Tag Archives: after they were famous

Slither n’ Slash

venom 2005 dvd

VENOM

3.5 Stars  2005/15/87m

“He never hurt a soul until the day he died.”

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten & Brandon Boyce / Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Rick Cramer, Laura Ramsey, Meagan Good, D.J. Cotrona, Pawel Szajda, Bijou Phillips, Davetta Sherwood, Method Man.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “You stole it?” / “Well, I wasn’t gonna buy it, it’s too ugly! I felt bad taking a nice one – I have a conscience.”


Kevin Williamson produced this ill-failed feature, for which he was reunited with I Know What You Did Last Summer director Gillespie. It ended up being released within days of Hurricane Katrina – not good for a Louisiana-shot, voodoo-centric teen horror film. Predictably it tanked, raking less than $1million.

In spite of this misfortune, Venom is a handsome critter, which benefits from above average production design, and a brutality absent in other recent slasher films. And there weren’t many around theatrically in 2005. Initially, the film was conceived as a backstory for a pending video game, Backwater, which featured an antagonist known as Mr Jangles. Whether that ever surfaced I do not know.

venom 2005 meagan good agnes bruckner

A mambo priestess in the deep south retrieves a suitcase full of snakes possessed by the evil of people whose bad mojo they’ve sucked out in a ‘milking ceremony’. Whilst transporting it to safety, she, grimy local mechanic/outcast Ray Sawyer, and sexy teens Eden and Eric, are involved in an accident on a bridge, which culminates with the hulking Ray trapped inside the sinking car with the loose snakes.

Ray’s body is retrieved and the mambo also dies from her injuries, but the former is soon up and about, killing the coroner, Method Man’s deputy (what happened to him!?), and a string of teens leading back to the mambo’s house, where her granddaughter CeCe (Good, who is, uh, good) is mourning her loss.

venom 2005

Meanwhile, the demon-formerly-known-as-Ray sandblasts a light-fingered teen to death before heading in the direction of the house where the depleting teens gather to comfort CeCe. After finding their VW Beetle turned on its head (at least it wasn’t completely trashed, gorgeous thing that it is) the assault begins with a ripped-off arm, death-by-crowbar, and even house-wrenched-in-half when CeCe’s voodoo powder-scattering blocks his entry.

Venom goes to some lengths to provide creative demises for all involved, but by doing so adheres to that is-it/isn’t-it true stereotype of killing the black characters first: The first three murdered aren’t white and the ripe opportunity to finally cast a black girl as the heroine is squandered.

venom 2005 bijou phillips

That said, Agnes Bruckner, as Eden, does just fine with the role – running and retaliating where required and I’d forgotten just how long the third act of Girl vs. demon-formerly-known-as-Ray carries on, so her dues are well and truly paid.

Despite reliance on some real contrivances – one of the teens is Ray’s illegitimate son, perfect to make a voodoo doll with – there’s much to enjoy here, from the swampland locus (although why does nobody have a southern accent?) to the comparably luxury production qualities. The characters blue together somewhat, with little to them beyond final girl Eden wanting to go be a doctor in New York, her boyfriend moaning about it, the gay boy, the drunk boy, and a host of ‘other ones’.

venom 2005

Venom isn’t likely to be regarded as a classic by any metric, but it’s definitely worth a look for its surface gloss appeal alone, which is rare in low-end slasher fare, and some MTV hyper-edits aside, ticks all the boxes a fun horror ride should.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gillespie also directed D-Tox; Laura Ramsey was in Cruel World.

I’d rather go blind

see no evil dvd

SEE NO EVIL

2 Stars  2006/18/81m

“Eight teens, one weekend, one serial killer.”

Director: Gregory Dark / Writer: Dan Madigan / Cast: Glenn Jacobs [as Kane], Christina Vidal, Samantha Noble, Luke Pegler, Steven Vidler, Michael J Pagan, Rachael Taylor, Penny McNamee, Craig Horner, Mikael Wilder, Tiffany Lamb, Cecily Polson.

Body Count: 12


See No Evil came out ten years ago! And ten years after Scream! How time flies. How producers learn nothing from the lessons provided by their forebears.

Things begin with two cops turning up at a house and discovering it’s home to hulking psycho Jacob Goodnight, who is holding a girl captive, whose eyes he has plucked out. He axes one of the cops down and cuts the arm off the other before being shot in the head.

GASP! Four years later – not a multiple of five for once! – the surviving one-armed cop is escorting eight wayward teens from their detention centre to the rundown Blackwell Hotel, where they’ll shorten their sentences by helping fix the place up as some sort of community service thing that appears only to be open to telegenic youths. Nobody here is anything short of a catwalk model.

see no evil

Of course, said venue is now the home to Goodnight, who is soon plucking out the eyes of the horny teens left, right and centre as he believes the eyes are the windows of the soul or some such nonsense. Some squishy eye-gougings and a couple of other quasi-nasty death sequences – including a nasty girl getting her cellular rammed down her throat until she chokes on it – do little to distract from the gaping flaws in passion for the project.

The cop is killed summarily early on without even facing off with the killer, totally erasing what tension there may have been, and the teens are about the most unsympathetic assholes you could ever wish to attempt to root for. Christina Vidal as good-but-tough girl Christine elicits a bit of gusto as the put-upon heroine, while the others have virtually nothing to work with other than filling their mono-dimensional drug-dealer/shoplifter/fraud role to the brim with profane stereotyping.

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WWE wrestler Kane is a good build for such a killer but the script unwisely chooses to try and create sympathy for him in the form of an obvious plot twist. One memorable scene features an animal rights activist being lowered to safety ends up hanging upside down a few inches from the ground only to be ravaged by the group of stray dogs she earlier befriended.

Notes from my original 2007 viewing end with: “At least there’s no sequel-hungry ending to it!” Oh, how wrong I was.

Blurb-of-interest: Michael J. Pagan was in Chain Letter.

0900-KILL

out of the darkOUT OF THE DARK

2.5 Stars  1988/18/84m

“Mother always wared her: Never talk to strangers…”

Director: Michael Schroeder / Writers: J. Gregory De Felice & Zane W. Levitt / Cast: Cameron Dye, Lynn Danielson, Karen Black, Tracey Walter, Bud Cort, Silvana Gallardo, Divine, Geoffrey Lewis, Karen Mayo-Chandler, Starr Andreeff, Karen Witter.

Body Count: 8


‘Frighteningly erotic’ – what?

DePalma-style outing with a creepy clown-masked nutter doing away with the girls who work for Black’s 0900 service “Suite Nothings”. Could it be the owner’s bitter and drunken ex-husband? Or how about the pervert accountant downstairs? All suspicion tends to rest on the shoulders of photographer Dye who, with girlfriend Danielson, tires to suss out the mystery for themselves.

Stylish and sometimes atmospheric, but the effect wears thin after the initial murders, and just becomes a let’s-clear-my-name do-it-yourself detective movie with a twist that isn’t revealing enough to warrant all the pondering. Still, the good use of photography, realistic characters (though Divine is only on-screen for a matter of seconds in this, his last film) and some wicked send-ups of other horror-greats fill in for some of the missing elements; especially funny is the Halloween-ripped final few minutes with post-motive speeches and plot coils galore.

Look for swift appearances by Lainie Kazan, Tab Hunter and Paul Bartel as a hooker, driver and hotel clerk respectively.

Blurbs-of-interest: Karen Black was also in Children of the Corn IV: The GatheringCurse of the Forty-NinerOliver Twisted, and Some Guy Who Kills People; Karen Witter was later in Popcorn; Tab Hunter was in Pandemonium; Paul Bartel was in Killer Party and Trick or Treats; Geoffrey Lewis was in 10 to Midnight and Fingerprints.

A time for family, forgiveness, and foul play

hfth dvdHOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

3 Stars  1972/74m

“There’s nothing more chilling than a warm family gathering.”

Director: John Llewelyn Moxey / Writer: Joseph Stefano / Cast: Eleanor Parker, Sally Field, Jill Haworth, Jessica Walter, Julie Harris, Walter Brennan, John Fink.

Body Count: 3


Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano penned this star-studded made-for-TV proto-slasher, which gives new meaning to uncomfortable festive family get-togethers.

Dying patriarch Benjamin Morgan instructs his eldest daughter, Alex, to gather her three sisters at the old family ranch for Christmas before he succumbs to his old age. So to the house cometh acid-tongued, trice-divorced Jo, pill and booze swilling Freddie, and sweet-natured youngest Christine, none of whom have been back to the house in some years.

Ben tells his offspring that his new wife, Elizabeth, is poisoning him to death. While Alex can’t decide if this is a desperate male-pride rejection of his age, or true due to the gossip that the woman poisoned her previous husband, the other sisters are a little more black and white, with only Christine willing to get to know her stepmother.

hfth2Before long, Jo decides to leave and is hijacked by a rain-macked, pitchfork-toting assailant outside. The next day, Freddie is drowned in the bath, a tragedy written off as either suicide or an accident waiting to happen. But suspicion runs rife and the remaining sisters can’t help but suspect Elizabeth, more so when Christine is chased through the woods by the rain-mack figure, the very coat belonging to Elizabeth. Giallo-tastic.

On TV in 1972, this mystery might’ve been a head-scratcher, but with hundreds of slasher films between then and when I saw it this week, it was no more difficult to solve than a Scooby Doo episode.

Home for the Holidays has barely a drop of blood, no real horror, and, at a thin 74 minutes, tends to drag here and there – it’s certainly not Black Christmas - but the winner here is the casting: Parker, Walter, Haworth, and Field are all on form as the sisters Morgan. The former two were reunited for another TV sort-of slasher film in 1979 in She’s Dressed to Kill, and it’s easy to see why Sean Cunningham was keen on Sally Field donning the lead role in Friday the 13th, her means-well good-girl vibe and screamability is quite similar to Adrienne King’s take on Alice, albeit with less fighting back required, though it’s worth noting Field would’ve been in her mid-thirties by then.

hfth1It’s rare to see such a competent collective of actresses working together. Menfolk are sidelined into virtual irrelevance by the film – it belongs to the quintet of leading ladies. Amusingly, Parker was older than the woman playing her father’s new wife, plus old enough to be Field’s own mother!

A mild, bleakly festive affair (hey, there’s a tree and a wreath!), with more in common with Murder, She Wrote than Silent Night, Deadly Night but intriguing in its own way and could benefit from a decent remake. If you want a fun game, count the number of ominous zooms used to create suspicion.

Meeeeerry Christmas!

The 100 Worst Slasher Films: #80-61

IMDb.com’s lowliest rated slasher films – blame the general voting public, not me!

Check out #100-81 here.

80. The Masque of the Red Death (1989)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 3 Stars

Frank Stallone, Herbert Lom, and Brenda Vaccaro all crop up in this 43rd take on Poe’s tale. A young tabloid journalist cons her way into a masquerade ball at an eccentric’s Bavarian castle, where a cloaked and masked fiend begins offing the guests in a series of inventive ways. It’s the alleged ‘travesty’ to Poe that is to thank for the low rating, but it’s not a bad time killer by any degree.

79. BreadCrumbs (2011)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 2.5 Stars

bc3aA film crew making a porno rock up at a house in the woods where a couple of odd teenagers keep appearing, seemingly trapped in a world of childhood fantasy. Aging star Angie (Marianne Hagan from Halloween 6) is kind to them, which ultimately helps out when people start dying. Likeable characters help this one out in the first instance, but it begin to go downhill at the halfway point.

78. Adam & Evil (2005)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

Graduating high school friends take a camping trip and begin falling victim to a masked killer. There’s a guy called Adam, who’s the hero, so will the killer be Eve, Yvette, or Yvonne? Every trope of the genre gets a tick in the box. In the UK, the film was retitled Halloween Camp 2: Scream If You Wanna Die Faster. The ‘first’ Halloween Camp was actually Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp. Way to confuse us, DVD people.

77. Kill Keith (2011)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

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A very British ‘comedy’ concerning early morning TV, as potential successor’s to the departure of a presenter are done away with. The Keith of the title is British institution Keith Chegwin. The artwork parodied Kill Bill, and is about the only inventive aspect to the whole affair.

76. The Choke (2005)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

Psycho killers vs rock bands was a popular motif in the 80s and early 90s, but it wasn’t gone – only resting. Punk rock band The Choke are on the brink of a split, due to the pretty boy lead singer and guitarist going off in search of their own deal. One final gig sees them locked in Club 905 and stalked by a vengeful killer. Passably put together but excruciatingly paced and understated.

75. The Graveyard (2006)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

A sort-of sequel to the Bloody Murder films: Yet another misjudged prank results in a death. Six years later, the others involved in it are summoned to a reunion at a closed summer camp, where a mystery killer hunts them down. Notable only for starring the guy who played Puck in Glee.

74. The Pumpkin Karver (2006)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

pumpkin-karverNew-to-town siblings become embroiled in a killing spree at a Halloween party in the middle of nowhere, courtesy of a maniac who likes to carve his victims’ faces into Jack-O-Lanterns. The first hour is a very, very slow build towards a ride that houses about as many surprises as a broken jack in the box.

73. Knock Knock (2006)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

“Answering the door will never be the same again,” promises the tagline for this retarded New York film, where the killer offs teens in accordance with their father’s occupation because of a prank from X years earlier… Clichéd ex-cop plotting and casual sexism only makes it more annoying.

72. Goodnight, God Bless (1987)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

Another nail in the coffin of British horror, this begins quite daringly with a priest gunning down small children in a playground. The only surviving witness of this massacre is, along with her mother, stalked by the maniac. Some supernatural rubbish is added on, as well as a cop-falls-for-the-mother subplot. Director John Eyres would go on to helm Ripper: Letter From Hell to much improved results. One good piece of dire-logue: “When they put teeth in your mouth they ruined a perfectly good asshole.”

71. Camp Blood 2 (2000)

IMDb rating: 3.2
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

campblood2If it was unbelievable enough that there was a Camp Blood 1, this also-shot-on-cam sequel is merely a continuation of the same dreadful quality: The sole survivor of the first massacre is invited to consult as an advisor on a film being made about the original murders. To the surprise of nobody on the planet, another clown masked psycho pops up and does the usual.

70. Drive In (2000)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 2.5 Stars

Billy Morrow is your garden variety hulking remedial, who’s never left his house thanks to his overbearing mother. His one connection to the outside world is watching the low-end horror movies that play at the drive in across the street. Eventually he gets out and begins killing various patrons, including burning one person’s face in hot nacho cheese at the concession stand. Cheap but cheerful, this innocuous film isn’t half as bad as others on this roster.

69. Hatchetman (2003)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

“Mommy taking her clothes off isn’t as bad as hurting people,” says the final girl to the axe-toting murderer of girls from a pole dancing joint. He’s been chopping off their hands while the cop who happens to be dating the Courteney Cox-a-like heroine try to figure out who it is. A diluted take on the myriad of stripper-killer films that were big in the 80s, but not the worst thing ever.

68. Switch Killer (2005)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

Girl flees her abusive ex and moves to Las Vegas, where she gets a job as a topless dancer and falls in love with another woman. Six months later, boyfriend arrives having had a sex change and stabs all manner of people to get to her. Sixteen of the 84 minute runtime is taken up by the end credits, which tells us just how much thought went into it. The director’s other slasher resume highlights, Mr Ice Cream Man and Carnage Road will feature further up the list.

67. A Night to Dismember (1983)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

nighttodismemberIt’s not really anyone’s fault that A Night to Dismember blows harder than a Pittsburgh hooker, a studio fire destroyed so much of the original footage, that director Doris Wishman spent years re-shooting and re-cutting it. All audio had to be re-dubbed, leaving the end product a kind of headache on screen, with a narrator struggling to make sense of it all.

66. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger are the superstars-to-be looking embarrassed by participating in this totally shitty fourth incarnation of the Sawyer family, with a crossdressing Leatherface. I remember so little about it there’s nothing else to write.

65. Horror 102: Endgame

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

Horror102College students who volunteered for a psychology experiment are locked inside a disused asylum where they are stalked and slain by a hooded killer. Half-a-star better than its predecessor, the non-slasher film Horror 101, both films are rated PG-13, enough to tell you there’s no point investing your time or energy.

64. Scared (2001)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

This sorry Scream knock-off has a masked killer offing the dopey cast and crew of a slasher film (which they call ‘the next Scream‘). Every scenario presented is fresh off the millennial slasher shelf, with nothing original to offer for itself.

63. Terror At Tenkiller (1987)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

Two gal-pals go on vacation to a house alongside Lake Tenkiller, to escape an annoying ex-boyfriend. They take jobs as waitresses at the local diner, where the other servers have a habit of walking out and never coming back. There’s absolutely no attempt to disguise the killer’s identity, but with only eight characters in the whole thing, it probably wasn’t worth trying to fool anyone.

62. Motor Home Massacre (2005)

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

Some amusing one-liners aren’t enough to save this vacation-from-hell DVD feature. Seven teens rent a clunky old Winnebago and venture off to the cursed Black Creek Park, scene of a series of murders that, of course, extends to them as soon as they arrive. It takes about an hour for anything to happen. Not the stuff of a legendary road trip.

61. Deranged

IMDb rating: 3.1
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

derangedA group of British women are invited to the bachelorette party of their eccentric Brazilian friend at her villa in Spain. Once there, the hostess apparently dies from a seizure and then somebody begins murdering the others. From the ‘mystery killer’s’ identity being on the fucking DVD cover to characters deciding to go off for sex during the carnage, this is truly deserving of its place here.

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