaps Crystal; finds out the truth and unmasks the lunatic. Happy days.

The plot sounds overwrought and perhaps it is. Fingerprints is only a slasher film in the secondary sense, first and foremost it’s a tame ghost story, the gruesome slayings are a bit of an afterthought. Without them though, there’d be less motivation for the final girl to act, and it would simply be a fattened-up episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Good production unities, the Krueger-lite revelations, and eventual identity of the killer (plus their rather awesome flip out) more than make up for a bit of a slow start. It won’t please gorehounds by any means, but there’s a decent little flick here.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sally Kirkland was in Fatal Games way back in the 80s, and also Jack the Reaper; Josh Henderson was in the dreadful April Fool’s Day remake; Geoffrey Lewis was in Out of the Dark.

Sleepaway the 13th


3 Stars  2014/18/90m

“Pitch your tent, dig your grave.”

Director/Writer: B. Harrison Smith / Cast: Eric Roberts, Felissa Rose, Nicole Cinaglia, Joe Raffa, Alexander Mandell, Montana Marks, Ashley Sumner, Gnomi Gre, Dave Raphaely, Angel Valerio, Brian Gallagher, Danielle Harris, Angel Sanchez, Kyle Patrick Brennan.

Body Count: 14

Laughter Lines: “We all know that work dried up for you after three shit films and you got tired of stalkers sending you come-stained fan letters.”

Ignore that cover and that tagline: There were no tents anywhere in this production. It’s pure summer camp goodness through n’ through!

In spite of a dismal 3.8 rating on IMDb, some clunky editing, and titles that look like they were typed out on an early Spectrum computer, Camp Dread is actually a pretty good, high-slaughter count apparent homage to Sleepaway Camp (with touches of Friday the 13th; witness a character named Adrienne) – filmed at a camp that looks suspiciously like Camp Arawak, and featuring Felissa Rose in a central role!

So it goes, washed up actor Eric Roberts plays washed up director Julian Barrett, who found fame in the 80s with the Summer Camp series of cheap slasher films, which starred Rachel Steele (Rose), but relations became bad between those involved and the series stalled to its end.

Now, with the chance to direct a remake, Julian presents a group of legally-tangled young folks (all over 21!)  with the chance to win $1million if they attend the old camp from the film for counselling sessions with actress-turned-therapist Rachel. They’ll be filmed for the duration on CCTV cameras and the will be ‘killed’ by production assistants. The last one standing walks away with the cash.

Of course, the ‘killings’ are less eliminations, more genuine slayings, with arrows in the eye, poisoned sandwiches, and being beaten to death with a false leg atop the options… Has one of the jittery contestants snapped? Is Julian behind it all?

Rachel soon becomes suspicious as the disappearances mount up, and discovers in-depth profiles on all the kids, some of whom have quite violent histories.

Numbers continue to dwindle until the usual nice couple are left, though at this point Camp Dread elects to reveal its apparent ‘twist’, which the seasoned viewer will see coming. It’s obnoxiously juvenile and quite annoying, pulling the rug of probability out from beneath itself, piling twist upon twist on top of everything until it goes beyond a stretch of credibility to a full blown bolt across the line.

Still, when it comes to making me happy, you can rarely go wrong with a summer camp slasher film: Most of the palatable elements are in place, the characters not too objectionable, the locus quaint and used wisely, and the murders mercifully CG-free and bloody without being excessive.

Danielle Harris, despite her star billing, appears for all of five minutes as the local Sheriff, but Felissa is in it for the long haul and is, as expected, awesome.

Blurbs-of-interest: Eric Roberts was also in Groupie; Felissa Rose was Angela in Sleepaway Camp and Return to…; Danielle Harris began her impressive slasher movie career in Halloween‘s 4 & 5, Rob Zombie’s remake and its sequel, Urban Legend, Hatchet’s II & III, Blood Night, and ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2.

Other scarecrow-themed horror films are available


2 Stars  2013/18/83m

“It’s not a myth. It’s not a legend. It’s a warning.”

Director/Writer: Sheldon Wilson / Writer: Rick Suvalle / Cast: Lacey Chabert, Robin Dunne, Nicole Munoz, Brittney Wilson, Carlo Marks, Reilly Dolman, Richard Harmon, Julia Maxwell, Jerry Wasserman.

Body Count: 13

The term ‘SyFy Original’ packs more terror than the cumulative scares of all the movies the channel has produced. Almost.

In an infuriating turn, Scarecrow began surprisingly well and, for a brief naive second, I thought “Hey, maybe they’ve finally struck gold!” The clanging of the pick was sadly just lame old aluminium, neigh gold here. #sadface.

In its favour, Scarecrow features a lot of actors from other lesser-known slasher flicks and wastes no time in cutting to the chase. A quick teen-couple slashening occurs at ye olde Miller farm and unleashes the spirit of the titular villain, just in time for the local town’s Scarecrow Festival.

Don’t get your hopes up. In town, another high school detention puts another pack of assorted stereotypes onto a school bus with their handsome young teacher. Out to the farm they go to help move the scarecrow back to town. This development sires the following ponderances:

  • Does it take nine people to move one scarecrow?
  • Aren’t detentions customarily served inside the school?

Scarecrow doesn’t care for such trivialities. It also doesn’t care to explain what the kids have done, though something about naughty photos of their (now dead) classmates appearing online is muttered – but it’s difficult to believe they all did this together as they don’t seem to get along.

At the farm, a clearly here-for-the-cheque Lacey Chabert turns up, the last of the Miller family who can no longer afford to keep the farm going. Just fifteen minutes into the film, kids are being attacked by an unseen force.

They barricade themselves inside and find that mythically-cursed scarecrow is very much alive and well, and wants them dead. Actually, it wants Lacey Chabert dead, but anyone else will do in the meantime.

As the action kicks off so quickly, Scarecrow soon becomes a bit tedious as numbers are depleted and the surviving members of the group move from house to car to woods to neighbouring farm back to woods and so on…

Points are gained for the surprisingly good FX work of the scarecrow itself, a jet-black liquorice-looking viney chap, who can come out of the ground, even hide inside bodies… They’re lost, however, for strange choices of characters who outlast others and, more crucially, Lacey Chabert wiping her blood on a herd of cows and saying “rather you than me”! No, Lacey, no. Save the cows.

It’s one of those films where the villain only wants ONE person dead, but said person naturally resists, and so everyone else around them has to die!

Things began with a fair bit of focus on the requisite drop-outs who we expect to live for most of the film and then die horribly. But no, again here Scarecrow fucks with us: They go really early, totally off-camera, without any of the expected comeuppance these types of characters normally suffer.

Another character acts so shadily that I was waiting for them to be revealed to be some sort of conduit for the scarecrow. While this person eventually showed another side of themselves, it was something totally different and disappointing.

In summary, a good looking, well made film, but one that shoots its load too early and expects us to hang around enjoying the afterglow. And the cow-thing can’t be forgiven.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lacey Chabert was in the Black Christmas remake; Robin Dunne was in American Psycho II: All-American Girl; Nicole Munoz was the little girl heroine in The Tooth Fairy; Brittney Wilson was in Scar 3D; Jerry Wasserman was in Christina’s House.

Porn of the dead


3 Stars  2003/18/78m

A.k.a. Samhain

“Evil roams the woods.” Director/Writer:

Christian Viel / Writer: William R. Mariani / Cast: Bobbie Phillips, Brandi-Ann Milbradt, Ginger Lynn Allen, Jenna Jameson, Chasey Lain, Richard Grieco, Howard Rosenstein, Phil Price, Gillian Leigh, Heidi Hawkins, Neil Napier.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “If you leave, you’ll disappear just like every other B-movie character does.”

Production problems plagued this Canadian gorefest, originally titled the pitheir Samhain before much of it was re-shot without the director’s input and reportedly the final cut is a far cry from the original vision.

Stocked with porn industry heavyweights, the first half of Evil Breed is surprisingly decent, rekindling a particular Friday the 13th vibe, with a group of horny, over-aged teenagers in the Irish woods (studying druids or something) and getting offed by a family of not-so-mythical inbred primevals.

Chasey Lain and Richard Grieco are the first to go in the obligatory pre-credits slaughter – quite why so many North Americans are camping in Ireland at the same time is a mystery. Then it’s pretty much death after death for the remaining characters, including a neat knife-in-the-mouth and a decapitation-by-wire, but the sight of one poor schmuck getting his intestines ripped out through his ass is a bit of a stretch the mind is less willing to reach. Elsewhere, Jenna Jameson is gutted by one of the cannibals, who then attempts to chow down on one of her silicone implants!

Considering 13 seconds were scissored by the BBFC, there’s still a hell of a lot of gore on show, but a good half of the killings occur off camera, leaving a lot of unanswered questions, while the cobbled-together footage jumps all over trying to sustain the plot.

The nostalgic approach to the midriff earns this three stars.

Out with the old


2.5 Stars  1996/15/80m

“Working here can be murder.”

Director: Cindy Sherman / Writers: Elise MacAdam & Tom Kalin / Cast: Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Barbara Sukowa, Michael Imperioli, David Thornton, Mike Hodge, Alice Drummond.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Kim! Go home… Go to unemployment… Just leave!”

1996 was the year Scream came out, the film that redefined, like, everything. Peering over the fence at that party like a sad, uninvited, neighbour kid, was Office Killer, an obscure little flick still sporting last season’s fashions and casting last decade’s names. Spoilers ensue!

Carol Kane is perfect as meek, measly copy editor (my job!!) Dorine who, when learning that the staff in her office will be downsized, decides to do some downsizing of her own, bumping off colleagues and storing them in her basement, where she plays ‘happy office’. Life’s frustrations are punctuated by her Mrs Bates-esque mother (Drummond).

Slickly made, but too slow-moving for such a short film: Dorine is interesting enough as the repressed psycho, and who doesn’t just LOVE the idea of Molly Ringwald as the bitchy, foul-mouthed co-worker who ends up being the only survivor? Jeanne Tripplehorn (game subject of a Whatever Happened To…?) is the ‘nice’ one who learns too much about her object of sympathy…

Oddest moment surely has to be Dorine murdering two cookie-selling girl scouts!

Blurbs-of-interest: Kane was the final girl in Pandemonium; Molly Ringwald appeared in Cut.

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