Tag Archives: before they were famous

I Know What You Did 100 Summers Ago. In Sweden.

drowning ghost strandvaskarenDROWNING GHOST

2 Stars  2004/100m

A.k.a. Strandvaskaren (Swedish title)

Director/Writer: Mikael Hafstrom / Writer: Vada / Cast: Rebecka Hemse, Peter Eggers, Jenny Ulving, Jesper Salen, Daniel Larsson, Rebecka Ferguson, Frans Wiklund, Anders Ekborg, Kerstin Steinbach, Kjell Bergqvist.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Three pupils were murdered a hundred years ago. We must celebrate that.”


Sweden is famous for a lot of awesome things: meatballs, Ikea, exquisite songwriting, winning Eurovision, high taxes, beautiful Nordic people…

In recent years, Sweden has become known for its gritty, slick thrillers, on TV or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, most of which revel in the dim light, stoic expressions, and a sense of melancholy.

One would be forgiven for thinking this would transfer well to the horror movie industry, much like neighbouring Norway, with the no-less-than-excellent Cold Prey series. Sadly, Drowning Ghost retains only the good look of a typical Scando-production, and is otherwise terminally dull.

Set against the backdrop of life at the exclusive Hellestad boarding school, where, one year on from the suicide of a lonely female student, a killer begins stalking and doing away with a group of over-aged students. Or could it have something to do with the hundred-year-old legend of a local farmer who slaughtered a trio of boys before drowning himself in a nearby lake? The school is home to a traditional annual celebration of the event, when the ghost of the farmer is rumoured to walk the halls…

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Studious Sara is researching the tale and uncovers factors that may connect the killings to one of the Hellestad board members’ ancestors, much to the vexation of the haughty headmistress. Sara subsequently becomes the target of practical jokes and pranks carried out by said board member’s son, with whom she was previously involved.

The identity of the sack-masked killer isn’t immediately obvious, but the film builds up little that will make you care anyway. For all the fancy camerawork, score, and overlapping plotlines, there’s really not much going on here at all.

The body count is low and many of the killing off-camera, and the only ghost that bothers to show up is one of dead expectations.

Arguably, drowning might be a more engaging experience than sitting through this exercise in tedium.

Blurb-of-interest: Rebecka Ferguson (the unquestionably stunning girlfriend of the nasty guy) went on to star in one of the Mission: Impossible sequels.

Doctor Death

surgeon1994THE SURGEON

2 Stars  1994/18/96m

“First Jason… Then Freddy… Finally, a professional.”

A.k.a. Exquisite Tenderness; Clinic

Director: Carl Schenkel / Writers: Patrick Cirillo & Bernard Slowe / Cast: Isabel Glasser, James Remar, Sean Haberle, Peter Boyle, Malcolm McDowell, Charles Dance, Beverly Todd, Charles Bailey Gates, Walter Olkewicz, Mother Love.

Body Count: 8


What a cast! How could it go wrong? It can’t …right?

A doctor secretly working on a breakthrough serum that would end physical suffering is fired for his experiments on the patients, goes mad, and returns to take revenge on the people responsible for shutting him down. It’s up to nosy docs Glasser and Remar to put a stop to the carnage before it’s too late.

Not too much going on in the way of thrills and there’s precious little slashing to be seen, plus the killer’s identity is revealed too soon into the movie, robbing it of a possible extra twist – and so we’re left with a slick but standardised medical thriller, the only original remaining plot feature of which is the killer’s ability to overcome his injuries by injecting himself with his own serum thus making him invincible. There’s also full frontal male nudity, courtesy of Dexter’s dad Remar.

As far as hospital slashers go, Cold Prey II and Halloween II are yet to be beat.

Blurbs-of-interest: McDowell later played Dr Loomis in Rob Zombie’s Halloween re-thingies, and was also the sheriff in Silent Night; Walter Olkewicz was in Milo.

The Blood Baths

pooldvdTHE POOL

3.5 Stars  2001/15/92m

“Evil has surfaced.”

A.k.a. Swimming Pool: Der Tod Felert Mit

Director/Writer: Boris von Sychowski / Writers: Lorenz Stassen & Ryan Carrassi / Cast: Kristen Miller, Elena Uhlig, Thorsten Grasshoff, John Hopkins, James McAvoy, Jason Liggett, Jonah Lotan, Isla Fisher, Cordelia Bugeja, Maximilian Grill, Lynda Rybová, Bryan Carney.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Forget it, Frank, I’d put an end to your sex life before it even got started.”


Beware! Spoilers ahead.

The triangular formation of pretty young faces tells us where the influence for this collaborative European venture hails from. The Pool even starts with the old girl-tormented-in-house routine, as a planned dinner date is crashed by a skull-masked machete-swinging schizo.

At the International Highschool of Prague, exams wrap up and everyone wants to party, which is the big thing for rich, popular man-about-campus Gregor, who is renowned for his amazing secret after-parties. Obv heroine/American Sarah is smart and nice, everyone’s friend blah blah blah, while her German BFF, Carmen, is the promiscuous siren. There’s also Scottish bloke, British bloke, American bloke, German bloke, Australian girl, Czech girl, and girl-whose-accent-I-couldn’t-place.

pool7Scottish bloke and Australian girl are boyfriend/girlfriend, and also happen to be played by bona fide Hollywood A-listers to be James McAvoy and Isla Fisher. No big name should go without having been in a teen horror film before hitting the big time. It’s law. Anyway, She’s screwed up her final and is a bad mood, which lends well to her storming off and being the next one to meet Mr Skullface, who stalks her through the woods in an effectively pumped chase scene.

After the official school graduation ball thingy, the gang meet up and Gregor leads them convoy style to a pool complex outside the city. Swimsuits are provided, nobody knows they’re there, and they successfully jimmy their way into the bar. Awesome times ahead.

Well, awesome times would be ahead were it not for one of the group having stopped taking their meds, slaughtering his own stepsister, and is now among them at the party. But who, who? A grumpy detective in on the case, but he inexplicably speaks English to his Czech colleagues and says “damn kids” a lot. He’ll be useful.

pool1Sarah doesn’t swim and she doesn’t talk about it. Although later, when the issue is forced, her big secret warrants a one-line exposition of “oh… is that it?” gravitas. She lets the others have fun, flirt, pair off, la de da…

Up next is the infamous waterslide murder. An inventive set piece I’m sure we’ve all worried about at one time or another while sliding down the inside of a plastic tube towards God-knows-what. What if there’s crap in the splash pool? Or a dead body? *gasp* what is something sharp penetrated the floor of the slide!? See the results in this old Icky Way To Go. Ouch.

The murders are discovered and the group find that they are locked inside. Spitting into two groups, as numbers deplete, Sarah’s friends try to convince her that Gregor (elsewhere) is the most likely suspect. He brought them there. He made loads of suspicious statements earlier. One half of the group attempts to escape through the venting system, only for the killer to start piercing it with the machete.

pool2By this point it’s fairly obvious who the killer is, and it was a bit of a ‘that old chestnut’ situation as it’s revealed to be – yawn – the British guy, but the actor does a fine job of camping it up as he goes head to head with hydrophobic Sarah.

One distinguishing feature of The Pool is that not everyone else dies, there’s quite a number left intact by the time the credits roll. It’s helpful, as it offsets the weight on Kristen Miller’s shoulders, as she’s something of a cookie-cutter final girl, all deep trauma and niceties. Normally, the promiscuous girl who, it turns out, bedded Sarah’s boyfriend, would be sliced in no time, but she actually ends up saving the day here.

pool4The refresher comes from the cross section of accents and looks; the film was initially going to be a German-language homegrown production (evidenced by three of the five surviving characters being German), but cottoned on to the global market well enough, is produced with enough gloss to rank well as one of many Scream knock-offs, and doesn’t shy away from the bloodletting in favour of laughs. One eyebrow-raiser is the “advanced age” of several of these “teens” – some of them look like they should be thinking about retirement rather than graduation.

A fun diversion, aided abundantly by Prague’s beautiful scenery, and some ambitious ideas. The sort-of sequel is merely a re-edited Do You Wanna Know a Secret? with some new scenes tossed into the salad. As there’s no way in hell I’ll ever subject myself to that film again, I’ve not exposed myself to it.

Take a dip.

Blurb-of-interest: Miller was the bitchy girl, Cindy, in Cherry Falls.

pool6

The 100 Worst Slasher Films: #20-1

worst-stripMy belated Christmas-slash-New Year’s gift to you is the entire countdown of IMDb’s worst ranked slasher films from the 673 I’ve enjoyed/endured.

It saddens me to think of the days spent watching some of these dreadful, dreadful films. If nothing more, I hope this list provides you with a warning of what the avoid next time you’re in the mood for a stack of dead teenagers…

Regardé:

See full commentary for #100-81

100. Fatal Pulse (1988)
99. Blood Cult (1985)
98. Small Town Folk (2007)
97. Axe Giant (2012)
96. Study Hell (2004)
95. StagKnight (2007)
94. Slaughtered (2009)
93. Scar (2005)
92. The Prey (1980)
91. The Jackhammer Massacre (2003)

90. Heebie Jeebies (2004)
89. Hayride (2012)
88. Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain (2005)
87. Dark Walker (2003)
86. Cut (2010)
85. A Crack in the Floor (2000)
84. Cheerleader Massacre (2003)
83. Blood Reaper (2004)
82. Silent Bloodnight (2006)
81. Shadows Run Black (1981)

Commentary for #80-61

80. The Masque of the Red Death (1989)
79. BreadCrumbs (2011)
78. Adam & Evil (2004)
77. Kill Keith (2011)
76. The Choke (2005)
75. The Graveyard (2006)
74. The Pumpkin Karver (2006)
73. Knock Knock (2006)
72. Goodnight, God Bless (1987)
71. Camp Blood 2 (2000)

70. Drive In (2000)
69. Hatchetman (2003)
68. Switch Killer (2005)
67. A Night to Dismember (1983)
66. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
65. Horror 102: Endgame (2004)
64. Scared (2001)
63. Terror at Tenkiller (1987)
62. Motorhome Massacre (2006)
61. Deranged (2012)

Commentary for #60-41

60. Bikini Girls on Ice (2009)
59. Dead Above Ground (2002)
58. Camp Blood (1999)
57. The Catcher (1997)
56. The Curse of El Charro (2005)
55. Scarecrow Gone Wild (2004)
54. Paranoid (2000)
53. The Watermen (2011)
52. Blood Sisters (1985)
51. Detention (2010)

50. Seed (2007)
49. Hollow Gate (1988)
48. Splatter University (1984)
47. Devon’s Ghost: Legend of the Bloody Boy (2005)
46. Do You Wanna Know a Secret? (2001)
45. Final Examination (2003)
44. Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter’s Cove (2005)
43. Snapped (2005)
42. The Retreat (2005)
41. Memorial Day (1999)

Commentary for #40-21

40. Beyond Remedy (2009)
39. Bloody Murder (1999)
38. Dr Chopper (2005)
37. Bunnyman (2010)
36. Drive In Massacre (1976)
35. The Greenskeeper (2003)
34. Dark Harvest (2004)
33. The Last Slumber Party (1988)
32. Scream (1981)
31. Zombie Island Massacre (1984)

30. Jack-O (1995)
29. Mr Ice Cream Man (1991)
28. Hazard Jack (2013)
27. Stupid Teenagers Must Die! (2007)
26. Roadside Massacre (2012)
25. The Bagman (2002)
24. Carnage Road (2000)
23. Hollywood’s New Blood (1988)
22. The Fear: Resurrection (1999)
21. Night of the Dribbler (1990)

Leaving us with the twenty worst received slasher films I’ve seen according to public opinion.

Wait no longer, fresh in at #20…

20. Blood Lake (1987)

IMDb rating: 2.6
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

Three teen couples (actually one couple are like 13) vacation at a shack by a lake, where a Dom DeLuise-a-like killer lays some of them to waste. Two of them to be exact. And maybe two or three other victims? I can’t remember, but this video-made film has poverty row stamped all over it.

19. Killjoy (2000)

IMDb rating: 2.5
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

killjoyUrban/ghetto slasher films feature heavily up this end of the worst list. An undercurrent of racism? Possibly, but none of the films are objectively any good. In this one, a sub-Beetlejuice vengeance demon is summoned by a dork who is repeatedly beaten up by the nasty local crew. At only 72 minutes, at least it’s over pretty quick.

18. Appointment with Fear (1986)

IMDb rating: 2.5
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

A man who has sold his soul to some Egyptian tree god kills his wife and goes after his infant son, who has been left in the care of the autistic neighbour, Heather, who has a band of purple make-up around her eyes and pretends she lives inside a jar. At a house in the desert, teens are dispatched until the evil-eyed final girl can rescue the bub and defeat the killer. Debisue Voorhees from Friday V pops in for her usual topless scene, and there’s decent use of one of those handheld satellite-hearing-from-afar thingies, but everything else blows.

17. Movie House Massacre (1984)

IMDb rating: 2.5
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

mhm1Teens working at a rundown old cinema where a fire killed loads of people years before are stalked and knifed by the ghost of a geriatric usher, who had murdered the ticket girl the night of the fire. Demented in every possible way, if it’s supposed to be a comedy it ain’t funny. Mary Woronov has a small role (despite top billing) as the bitchy manager’s assistant. Look out for a girl who dies from sliding down a wall!?

16. Spiker (2007)

IMDb rating: 2.4
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

A mute, Albino serial killer who stabs his victims with railroad spikes escapes custody and returns to his old haunt where three teen couples are having themselves a party. All usual tropes are checked off the list.

15. Scarecrow Slayer (2003)

IMDb rating: 2.4
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

The second outing of the shoddy Scarecrow series sees Tony Todd as a paranoid farmer who accidentally shoots a teenager, whose soul is transferred into the scarecrow and goes on a killing spree. By far the worst of the ‘series’, topped off with WWE wrestling between two scarecrows. One good line: “You know, you have a real small penis for a guy who’s a real big dick!”

14. Nine Lives (2002)

IMDb rating: 2.3
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

ninelivesParis Hilton is the first to die in this rubbish flick set in a Scottish manor house where a English-hating ghost kills off nine ex-public school friends. But Paris is American. Uh? A final boy emerges as he’s Scottish and immune to it. Painful from start to finish.

13. Dark Fields (2003)

IMDb rating: 2.3
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

Five teens on their way to a concert get car trouble and end up stuck in the house of a madman. Zero thrills in this cheap video project from the folks who later doubled the misery with Study Hell.

12. The Slaughterhouse Massacre (2005)

IMDb rating: 2.3
VeVo rating: 0.5 Stars

Two annoying couples explore an old abattoir where a man blah blah killed blah was lynched blah… Of course the loon’s name is Marty Sickle. This is the very worst – outstaying its welcome by forever, pandering to girl-on-girl filler because it’s so fucking empty.

11. Zombie Nightmare (1987)

IMDb rating: 2.2
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

zn5Adam West and Tia Carrere star in this demented voodoo revenge slasher, in which a be-mulleted jock is killed by a group of reckless teens in a hit and run, resurrected by the local Haitian priestess, and sets about evening the score. A bad movie dream, with totally different actors playing the zombie in various scenes, cringey acting, but a sense of inoffensive 80s stupidity.

10. Sweet Insanity (2006)

IMDb rating: 2.2
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

Girl’s parents go away for the weekend. Girl has friends over. Friends get stabbed. Cheapo Haute Tension-esque climax is confusing and the audio track is so bad it’s nearly impossible to comprehend what’s going on anyway. Retitled Stranger: A Soul Mate of Chucky for the UK, with a doll on the cover, even though there is no killer doll, no spooky doll, and no mention of dolls in the entire film.

9. Deadtime (2012)

IMDb rating: 2.2
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

dt2Another rock band stalked by another killer whilst making a video for their big comeback. The only distinguishable thing about this one is that it’s British, but this helps none, as it traipses through a bog of bad production unities and a ridiculously annoying killer.

8. Grim Weekend (2003)

IMDb rating: 2.2
VeVo rating: 1 Stars

City folk go to a cabin in the woods, picking up a sexy hitchhiker on the way, where they are tormented by a clown with an axe. Horrible production values and obnoxious characters abound.

7. Cutthroat Alley (2003)

IMDb rating: 2.1
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

The ‘black guy dies first’ cliché is flipped in this urban LA slasher: Most of the cast are black but the white guy gets the blade first. Members of a street gang are being targeted by the masked psycho just as one ex-member is about to go to college after successfully turning his life around. Can he work out who it is before he’s next? A bit more surface polish than the other ‘ghetto’ slasher films make it more bearable and not so deserving of its place here.

6. Skeleton Man (2004)

IMDb rating: 2.0
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

A bizarre fusion of 80s action tropes and supernatural slashings as a Delta force team are sent to South America to put a stop to the skeleton-faced figure who is killing everyone. The body count almost reaches 40, a helicopter is shot down with a bow and arrow, Michael Rooker and Casper Van Dien are in it… An unbelievable film experience.

5. Alice in Murderland (2010)

IMDb rating: 2.0
VeVo rating: 0.5 Stars

alice1Sub-cheap rubbish with sorority girls throwing a birthday party in an old abandoned something or other… Alice is 21. Her mother died exactly twenty years ago that night, aged 21. They theme the party Alice in Wonderland. The killer dresses up as one of the characters from the book. An 86-minute endurance test.

4. Dead End Road (2004)

IMDb rating: 1.9
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

A killer who bases his murders on the works of Edgar Allan Poe does in various unfortunates in this cheap, but not awful film. There’s a good twist on The Tell-Tale Heart at the beginning, a pitchfork in the face, a decapitated head churned out of the bowling ball conveyer-return thingy. It’s low end for sure, but there’s worse.

3. Voyeur.com (2000)

IMDb rating: 1.6
VeVo rating: 2 Stars

College girls are invited to live in a house and be filmed 24/7 by sleazy low-end producers. Their plans for fame are thwarted by a masked killer who does everyone in. All the usual sex, bi-curiousity, pot-smoking stuff occurs and the killer turns out to be the shy girl heroine.

2. Urban Massacre (2002)

IMDb rating: 1.6
VeVo rating: 1.5 Stars

The entourage of growing rap quintet The Supernatchrals are being offed by another clown masked killer. What it is with urban slasher movies and clowns I do not know… but this one isn’t so bad until the end where the group have the killer cornered, lean in to unmask him and then stop, look at the camera and tell us we have to wait for the sequel. What. The. Fuck.

1: THE WORST RATED SLASHER FILM ON IMDb

Ax ‘Em (1992)

IMDb rating: 1.2
VeVo rating: 0.5 Stars

ax-emAn unsurprising victor, Ax ‘Em is quite deserving of its worst-of-the-worst title. Made by a talentless crew, what you can pick up about the story is a group of friends go to a house in the woods where a killer is at work, using strange metal spring things to kill folks with. Again, it tries to reverse the race suppositions by killing off the while characters and leaving about a dozen black people running around between the trees. Only a few of them die, others just vanish from the film altogether. This is less than camcorder made-a-film-on-vacation quality, it’s head-scratchingly strange, with absolutely no apparent knowledge of filmmaking on show. As someones own private film they made with friends, fine, it will give them a laugh at their ten year reunion, but to give it any kind of home video release…? Unfathomably awful, there are not enough sublatives in our language to justify how bad it is.

*

So there we have it… The 100 Worst. Of course, there are hordes of titles with mysteriously favourable rankings that didn’t make the list, and some that are frankly better than they may seem. Karma.

And the best, you caw, well they’re right here!

 

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!

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