Tag Archives: before they were famous

December Duel: Har-De-Har-STAB!

Christmas is coming: time for joy and laughter and, if you’re me, horror films of death. But how to mix these things together and please the visiting familials? Oh yeah, the sub-sub-genre of the slasher parody.

Parody films are very hit and miss at the best of times (Airplane! excluded). And as slasher films largely unconciously parody themselves in the ornate crudness of their very situations, what’s left to take the piss out of?

Let’s dip our hands into the comical waters of slasher mickey-taking and see what we can dredge up from the bottom…

studentbodsSTUDENT BODIES 1981

The hilarious story: sexy teen couples at Lamab High are being laid to waste by a commentating maniac in squelchy boots. Can super-goody-two-shoes heroine Toby solve the mystery?

Funny stuff: things start well with an amusing When A Stranger Calls-type opening; death by paperclips; death by eggplant; half-funny fart gag; Toby’s overt final girlisms.

Unfunny stuff: pretty much everything else; the stupid twist-within-a-dream ending where they evidently took the audience to have a combined IQ of 19.

VV’s amusedness: 43% – “I’m laughing on the inside.”

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national-lampoons-class-reunionNATIONAL LAMPOON’S CLASS REUNION 1982

The hilarious story: the class of ’72 from Lizzie Borden High gather for their deca-reunion where the kid they played a Terror Train-type prank on is now a paper bag-masked psycho killer. Of the cast of twenty-five odd folks, he kills four. Four.

Funny stuff: Anne Ramsay is present as the school cook and there’s a recurring demonic possession joke that made my lip curl…

Unfunny stuff: there’s some real shit gags in this, it’s no wonder nobody’s ever heard of this one, National Lampoon tag or not! The lead guy was a wanker who I waiting to see die in a myriad of horrible griz. Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is way better.

VV’s amusedness: 22% – “we are not amused.”

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pandemomiumPANDEMONIUM 1982

The hilarious story: Bambi’s cheerleader academy was shut down after a rash of cheericides in the 60s, including the ultimate shish-ka-bobbed spirit squad. Having decided to re-open “the old camp,” Bambi finds that her new class of students (three of them guys!) are being tormented by another cheericidal manaic! Only telekinetic cheer-wannabe Candy has the smarts (and power) to stop the madness…

Funny stuff: the cheerleaders are called Candy, Sandy, Mandy, Andy, Randy and Glenn. Glenn Dandy. The Carrie poking is amusing and the cast, featuring Carol Kane, Judge Reinhold, Debralee Scott, pre-PeeWee Paul Reubens and Eve Arden is great. It was originally to be called Thursday the 12th until Saturday the 14th came along but had sod all to do with Camp Crystal Lake.

Unfunny stuff: with any of-the-moment parody, it’s going to be dated as soon as it’s finished, so lots of it has little relevance 27 years down the line but, on the whole, Pandemonium holds up pretty well. “If I can’t be a cheerleader…no one can be a cheerleader!”

VV’s amusedness: 71% – “it was like this one time, at band cheerleader camp and it was so funny.”

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wackoWACKO 1983

The hilarious story: 13 years after seeing her older sister sliced and diced by the Halloween Prom Night Lawnmower Killer of Hitchcock High, virginal Mary Graves finds herself stalked by the very same killer as her own Halloween Prom approaches.

Funny stuff: One of the best lines in slasherdom when Mary’s mother receives a letter from the killer: “it’s Halloween, it’s Prom Night, there’s a psycho on the loose so don’t open the door, don’t answer the phone, don’t look in the attic, don’t go to the bathroom, don’t go into the ocean and don’t go into space ‘cos no one can hear you scream!”

Unfunny stuff: as with most of these things, the film spends too long trying to be relevant to the time period, which takes away from the slashing. ‘Wacky’ teachers and parents disappear and reappear frequently. George Kennedy getting a pie in the face for aping Hitchcock is the final ‘hilarious’ twist.

VV’s amusedness: 28% – “I smiled tolerantly and we parted.”

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scarymovieSCARY MOVIE 2000

The hilarious story: Six high school friends are stalked and tormented by a cloaked fiend who might just be the fisherman they ran over last Halloween, while a nosey reporter investigates the spree of killings that begins.

Funny stuff: if you watch this right after watching Scream, it’s funny. Any other time and you’re likely to tilt your head and squint your eyes trying to work out if you should laugh or not.  The Matrix and Blair Witch Project take-offs were funny at the time but the recreation of “the Jada Pinkett moment” from Scream 2 is the best part. The working title Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween was far better.

Unfunny stuff: the film wanes like a dying plant, eventually flopping flaccidly like a disappointing bedtime partner. Eww. And Marlon Wayans as Shorty – what the fuck is the point of his character? Talk about family favours!

I went on a date to see Scary Movie 2. We never spoke again.

VV’s amusedness: 55% – “you used to be funny but now you only make me cringe.”

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shriek-if-you-knowSHRIEK IF YOU KNOW WHAT I DID LAST FRIDAY THE 13TH 2000

The hilarious story: almost exactly the same as Scary Movie (with which this film was the competition but took too long to complete): the teens of – groan - Bulimia High are stalked by a killer who knows what they did last summer etc… Only here, the killer is so inept that the victims die from bee stings and coronaries before he can get his hands on them.

Funny stuff: the ‘Pop Up Video’ part near the end is actually funny. Coolio dies.

Unfunny stuff: fart jokes, erection jokes, gay jokes = all shit jokes. The lead character is called Dawson Deary. Pass me the razor blades…

VV’s amusedness: 24% – “oh look, it’s Funny’s cousin, Not Funny.”

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club_dreadCLUB DREAD 2004

The hilarious story: at Coconut Pete’s Costa Rican island resort (a sort of 18-30’s thing), a machete-toting killer is offing staff members, forcing those remaining to act ‘normally’. Is it the island’s mythical ‘Machete Phil?’

Funny stuff: Bill Paxton is great as Coconut Pete and there’s some good stalking and slashing sequences, the best of which involves a victim trying to get away in a golf buggy, eventually out-walked by the killer.

Unfunny stuff: The Broken Lizard comedy troupe evidently think they’re a lot funnier than they actually are, director Jay Chandrasekhar as queeny tennis boach Puttman is the best and Kevin Heffernan’s new-boy masseur makes a likeable hero but the others are just plain annoying. Clocking in at a whopping 113 minutes (the DVD version), Club Dread drags out some of its lame gags to the bitter end.

VV’s amusedness: 69% – “hi-de-hi-de-hi, ho-de-ho-de-ho, go go go to the holiday rock!”

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VICTOR: It can only be Pandemonium, the film with the crappest title but the least amount of crap gags.

HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE

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3 Stars  1980/18/90m

“Every girl is frightened the night before her wedding. But this time…there’s good reason!”

Director: Armand Mastroianni / Writer: Scott Parker / Cast: Don Scardino, Caitlin O’ Heaney, Elizabeth Kemp, Lewis Arlt, Tom Rolfing, Patsy Pease, James Rebhorn, Tom Hanks, Dana Barron, Paul Gleason.

Body Count: 7 or 9 depending how you look at it…


A minor early entry in the stalker cycle, which flatters the legacy of Halloween by blatantly copying it right down to the tinkering piano score… Lazy for sure, but there’s more to He Knows You’re Alone than just recreations of other films. Some spoilers follow…

Beginning with a trick involving two young women watching a cheesy slasher film (which features Russell Todd from Friday the 13th Part 2), one girl ventures off to the bathroom and thinks she’s being followed. She leaves without washing her hands and tells her nonchalant friend she doesn’t like the film and wants to go, unaware of the man shuffling into the row behind, sitting down right behind her… As the on-screen killer sickles a victim to death, the sweaty-browed, wide-eyed man behind rams a knife through the back of the chair, killing dirty-hands. The rip-off score comes in and we follow a Police Squad flashing light to the scene…

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It’s revealed that dirty-hands was soon due to be married, catching the attention of the mustached Detective Gamble, who is obsessed with the case. We then switch to a jolly bus trip with the killer, Ray, who flashes back to the time he crashed his ex-beau’s (we assume) wedding and knifed her before she could walk down the aisle. Her hubby to be? Gamble! Yup, there’s a bride-hating-killer on the loose!

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Pretty Amy Jensen (O’Heaney), is another engaged girl who is actually having immense second thoughts about her upcoming wedding to her jerky fiancé Phil, who is off to celebrate his bachelor weekend and cheat on Amy. In some ways, Ray’s coincidental eavesdropping as his bus pulls in is a god-send as it will certainly make her re-think who she throws the bouquet to…

Ray, who operates without the disguise of a mask or any particular niche weapon, begins turning up in Amy’s life all over the show: he appears at windows, fairgrounds, the ice cream store, fixedly glaring at her and kills his spare time by stalking and slaying various luckless schmucks, starting with the dress-fitter and escalating to her gal-pals Joyce and Nancy.

Marvin excelled at the floating head trick...

Marvin impressed Amy with his floating head trick…

Inbetween stalkings, Amy’s perky ex-boyfriend Marvin turns up and begins begging her to marry him rather than Phil, aided by the recommendations of Nancy, Joyce and Amy’s kid sister, while Detective Gamble discovers that Amy is Ray’s next intended bride of butcherdom. We also meet Tom Hanks, who is Nancy’s date to the fairground where Amy is further tormented by her paranoia. He’s a psych major who prattles on about fear, horror films and rollercoasters while we think about his possible impending death…

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Elliott ‘impressed’ Nancy by going on about the psychology of fear for aaaaaaages…

Alas, it’s not to be. ‘Elliott’ only appears in two scenes before Amy finally comes face to face with Ray, only after he’s cut off Nancy’s head and left it in the fishtank! The final half hour sees Amy escape to the morgue where Marvin works with both the killer and Gamble in hot pursuit. How will it end? Who will survive? Will Amy end up marrying Ray!?

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He Knows You’re Alone is a tame affair with next to no blood or gore, instead opting for well-crafted stalking scenarios and lots of focus-pulling camera work as the killer appears and then disappears behind trees, crowds and people in the foreground. “Homages” to Halloween come thick and fast: Joyce and her married lover are killed similarly to Lynda and Bob in Carpenter’s film (“go fix the lights, I’ll stay here,” replacing “get me a beer.”), Nancy even resembles Jamie Lee Curtis, and the ever-silent Ray hops the roof of Amy’s car, smashing his fist through the driver side window to grope around for her…

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Things end curiously though; Gamble arrives but is entirely ineffectual and killed almost straight away, while the killer’s fate is only to be locked inside a room in the morgue! No exposition, no injuries bar a single gunshot wound. This makes the otherwise likeable Amy a tad useless as the final girl, her survival is far more incidental, strange considering that at one point she attempts to hide from the killer inside her own sweater… She’s simply the one who doesn’t die, allowing for a full-circle twist ending that’s kinda neat.

Amy uses her chameleon-like abilities to hide from the killer.

Amy uses her chameleon-like abilities to hide from the killer.

One of the few elements not Xeroxed from Halloween is the killer himself; as Ray, Tom Rolfing (who sadly died in 1990) is both too young and too handsome to be a dribbling maniac, having topped my Sexy Psychos list, it’s a similar crux to the wretched Prom Night “remake” where the supposed maniac just looks too regular, albeit here, Rolfing’s intense eyes and ability to execute one cold stare allegedly landed him the part. Needless to say, even out of place, he’s one of the best parts to this clunky stalker thriller, which will bore the pants of some but hopefully engage the genre aficionados and appreciators of low budget films shot with passion.

Blurbs-of-interest: O’Heaney had already trodden the slasher boards in 1976’s dire Savage Weekend (credited there as Kathleen Heaney); look out for Paul Gleason as Gamble’s detective buddy and, most interestingly, the script supervisor was Vera Dika, who wrote the great academic analysis of the genre formula, Games of Terror, in 1990.

Here, there and everywhere

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FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER

3 Stars  1984/18/88m

“This is the one you’ve been screaming for.”

Director: Joseph Zito / Writers: Barney Cohen & Bruce Hidemi Sakow / Cast: Kimberly Beck, E. Erich Anderson, Corey Feldman, Joan Freeman, Peter Barton, Crispin Glover, Barbara Howard, Alan Hayes, Judie Aronson, Lawrence Monoson, Camilla More, Carey More, Ted White.

Body Count: 14

Dire-logue: “What happens if a psycho wanders in?”


Beginning with an awesome “Jason’s Greatest Hits” quick overview of the events from parts 1 to 3, The Final Chapter takes a rare turn for this series and picks up where the last film left off, with police and meat wagons clearing up the bodies from the ranch and taking them to the morgue – including Jason’s. Of course, it transpires that Mr V. isn’t so dead after all and he quickly does away with a couple of hospital employees before making the long walk back to Crystal Lake… A superb opening section.

At this point, rather than continuing the story in any way, it opts to repeat the events of the former by having a van full of kids – wait, it’s a car, they changed that! – vacationing at a house at Crystal Lake for the J-man to slaughter anew. As before, amongst the naive youth there is next to no mention of Jason, the recent murders, local paranoia, fear – just girly chats for the lovely females and sex for the horny guys, who include a pre-George McFly Crispin Glover and post-Hell Night Peter Barton.

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Next door to the vacation house is a cabin inhabited by the Jarvis family: Mom, teen daughter Trish and 12-year-old Tommy (a pre-everything Corey Feldman), who has a thing for making scary monster masks. Also new to the area is Rob, who tells Trish he’s bear hunting in the locale. The other teens meet a couple of sexy twin sisters and invite them and Trish over for a party, which is interrupted when Jason comes a-callin’, quite possibly bummed out that they didn’t invite him too.

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Teens start dropping all over the show: knife through the neck, cleaver in the face, axe in the chest and, most painfully, speargun in the balls! Meanwhile, Rob confides in Trish that his sister was one of the victims from Part 2 (although he doesn’t refer to it as that, which would’ve been cool) and he’s trying to find Jason for some good old fashioned revenge.

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fc7Rob’s efforts prove futile when Jason swats him into the next realm like a fly and it’s down to Trish and Tommy to save themselves, which is doubtlessly aided by Tommy’s knowledge of all things scary and some handy newspaper clippings about Jason, again, posing the question why nobody local seems to be aware of what’s been happening on the very same lake!

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The Final Chapter was the last Friday I saw out of the first nine films when I was first introduced to them in the mid-90s. Having crammed all of them in in less than a month, the form was a bit predictable and stale by the time I watched it and so it’s never ranked highly for me in the series. Zito’s technical direction is good but the film can only pale next to Parts 1 and 2 and, as in his earlier slasher film, The Prowler, there’s a streak of misogyny evident in the treatment and violent murders allotted to the girls in the film, notably only one of the two Fridays where female victims outnumber males. Bizarrely, according to Crystal Lake Memories, the casting process called for more ‘likeable’ victims in this outing, something that almost seemed to have achieved the exact opposite effect – I wasn’t fussed about any of them much.

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Feldman’s presence is welcome as the first involved pre-teen in the series but in being so, Kimberly Beck’s turn as the heroine is made kind of redundant. In spite of throwing herself through second-floor windows, finding body after body and taking on Jason singlehandedly with a machete, she plays second fiddle to Tommy’s eventual ruse that distracts Jason for long enough for them to kill him. And kill him they do, in sensational style where Tom Savini’s excellent effects work is flaunted to maximum force, a highlight of this entry in a scene that was heavily cut in the UK until its 2001 DVD release.

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Ultimately a bit of a non-event as far as I was concerned; the film holds up better than most slasher films from the same period but the summer camp setting of the first two films is missed, as are the goofy disco-antics of Part 3, the lighting in the final twenty or so minutes is abyssmally dark and the scenes jumble as Trish goes next door, comes back, goes next door, comes back… Jason does the same – kills someone inside, then seemingly goes outside, scales the side of the house to do the next one, and back to the scene of the previous murder to get a knife. And Gordon the dog? What the hell was going on there? Though I wonder if the rumour that one die-hard fan committed suicide (“If Jason dies…I die!”) is true…

Blurbs-of-interest: other than those mentioned, Crispin Glover played a set of twins in Simon Says.

X-RAY

xray3 Stars  1981/X/78m

“You have nothing to fear… Until they operate!”

A.k.a. Hospital Massacre / Be My Valentine…or Else! / Ward 13

Director: Boaz Davidson / Writers: Boaz Davidson & Marc Benim / Cast: Barbi Benton, Chip Lucia, John Warner Williams, Jon Van Ness, Den Surries, Gay Austin, Karyn Smith, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jacoby.

Body Count: 10


Like most of the slasher films from this era, X-Ray with all it’s also known as’s, the massacre to be is born out of the childhood trauma that opens the film. Gorky Harold gives his neighbour Susan a Valentine’s Card, which she laughs at and her brother David tears it up. Subsequently, Harold (having seen this through the window) sneaks in and murders David while Susan is out of the room.

Nineteen years later, Susan (now played by Playboy model Barbi Benton) stops by at the city hospital to pick up some test results, unaware that said results have been swapped for some really bad ones!!! The hospital staff, all demonstrating as much competence as a McDonalds trainee, practically imprison Suze in the building, telling her she needs an operation now. Now! NOW!!!

Elsewhere, doctors, nurses, receptionists and custodians are being stalked and murdered by a looney-doc, resulting in syrupy blood squirting all over the place. There’s a decapitated head in a candy box, a corridor-sized sheet that envelops a woman and a murdered administrator shoved hilariously into a closet on a wheelie chair.

Meanwhile, Susan’s doctor skulks about with a couple of slutty nurses, looking like an early Human League video gone askew and eventually enough people are dead so that only Susan and nice doc Harry remain. Are they seriously trying to fool us with that cunning cover-up? Was that the most subtle clue they had working for them? I kind’ve expected a championing twist but there…just…wasn’t.

As far as Halloween clones go, Israeli-shot X-Ray is hopelessly inept. Everything about it sucks and yet it was so much fun and never got boring, which is always a good sign for these flicks (Visiting Hours take note). That said, the version I watched may have been heavily cropped for the UK release, which was awarded an X-rating and never resubmitted.

Blurbs-of-interest: kid actors Hoy and Jacoby were two of the homicidal sprogs from Bloody Birthday; Jon Van Ness was in Tourist Trap; director/writer Davidson primarily works as a producer for Nu Image, who make cheaper-than-chips Sci-Fi DVD films with such imaginative titles as Crocodile, Octopus and Spiders as well as crud slasher flick Skeleton Man.

EYES OF A STRANGER

eyesofastranger2 Stars  1981/81m

“He’s murdered 12 women. The 13th is about to fight back.”

Director: Ken Wiederhorn / Writers: Mark Jackson & Eric L. Bloom / Cast: Lauren Tewes, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John DiSanti, Peter DuPre, Gwen Lewis, Kitty Lunn, Timothy Hawkins, Ted Richert.

Body Count: 7


The number of coincidences that occur throughout Eyes of a Stranger is phenomenal: from the killer managing to appear anywhere necessary in order to eliminate his quarry to sudden regain of sight and speech!

Loveboat‘s Lauren Tewes is Jane, a plucky Miami anchorwoman convinced that a neighbour of hers is the man responsible for a series of local rape murders. Ignoring her lawyer-boyfriend’s advice, she does a little investigating and ends up endangering her blind, deaf and mute sis (Leigh), who was the victim of a murderous rapist as a child.

Most of Tom Savini’s gore effects were removed before the film was even released with an additional minute and a half cropped from the UK video, but it still pissed off feminist protesters to the point where they picketed movie theatres as the repulsive, slobbish maniac slaps, punches and slaughters a string of female victims (as well as a couple of guys who get in the way). The opening murder is adequately executed with some scares that aren’t so dissimilar to a certain Kevin Williamson-scribed box office hit but those that follow are sorely in need of chase action or grue. We can all see where it’s going to end up with psycho-dude (DiSanti) attacking see/speak/hear no evil girl and Lauren coming to the rescue.

Without Savini’s makeup work and so many missing links, Eyes of a Stranger is just another sleazy, dismissive throwback from the days of yore. And will somebody please explain how so many of these guys successfully crawl into the backseats of womens’ cars!?

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