Tag Archives: before they were famous

2015 Halloween Spectacular Part 2: Zombie Nightmare

zombie-nightmareZOMBIE NIGHTMARE

1.5 Stars  1987/80m

Director: Jack Bravman / Writer: David Wellington / Cast: Adam West, Frank Dietz, John Mikl Thor, Manuska Rigaud, Shawn Levy, Tia Carrere, Allan Fisher, Hamish McEwen, Manon E. Turbide, Linda Singer.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “I’m old enough to be your older sister.”


And I wanted my 666th slasher movie to special! Kinda got what I wished for.

Serving as a kind of resume urban legend for some of the big names involved, Zombie Nightmare‘s IMDb rating of 2.2 (up from around 1.8 and a place in Bottom 100) provides a fairly accurate reflection of what to expect…

BUT… bad movie lovers amongst us will enjoy this veritable feast of How Not To Make A Good Movie, from drastic changes in hair, clothes, and even actors mid-scene.

I would reckon zombie movie fans have picked up this one excitedly in the past, only to painfully discover that, title aside, and just like Zombie Island Massacre, this ain’t nothin’ but a punk ass slasher movie.

zn5Anyway, after a baseball game, the Washington family walk home, and big dad Bill tries to help a young girl being harassed by two punk ass teen, uh, punks. For his trouble, he gets himself stabbed in front of wife and young son.

Years later, young son has grown up into be-mulleted hunk Tony (Thor, of the band Thor), all round great guy, who looks after mom and is nice to all, or so we assume from his few minutes of screen time. Tony is sent to fetch groceries from the couldn’t-be-more-stereotypical Italian shopkeep, who is later referred to as Hank Peters (!). During his errand, more punk ass punks attempt to rob the store (Hank gasps “Mamma Mia!”) and Tony beats up their punk asses but is then run over by yet another group of punk ass teen punks, who just drive away. They have no collective remorse, with the guy at the wheel even saying he got a buzz from it.

zn3Shopkeep takes Tony’s body to his mom’s house and then suggests they call the police, but she has better ideas, calling in a favour from local Haitian Voodoo Priestess Molly Mokembe, who can resurrect Tony in zombie form long enough for him to seek revenge on those responsible.

So it goes, the quintet of teens are hunted down by the hulking zombie, initially sporting the same mullet but later cropped down to sensible Ken-doll hair, while he breaks necks, impales with baseball bats, or just smashes skulls into walls n’ shit. Curiously, the nasty teen most responsible – big blown out, feathered hair – goes fairly early on, leaving Tia Carrere and boyfriend to be stalked to the last.

Tony: Before and after

Tony: Before and after

As if this weren’t awesome enough ingredients for the best film y’ever saw, halfway through Adam freakin’ West turns up as the police captain, whose detective (Dietz) is hot on the trail of the killer. The murders are somehow being reported as drug-infused suicides. Of a victim, the Captain says: “He ran with a bad crowd… Running red lights, getting drunk, smoking marijuana – you know the usual bad stuff.” Yeah sounds like an epidemic.

Tony eventually rids the world of the punk ass teen punks and is free to rest in peace, but not before Zombie Nightmare plays its ace card: Adam West is one the punk ass punks who killed his dad!

zn-westBut, hey, wait a sec… The M.E. says that an earlier victim was aged around 43, whereas West was pushing 60 in 1987 – and how many years were supposed to have passed between Tony’s dad being murdered (by “teens”) and Tony being grown up? 10? 20?? 30???

Nothing really makes a lot of sense in Zombie Nightmare. At one point, things just grind to halt so we can watch two people play tennis for several minutes. But at least there’s pre-Wayne’s World Tia Carrere as one of the teens, and the ringleader was played by Shawn Levy, who went on to direct the Night at the Museum films along with numerous other Hollywood titles, whereas Zombie Nightmare‘s director, Jack Bravman, later gave us the even worse Night of the Dribbler.

  • Elsewhere, why does the priestess talk like a sheep singing a Belinda Carlisle song?
  • Why does Zombie-Tony look like he’s doing interpretive dance in the final scene?
  • Why does a near rape victim think that saying: “I’ve had enough of your childish sexual advances – go away!” would ever work?
  • Who is the hero in this film, seriously? Zombie Tony? The detective?

zn4The thrash metal soundtrack, with songs from Motorhead, Thor (of course) and a load of other bands I’ve never heard of, seems to be where the budget went. Come for the music, stay for the hair and the comedy.

10 Final Boys We Like

Final Boys are never going to be as awesome as Final Girls, hence we don’t love them like we love Final Girls. But these guys did quite well with the job at hand…

devon-sawa-fd1Alex Browning (Devon Sawa)
Final Destination (2000)

High school inbetweener Alex is thrust into the shoes of Final Boy-dom when he has an out-of-the-blue premonition the flight he and his French Club will explode minutes after takeoff. Saving himself and six others doesn’t make him the hero, but instead, as he puts it “everyone in my school thinks I’m a freak.”

Perhaps not being a straight-up slasher film is what allows three of the five Final Destination films to work with a male lead. Sawa’s Average Joe is appealing because of the way he teeters between both social groups and his own sanity.

Death-valley-1982-movie-1Billy (Peter Billingsley)
Death Valley (1982)

Just as Danielle Harris would become the pre-teen final girl in the later Halloween sequels, little Milky Bar kid Peter Billingsley was the unlikely hero of strange way-out-west slasher flick Death Valley, when a family vacation is foiled by him literally meandering into a murder scene, finding a trinket the killer wants, and finding himself stalked by said loon in pursuit of it.

Billingsley was already an accomplished child actor by the time he was in this (and also older than he looked) and so isn’t cursed by overacting and, even better, lacks the brattiness usually on show when kids are front and center.

elm4-300xJesse Walsh (Mark Patton)
A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

Jesse’s family move into 1428 Elm Street five years after Nancy Thompson lived there and he soon finds his dreams invaded by Freddy, who wants to possess him and turn him into an agent of death.

Freddy’s Revenge could well be the most analysed slasher film of the 80s, and Jesse is commonly seen as a repressed gay, whose body Freddy wants, and only a kiss from a girl can save him etc… If you watch the awesome documentary Never Sleep Again, Mark Patton is a little embarrassed by his performance but, if nothing else, at least they tried something new rather than just retread the original film, and he’s an important part of that, thus fully deserving his place here.

burning-alfredAlfred (Brian Backer)
The Burning (1981)

Included more out of relevance than respect, Alfred was possibly the first final boy in a big screen slasher. At Camp Stonewater, he’s the nerdy misfit, who spies on girls while they shower, plays weird pranks, and whines a lot. He’s also the only one to suspect someone is prowling around the peripheries of the camp. Naturally, nobody believes him until he finds a couple of dead bodies and proves it.

The Burning is already quite a misogynistic outing before shoving aside the notion of a final girl and putting Alfred into the role instead. He’s essentially saved by the hunky male counsellor, as would a girl in the same situation it seems, meaning his gender is far more incidental as he adds nothing that a girl wouldn’t. None of this is the fault of Backer, however, who put in a great performance as Mark Ratner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

tumblr_m6yz8w2VUd1r9wksko1_400Alex Grey (Tim Conlon)
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1989)

Another Alex and quite similar to his Final Destination namesake. This Alex, a sub-Ferris Bueller type in both looks and attitude, has a hot girlfriend but no direction until he somehow becomes the boy toy of undead Prom Queen from hell Mary Lou Maloney. For a while, she improves his social standing no end, but once a hell bitch, always a hell bitch…

Prom Night III‘s comic-horror baseline works well for Conlon’s likable schtick as the put-upon hero: He’s witty and funny, being pulled in two directions, one by an angel, the other by the devil.

hellbent-shining_0Eddie (Dylan Fergus)
Hellbent (2004)

The ‘first gay slasher film’ featured a masked muscle man scything gay chaps around West Hollywood during Halloween night celebrations, when everyone is in costume and a hot guy in nothing but tight pants and a horned mask won’t rouse suspicion.

At the center of the mania is civilian police employee Eddie, who just wants a decent night out with his friends, all of whom soon start falling victim to the loon. Usual hetero conventions are simply flipped in this case, and Eddie runs and hides with veritable Jamie Lee gusto, saved at one point by the virtue of having a false eye!

wolf-creek-2-03Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr)
Wolf Creek 2 (2013)

British surf bum Paul is minding his own business when he’s embroiled in a nightmare of Mick Taylor’s making, stopping to rescue a girl who has escaped the bushman’s clutches for long enough to make it to the road. After she’s killed, Paul has a target on his back and Taylor will stop at nothing to reclaim his victim.

Both Wolf Creek films feature male sole survivors, although the first one has little to do with anything the guy does, and Paul is put through all the usual torture that final girls endure: Everyone he approaches for help is killed, he’s captured, strapped to a chair, tortured (by song and weapon), escapes, but does that thing where he scuppers the opportunity to finalise the killer’s exit from this mortal coil… So much for all those who say final boys would be better. And the British character lived! Whoop!

Weston-in-Wishcraft-michael-weston-12955368-608-336Brett Bumpers (Michael Weston)
Wishcraft (2001)

High school dork Brett receives an enchanted bull’s dick through the mail with a note saying it grants three wishes, which he eventually discovers to be true. Meanwhile, classmates of his are being picked off by a cloaked killer. Are the two connected? Duh.

The rise of the nerd theme in Wishcraft is satisfying on its own, even though Brett isn’t initially in any danger, he’s soon forced into combat with the unmasked killer and, with one wish left, ascends to hero level pretty quickly.

Andy-Barclay-chucky-5551046-700-383Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent/Justin Whalin)
Child’s Play 1-3 (1988-1992)

Poor Andy Barclay cannot rid himself of final boy duties no matter what he does. As the first human to discover the secret of possessed Good Guy doll Chucky, Andy is thus the only one who can be a vessel for the killer’s soul. After surviving round one, a new foster home cannot provide shelter in Child’s Play 2, and even a military academy provides no refuge in the third film…

Unlike Billy in Death Valley, hero duties could only go to a child in this franchise, and Vincent did extremely well with the material, even better was his cameo in Curse of Chucky. He’s at his best in Child’s Play 2 with the assistance of a teen foster sister who fulfills the legwork and screaming quota.

tommyTommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman/John Shepard/Thom Mathews)
Friday the 13th Parts IV-VI (1984-1986)

In The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis is just a monster-loving kid who has the bad luck of living by Crystal Lake and ends up – with big sister Trish – bringing down Jason who, by that point, had murdered a good 30 schmucks over the previous few days. In A New Beginning, Tommy is older, traumatised by what happened and sent to a halfway house where a hockey-masked psycho goes to task chopping up his new friends. In Jason Lives, an undecided amount of time later, Tommy returns to Crystal Lake to burn Jason’s corpse, but ends up accidentally resurrecting him and spends the rest of the movie trying to undo his error.

While Feldman as the horror-nut was a logical move to ‘end’ the series on in 1984, Thom Mathews is easily my favourite incarnation of the character, a complete 360 on Shepard’s brooding portrayal, Tommy ’86 is like a totally different guy, replete with comic timing and a touch of slapstick to his ever-doomed attempts to stop Jason.

But, in terms of final boys through history, the name Tommy Jarvis is probably at the top of the tree.

Murder, She Wrote: The Prep School Years

deadlylessonsDEADLY LESSONS

2.5 Stars  1983/94m

“Kiss the girls and make them sigh. Hunt them down and watch them die.”

Director: William Wiard / Writer: Jennifer A. Miller / Cast: Donna Reed, Larry Wilcox, Diane Franklin, Ally Sheedy, David Ackroyd, Renée Jones, Bill Paxton, Vicki Kriegler, Nancy Cartwright, Deena Freeman, Sally Klein, Donald Hotton.

Body Count: 3

Laughter Lines: “If we get caught we’re dead… Sorry, poor choice of words.”


Look. At. That. Cast. Bill Paxton! Ally Sheedy! Diane Franklin! Sissy from Jason Lives! The future voice of Bart Simpson! Deadly Lessons is the TV movie that just gives, gives, gives!

The first words uttered tell us all we need to know: “I’ve never been to a boarding school before, but this is one of the best schools in the country and they’re giving me a free scholarship! I just hope the other girls like me!”

These come from Stephanie (Franklin) to her cab driver as they approach the prestigious Starkwater Hall prep, where she’s joining the summer session early along with a small group of other girls who need to buck up their ideas.

dl2

Ally Sheedy, Vicki Kriegler, and Diane Franklin go corpse spotting

No sooner does Stephanie arrive, than one of bitchy girls is found drowned in the lake. Everyone says it’s an accident bar local detective Russ Kemper, who doesn’t take kindly to headmistress Miss Wade’s insistence that the school is not damaged by bad press.

Stephanie, meanwhile, begins to play detective, thanks in part to her obsession with a Clue-esque boardgame called Evidence. Suspects include the horse riding teacher, the stable boy (Paxton), other teachers, the requisite creepy handyman, plus all the girls who hated the victim, and victim No. 2…

There’s not a spot of blood to be seen in all of Deadly Lessons, it really is as if we’re watching Jessica Fletcher’s youthful memoirs for all the red herrings, questionable performances, and absence of violence. All that was missing was that judgmental shake of the head thing she did after the killer freely admitted how and why they did it – although in this case, the mystery is not so easy to solve.

dl5

A pre-Simpsons Nancy Cartwright and pre-Jason Renée Jones

Without a doubt, the primary appeal is in the cast, from Sheedy’s pre-Breakfast Club rich girl, to Nancy Cartwright’s (Bart!!) unwanted over-eater, though you wonder how many highlight it on their respective resumes. This could be shown on TV any Saturday afternoon and cause zero offense. An interesting one time affair, but not a class you’d want to repeat.

No home video release (beyond a German one under the name High School Killer) has surfaced, hence the significant lack of artwork.

Blurbs-of-interest: Paxton was also in Night Warning, Mortuary, and later Club Dread; Jones was perky camp counsellor Sissy in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

To Sir With Love. And Murder.

tp1TEACHER’S PET

2 Stars  2000/18/89m

A.k.a. Devil in the Flesh 2

“She’s not your average student.”

Director: Marcus Spiegel / Writer: Richard Brandes / Cast: Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall, Jeanette Brox, Bill Gratton, Todd Robert Anderson, Christiana Frank, Sarah Lancaster.

Body Count: 6


While it may shock some to comprehend how Rose McGowan girl-stalker-slasher flick Devil in the Flesh did enough to spawn its own sequel, accept now that Rose has morphed into Jodi Lyn O’Keefe as Debbie Strang, the older-man-loving bunny boiler in what’s essentially Debbie Does College.

While McGowan was off being Mrs Marilyn Manson and thus skipped the sequel, Jodi instead becomes the syringe and hairdryer-toting schizo who begins by escaping your garden variety low-security sanitarium to kill and replace Sarah Lancaster’s college-bound rich kid and takes a creative writing course led by sub-Clooney tutor Garcia (known to us as Rod from A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Problems arise when her temper gets the better of her and she kills a few extras until she is eventually found out and the slapdash finale that recycles the ending of both the first film and also Urban Legend, before staple-gunning an unexceptional twist on to it.

As the first round, the film cannot seem to decide if it wants to be an all-out dead teenager affair or a sultry thriller, so things end up back in T&A county with only a handful of interesting elements: Brox is good as O’Keefe’s nerdy roommate Laney (ironically the name of the school dork who dated O’Keefe’s character’s boyfriend in She’s All That), who is set up as the possible heroine, but replaced by the far less interesting Kendall.

If you can look past these sorts of TV-movie irks, Teacher’s Pet is entertaining enough straight-to-video fodder.

Blurbs-of-interest: O’Keefe was Sara in Halloween H20; Sarah Lancaster was in Lovers Lane; Jsu Garcia previously acted as Nick Corri for his Elm Street role.

Dying for the weekend

savage-weekendSAVAGE WEEKEND

1 Stars  1976/74m

A.k.a. The Killer Behind the Mask; The Upstate Murders

“You have been chosen. You are doomed. Prepare for Savage Weekend.”

Writer/Director: David Paulsen / Cast: David Gale, Marilyn Hamlin, James Doerr, Christopher Allport, Caitlin O’Heaney [as Kathleen Heaney], Devin Goldenberg, William Sanderson, Jeffrey David Pomerantz.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Sweet talk won’t do it fellas, I’m into rough trade.”


Years ago I had a film almanac that I worshipped. It was called the Video Movie Guide 1997 and rated films from five stars to a picture of a turkey. Despite harshness to the slasher genre (what film guide isn’t?) it was usually quite accurate. So my interest was snared by the 2.5 Stars it gave to Savage Weekend. Many moons later, I found a copy of this then rare-as-decent-Beyoncé-song movie and… well, the book was eventually tossed out.

An ever-present boom mic should be warning enough to fast forward through most of this chore hailing from 1976: the year that scriptwriting forgot. Although it predates Halloween and makes a lot of use of point-of-view camera work, nothing can serve as recompense for how awful it is.

Five city folks venture into the country for the weekend to watch a boat being built. Exciting times. At the house they’re staying in, a masked killer eliminates them by hatpin, band-saw, and hanging.

savwknd1That’s it for plot, and the film throws in a few variable suspects that would – ten years down the line – typify any red herring in a slasher flick: There’s a silent, unhinged custodian, the local rednecks who don’t take kindly to having their asses kicked by the effeminate gay member of the group (who is offensively represented by slinking around with his hand on his hip and sporting make up), and a random character – whose presence is never fully explained – who has the Jones for sexually frustrated nymph heroine Hamlin.

An appalling banjo theme, needless excesses of nudity, and a totally disagreeable cast (except for O’Heaney who would later play the final girl in He Knows You’re Alone), it’s no wonder this was shelved until 1980 by which time writer / director Paulsen had unleashed the nearly-as-wearisome Schizoid.

Blurbs-of-interest: Christopher Allport was in both Jack Frost movies.

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