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“It’s way too 90s horror.”

scary movie 2000

SCARY MOVIE

3 Stars  2000/18/85m

“No mercy. No shame. No sequel.”

Director: Keenen Ivory Wayans / Writers: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer / Cast: Anna Faris, Shannon Elizabeth, Jon Abrahams, Shawn Wayans, Dave Sheridan, Cheri Oteri, Carmen Electra, Regina Hall, Lochlyn Munro, Kurt Fuller, Marlon Wayans.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “Lose the cape, it’s way too 90s horror.”


The tsunami of 90s teen horror was always going to end up with this happening. The eventual combo of two parody projects, originally to be titled Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween, Scary Movie came before the endless onslaught of affiliated productions including Date MovieEpic Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet the Spartans, and four – count ‘em – sequels to this. Yes, the tagline told porkies.

Naming their film after the working title of Kevin Williamson’s script, Scary Movie works best when it’s specifically parodying the teen slasher tropes, too often straying toward fart gags, gay jokes, and pothead humor as a fallback. But the slasher ones are at least good.

scary movie shannon elizabeth 2000

After sexy teen Drew Becker (Carmen Electra) is killed by a Ghostface masked loon, the students of the local high school worry that they may be targeted in payment for running over a fisherman and tossing the body in the sea a year earlier (though the victim wasn’t even involved in that, so no idea why they’d think it?) Virginal Cindy Campbell (Faris, in a career-making role) is at the centre of it all – could it be her booty-thirsty boyfriend Bobby? Angry jock Greg? Two-faced Buffy? Then there’s Officer Doofy, ball-busting reporter Gail Hailstorm, and various other possibles.

The plot is actually entirely redundant, as the film moves from joke set-up to joke set-up, at its strongest when Cindy is in full Sidney Prescott mode, with side-jabs at The Matrix thrown in to good use, great send-ups of Tatum’s “wanna play psycho killer?” moment, the cinema murder at the start of Scream 2, and the soon-to-be overdone Blair Witch and Sixth Sense parodies.

scary movie anna faris 2000

Plenty of the cast die only to reappear in the sequels as the same character; some are killers but then not; some seem entirely surplus – was Shorty supposed to be Randy?? – and a good chunk of the gags have become entirely cringe-inducing in the intervening years. Avoid the sequels like the plague.

Blurbs-of-interest: Faris played it straight in Lovers Lane and weird in May; Shannon Elizabeth was in Jack Frost; Lochlyn Munro later appeared in Hack!Freddy vs Jason and The Tooth Fairy; Jon Abrahams was in House of Wax.

Valley of the Overlooked Franchises: Maniac Cop

Yeeeee in a time when trust in the cops not to shoot you is lower than a Madonna chart debut, it’s surprising that they’re remaking it. But until that happens – and also, if ever – let’s revisit the trilogy of original 80s-into-90s thriller-cum-slasher-zombie flicks. Some spoilers follow.

*

maniac cop 1988

MANIAC COP

3.5 Stars  1988/18/82m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.”

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Sheree North, Robert Z’Dar.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “You always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That’s a good way to blow your balls off!”


RoboCopSumurai CopBeverly Hills Cop, Kindergarten CopPsycho Cop and Maniac Cop – sure were a lot of ‘Something Cop’ movies around in the mid-80s-to-early-90s. While most of these garnered a following – maybe not Psycho Cop - and several generated sequels of their own, Maniac Cop is a strange venture, a weird fusion of ideas from action thrillers with some voodoo-slasher shit mixed in too.

Starting as so many serial killer films have, a young woman is walking home alone in New York City, tormented by some thugs, she runs into a uniformed cop – BUT THEN HE KILLS HER! The thugs are the only witnesses but nobody believes them. Soon after, a guy is pushed face down into drying cement and a driver slashed to death over a traffic violation – all in the first twelve minutes.

New York is in the throes of terror – which of the boys in blue has turned to slaying the residents? Grizzled detective Tom Atkins is on the case and in shepherded into suspecting Bruce Campbell’s beat cop, Jack Forrest, after his wife turns up dead she follows him, having received a series of calls from a mystery voice who keeps telling her that Jack is the killer. Turns out Forrest was just having it away with vice cop Theresa Mallory (Landon). Concerned to clear his name, the two of them investigate the suspicious death of a cop sent to Sing Sing some years earlier and was beaten to death by inmates – or was he?

maniac cop 1988 tom atkins bruce campbell robert z'dar laurene landon

Before Forrest and Mallory can alert the important people to the truth, the undead cop – old-style super-cop Matt ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ Cordell – goes on a rampage around their precinct, even turning on his old flame after she tries to tell him he’s losing control.

Maniac Cop crams a lot into 82 minutes (look for Sam Raimi’s cameo) and is thus never boring. Cordell’s carnage-creating romp around HQ is expertly done; A scene where Malloy is handcuffed to a body; Car chases with slo-mo crashes, and all manner of creative shots and visual cues that serve to keep the horrors of the killer’s face out of shot. A longer cut with more to say on the city-in-fear perspective would be interesting, as that kinda gets left behind once our leading lovers suss out what’s really going on and who has covered up what.

Lustig and Cohen worked together on all three movies and separately have a few slasher credits between them (notably, Lustig directed the nasty Maniac, which also makes the most of NYC as a player), but this is arguably a stand-out. Although rarely bandied in with slasher movies, it has enough elements to include it, even if some of those were traded in for more mainstream concerns in the follow-ups.

*

maniac cop 2 1990MANIAC COP 2

3 Stars  1990/18/84m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.” – again??

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z’Dar, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Lou Bonacki, Paula Trickey, Charles Napier.

Body Count: 32

Laughter Lines: “Shooting Cordell is only good for getting his attention.”


At the end of the first one, it was plainly obvious Matt Cordell wasn’t done with his Make New York Obedient Again missive, and so he returns shortly after his ‘death’ to take revenge, quickly doing away with Forrest and Mallory, who transfer the reigns of hero over to Robert Davi’s Detective McKinney and a department shrink (Christian), who has had a hard time believing Mallory, until she comes face to face with Cordell for herself.

After this solid first act, things begin to wobble as Cordell inexplicably teams up with serial killer-of-strippers Leo Rossi, breaks into Sing Sing to finish off the inmates who ‘murdered’ him, and go on a machine gun spree at police HQ, which explains that sky-high body count.

There are still some great scenes, peaking with Landon and Christian in a cab, attacked by Cordell, who handcuffs the latter to the steering wheels and sends her off down the city streets while he takes care of Mallory for good.

Some fun parts, but it lacks the charm of the first one. Joe Spinnell was originally to play the role taken by Leo Rossi, but died before production began and so the film carries a dedication to him.

*

maniac cop 3

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE

2.5 Stars  1992/18/81m

“The wrong arm of the law is back.”

A.k.a. MC3: Maniac Cop 3

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Robert Z’Dar, Paul Gleason, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Julius Harris, Doug Savant, Bobby Di Cicco.

Body Count: at least 18


A religious oddball resurrects Matt Cordell for no reason, just as a decorated female cop (Becker) is shot during an armed robbery and set up by the media to be a Cordell-like villain. Our maniac cop develops a bit of a crush on her and sets about clearing her name in the only way he knows how – by killing all of those responsible, as well as anyone else who crosses his path.

Davi returns as McKinney, this time joined by Caitlin Dulany as a doctor who just stands around in designer workwear looking pretty and screaming on cue.

More in the mould of a slasher film than the previous entry, but loses itself in a series of plot holes you could navigate the Titanic through. Still, as before, it’s a fun ride with lush production values and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Had so much time not passed, and Lustig not quit the project (his original cut was shorter than an hour!), from that ending we could’ve expected Bride of Maniac Cop to follow in 1994.

Overall blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in My Bloody Valentine 3D; Bruce Campbell appears briefly in Intruder; Robert Z’Dar was also in Grotesque; Michael Learner was in National Lampoon’s Class Reunion; Leo Rossi was Bud in Halloween II; Robert Forster was in Lustig’s Uncle Sam and also the 1998 Psycho remake; Charles Napier was in Camping Del Terrore and Wacko; Jackie Earle Haley was the new Freddy Krueger; Bobby Di Cicco was in The Baby Doll Murders; William Smith was in Valley of Death.

Not quite Star Trek, is it?

texas chainsaw massacre the next generation

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION

1.5 Stars  1994/18/84m

“Still buzzin’ after all these years.”

A.k.a. Return of the Texas Chainsaw MassacreTexas Chainsaw Massacre 4

Director/Writer: Kim Henkel / Cast: Renee Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks, Tonie Perenski, Joe Stevens, Lisa Newmyer, Tyler Cone, John Harrison, James Gale.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “What if we get into a wreck and crash the car and we all died? They could write a song about it.”


Of the main body count franchises, Texas Chainsaw Massacre likely ranks my least favourite, aided to no end by this much despised fourth outing, which was intended by Kim Henkel as the ‘true sequel’ to the 1974 original.

Things start out okay with four high schoolers crashing their car on a back road on the night of their prom and end up as spare meat for a psychotic family who dwell deep in the woods. The clan is led by unhinged truck driver Vilmer (McConaughey) and his trashy girlfriend, Darla, while Leatherface spends most of the film in drag, like a bad cabaret show at a provincial gay bar. I’ve seen a few of these and can attest the likeness.

There are plenty of harks back to the original, which serve only to remind us how much more raw it was, as the junky action clunks along with horrendous continuity problems, and portrayals of psychosis that rival the drag angle in terms of high camp.

The quartet of teens are allotted little in terms of characterisation, bar dowdy final girl Jenny (Zellweger). Both actors ascended to levels of stardom far removed from this low-end flick, which was later recalled by Zellweger as being so cheaply made the actors shared a single trailer that belonged to a member of the crew. However, there’s no escaping your humble beginnings, and the fact that agencies attempted to sue the production company for reissuing this with the stars as the focus probably only brought more attention to it in the long run. Though without their subsequent good fortune, would it be remembered at all?

Obligatory Before-They-Were-Famous Post

We all know Johnny Depp made his debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street, that Kevin Bacon was skewered with a spike in Friday the 13th, and Brad Pitt avoided a blade to the face in Cutting Class, but budding thespians are still paying their dues in B (and C!) movies before the big time calls… Spoilers follow.

 

Amy Adams in Psycho Beach Party

amy adams psycho beach party

Legit Hollywood royalty Amy Adams had already been in the awesome Drop Dead Gorgeous before playing bitchy Marvel Ann in obscurely amazing stage-adaptation Psycho Beach Party, where she gets to take part in the best dance-off this side of Grease. And way more enjoyable than either of the recent Superman movies.

Fate: Despite her love rival role, Marvel Ann does not meet the business end of a knife, as the killer in this one only goes after those with physical imperfections.

*

James McAvoy & Isla Fisher in The Pool

james mcavoy isla fisher the pool

Playing a couple in the 2001 Prague-set actually quite fun slasher-in-a-swimming-pool, McAvoy would later play Professor X and land lead roles all over the show (including the objectively shit Wanted) and Fisher starred in Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Now You See Me.

Fates: She runs straight into a machete, which is later used again to skewer him as he’s crawling through an air duct in hope of escape.

*

Finn Jones in Wrong Turn 5

finn jones wrong turn 5

Future star of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Loris Tyrell in Games of Thrones, the British actor was one of many countrymen shipped off to Bulgaria to fill out one of the straight-to-DVD Wrong Turn sequels.

Fate: I can’t remember, but apparently he doesn’t croak.

*

Anna Faris in Lovers Lane

lovers lane 1999 anna faris

Shortly before she headlined the Scary Movie franchise, led The House Bunny with a pre-stardom Emma Stone, and married Chris Pratt, Anna had a rare straight role as nice cheerleader Janelle in the straight-to-video flick that came at the height of the genre resurgence.

Fate: Gutted with a hook.

*

Kaley Cuoco in The Hollow

kaley cuoco the hollow

Before she was Penny in The Big Bang Theory, Kaley was Kevin Zegers’ object-of-lust in low-end, but kinda fun, The Hollow, also with Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, Stacy Keach, and Judge Reinhold. She later also appeared as a ditzy actress in Killer Movie, dying in neither.

Fate: Survives to fall in love with Zegers.

*

Rebecca Ferguson in Drowning Ghost

rebecca furguson drowning ghost

Still on the rise in Hollywood thanks to her recurring role opposite Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible movies, Rebecca started out in dull killer-at-a-posh-school chiller from Sweden, Drowning Ghost as a bitchy rich kid.

Fate: Dies, but I can’t remember how.

*

Olly Alexander in Tormented

olly alexander tormented

Olly may have played geeky Jason Banks in the British 2009 revenge-from-beyond slasher, but he went on to front BBC Sound of 2015 winners Years & Years, scoring a string of chart hits in the ensuing years.

Fate: Pencils placed up nostrils and head pushed down on to desk. Ouch.

*

Kate Mara in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary

kate mara urban legends

Before landing big roles in House of Cards and as Sue Storm in the 27th attempt at a Fantastic Four movie franchise, Kate Mara – sister of Rooney, who went from the Elm Street remake to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake – was cast as the plucky heroine in made-for-DVD Urban Legend threequel Bloody Mary.

Fate: Final Girl! Saves the day!

*

Bradley Cooper in My Little Eye

bradley cooper my little eye

I can’t remember much of My Little Eye because it was boring as fuck. Bradley Cooper, not one of the main five protagonists, went on to find major Hollywood success with LimitlessThe Hangover trilogy, and, uh, that A-Team movie. And let’s not ever discuss that woeful Limitless TV series.

Fate: I think he’s one of the bad guys in on the conspiracy?

*

Naomi Watts in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering

naomi watts children of the corn iv

Mrs Liev Schreiber and star of a gazillion hit movies, Watts played the heroine – and Karen Black’s daughter – in the barely-related-to-the-others sequel, as big sister to disgraced (and now dead) Glee star Mark Salling.

Fate: Final Girl! Saves the day!

*

Eva Mendes in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror

eva mendes children of the corn 5

From model to actress, Mendes was packed off for the straight-to-video fourth sequel to the Stephen King adaptation. She thinks it’s a load of crap, but as far as this series goes, it’s at least gruesomely fun, and she got to star opposite the late Alexis Arquette.

Fate: Reads a thousand-page book in one night and voluntarily jumps into a silo!?

*

Paul Rudd in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

paul rudd in halloween 6

We all know this one. On the brink of his big break in Clueless, Rudd played a grown-up (and slightly unhinged) Tommy Doyle. The Judd Apatow staple reportedly doesn’t think much of the movie, but he’s effective in the role, giving Tommy a can-he-be-trusted edginess lacking in most final boys.

Fate: Final Boy! Saves the day… with help from Dr Loomis, and Laurie’s cousin.

*

Clark Gregg in When A Stranger Calls

clark gregg when a stranger calls

The leader of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., all round zaddy Clark Gregg played Camilla Belle’s dad in the 2006 remake of When A Stranger Calls, which mainly just entailed telling her she’d gone over her allotted minutes on her cellphone.

Fate: N/A – supporting role. Zzzz.

*

Billy Nighy in Phantom of the Opera

bill nighy phantom of the opera

The Freddy Krueger-inspired remake of the horror classic featured a young(er) Bill Nighy, later staple of British comedies, including Love ActuallyThe Boat That Rocked, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Fate: I saw this 20 years ago. Once. I remember nothing.

“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 estranged 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.

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