Tag Archives: Canuck

Prom Trite

On my zillionth viewing of Prom Night, I thought some stuff. Not just “my God, is that how they danced in 1979!?” or “that’s her dress?” but plotty things like:

  • The Halloween influence is so heavy: The street Jude crosses looks exactly like the one Laurie and friends walk down in Haddonfield.
  • How can Kelly and Jude be friends with each other, let alone the sister of the girl they killed?!
  • And Nick – dating her???
  • It’s pretty obvious who it is from ten minutes in.
  • Kim’s prom queen dress makes Molly Ringwald’s one from Pretty in Pink look like Chanel.
  • Are Leslie Nielsen and his missus supposed to be suspects? Where are they at the end?
  • Drew should’ve been murdered. Gruesomely.
  • Nick, although nice, deserved to go too

prom night 1980

  • Wendy’s chase scene is still the best. Ever.
  • Nobody heard a van explode? Nobody was outside smoking, making out, or getting air?
  • The killer should’ve turned out to be Kelly, guilt-ridden over what they did.
  • The disco choons really are awesome. Time to Turn Around was stuck in my head all last night.

Social Commentary or Sleaze?

girlhouse 2014GIRLHOUSE

4 Stars  2014/18/101m

“Enjoy the show.”

Directors: Trevor Matthews & John Knautz / Writer: Nick Gordon / Cast: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine, Alice Hunter, Alyson Bath, Elysia Rotaru, Chasty Ballesteros, Wesley MacInnes, Erin Agostino, Nicole Fox, James Thomas.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “I’ve thought this through completely. I really don’t see how anything bad can happen.”


Sexy girls in a house decked out with cameras so guys can log on and crack one out. No! Don’t go! I know it sounds like two dozen other camcorder exploitation flicks with nothing to offer, but GirlHouse is, hugely to my surprise, a pretty solid slasher flick with some of the best production attributes this side of the millennium.

In 1988, two girls tease a tubby preteen and trick him into a one-sided game of show and tell, which ends with them laughing in his face about the size of his cock and sending him running away. A little later, the ringleader is ambushed as she cycles home down a back road and no amount of sorrys can save her from being thrown off the side of a bridge.

Just this five minute opener packs a punch absent in 90% of contemporary slasher films, evident from the effort going into building an atmosphere. Like the films of yore, the shots fragment all around the victim and we know something bad is going to leap out any second, just not from where… This simple approach, used all the time in the 80s, makes a lot of difference.

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Fast forward to the present, hard-up college girl Kylie needs money enough to agree to go and live at GirlHouse, the pornhub of the future, owned by gay Hefner-lite Gary Preston, who puts his girls up in a huge secluded mansion, location under wraps, where they’re filmed around the clock, performing little laptop shows, playing in the pool, the sauna, eating, watching TV… whatever.

One repeat customer is Loverboy, our grown up psychotic, who worships all the girls and is technically able enough to hack through the firewalls to send a photo of himself to Kylie. Her heart, however, is slowly being won over by old schoolmate Ben, who stumbles upon her online and is prompted by his Ed Sheeran-esque roommate to drive to her college and strike up a conversation.

After a girl evicted for her drug habit is permitted to stay in the house again, she finds Loverboy’s photo – not the most flattering – prints it, and sticks it up on a wall, where he eventually spies it in the background and, humiliated, loses his shit and stomps in the direction of GirlHouse.

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Before long, most the tech and security guys have been murdered (largely off-camera and always fully clothed) and Loverboy seizes control of the house functions, stalking the girls one by one while helpless patrons watch, including Ben and his roomie, who embark on Halloween: Resurrection-esque attempts to help remotely.

One girl has her fingers axed off, making it impossible for her to type in the address of the house to summon help; another is choked on a dildo; one locked in the sauna with the thermostat cranked up… What sets GirlHouse apart from the dreck that share its premise (Voyeur.com comes to mind), is the will of (most of) the girls not to just sit there naked and die: The sauna girl manages to bust out and runs straight for the pool; another thought dead waits for the killer to happen by and strikes out at him; and Kylie, when inevitably the last one alive, pulls all the feeds and lures the killer to the basement where she uses nightvision to fight back and then beats the crap out of him with a camera.

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If there’s a comment on the relationship between pornography and objectification, it’s either too vague or forgotten in a tide of blood. A quote from Ted Bundy kicks things off, though it later falls back on on cliches of sad, fat, drooling loners who hate women. That said, the menfolk prove to be the most dispensable, often blindsided and incapable when confronted with the killer. Or do the unwritten rules of voyeurism apply and the perception is that the audience don’t want to see the murders of men on screen and that it’s the girls who are to blame? Would Guyhouse work? It’s one of the oldest dilemmas to plague the genre. But the genders are equally represented when it comes to dead bodies by the end, and it’s Kylie who does all the hard work when push comes to stab.

Even if elements of the story have to cave to genre tropes to work, GirlHouse succeeds through production attributes alone, something most horror producers don’t even seem to consider, largely under the illusion that T&A and corn syrup splashed on a wall tick enough of the boxes.

Overlook the skeezier elements and there’s a solid gem lurking beneath.

Why bother calling it anything else?

slasher

SLASHER

3 Stars  2016/360m

“Everyone in this town has a part. Not everyone has a future.”

Director: Craig David Wallace / Writer: Aaron Martin / Cast: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Christopher Jacot, Patrick Garrow, Dean McDermott, Rob Stewart, Mayko Nguyen, Erin Karpluk, Enuka Okuma, Jessica Sipos, Wendy Crewson.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “He’s made himself judge, jury, and …hangman!”


Harper’s Island, Scream: The TV Series, Scream Queensand now Slasher. The Chiller channel’s Canadian eight-part mystery is the latest loon-with-a-knife outing to go straight to the small screen rather than straight to DVD. The generic quality of the title allows for future seasons to start anew with a body count tale in a whole different place and time.

Eight episodes work out better than Scream Queens’ interminable unending thirteen, as the welcome isn’t completely worn out, hacking through our senses until we can take no more and only seeing Ryan Murphy chainsawed to pieces stands a chance of fixing it.

Here, the small town of Waterbury, Halloween 1988, an expectant couple are slaughtered by a machete wielding loon dressed in a creep executioners garb. Twenty-eight years later, the saved infant, Sarah Bennett (McGrath, recently eaten in Jurassic World), moves back to town with her journalist husband Dylan (the always likeable McLaren, dreads sadly gone, but becoming a familiar genre face). They move into the same house. Where the murders happened. Face palm.

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No sooner has Sarah settled in, opened a gallery, made a few friends, The Executioner returns and begins ridding the township of various individuals based on the Seven Deadly Sins: The abusive old lady across the street goes first, then a merciless developer… Anyone with a dodgy secret has their days numbered.

Sarah turns to her parents’ incarcerated killer, Axl Rose lookalike Tom Winston, for help before The Executioner comes for her, and begins developing a bizarre co-dependant relationship with him, that eventually leads to a rather obvious revelation, given that her late mother turns out to have been giving Maureen Prescott a run for her money. Or rather, more bang for her buck.

Inventive murders include a guy stuck in a hole with a sack of deadly snakes tossed in, a severed head found in a deep fryer, live cremation, eaten by nature, plus the usual stabbings, drownings, and beheadings.

Slasher_Verna

Could it relate to the girl who mysteriously went missing five years earlier? A cinderblock dropped on to a car from a bridge in 1968? Or something else completely?

Slasher has a relatively tight budget compared to the other recent series’, which results in a smaller, easier to manage cast roster, and a body count that doesn’t go stupidly ballistic. It plays more like a 90s Scream contemporary than anything (aided by the same writer and director overseeing the whole thing), drawn out to cover the episode order. But this is no bad thing, despite some of Sarah’s decision making, which sees her become BFF’s with a murderer, and venture down numerous dark alleyways on her own.

The killer’s identity, revealed a little sooner than expected, doesn’t make a whole lotta sense, but things take a real dark turn come the end, which bucks the usual trend of the final girl’s passivity in the face of closure, which was pretty impressive. Here’s hoping Season 2 can at least match the potential on show here, hopefully with a more generous financier.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Brandon Jay McLaren was in Harper’s Island, Scar 3DTucker and Dale vs Evil; Katie McGrath was in Red Mist; Erin Karpluk was the lead in Ripper 2.

Good girl gone bad

promnight2HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II

2.5 Stars  1987/18/93m

“You can’t keep a bad girl down.”

A.k.a. The Haunting of Hamilton High

Director: Bruce Pittman / Writer: Ron Oliver / Cast: Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Justin Louis, Lisa Schrage, Richard Monette, Terri Hawkes, Beverley Hendry, Brock Simpson, Beth Gondek.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “I tell you guys, she’s possessed: Linda Blairsville.”


Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart goes the old song, and it’s quite apt in this case.

High school moniker aside, there’s nothing that links this Elm Street-snorting film with the 1980 revenge slasher, giving credence to the notion that it was originally intended to be a standalone affair.

Prom night. 1957. Hamilton High. Free n’ easy Mary Lou Maloney is caught by her date getting it on with another guy. Her jilted beau intends to humiliate her once she is crowned Queen of the Prom, but ends up setting her on fire in front of the whole school.

Thirty years later, mousy goody two shoes and prom queen hopeful Vicki (Lyon) unleashes Mary Lou’s vengeful spirit, which begins to turn her crazy in an attempt at full on possession to have the moment of prom glory she was robbed of. And, naturally, both of Mary Lou’s suitors have grown up to be the high school principal and the local priest respectively.

marylou1Meanwhile, Vicki’s friends slowly – very slowly – begin to fall victim to Mary Lou’s magical tantrums, including a girl squashed by lockers, electrocution via the most 80s of 80s school computers, and impalement by falling decor.

The Canadian 80s qualities shine through in a cheesy, endearing way, with plenty of day-glo, florescent lights, and beyond horrific fashion choices, underscored by one of Vicki’s friends telling her her fifties look is a crime against fashion. By this point, Mary Lou has somehow sucked her through a blackboard and possessed her completely – she makes out with her dad, throws her puritan mother through a door, and walks totally naked around the changing rooms stalking a friend in a weird pseudo lesbianic scene, fitfully culminating in the big prom finale that manages to channel both Carrie and Elm Street 2, as Mary Lou’s charred corpse literally busts its way out of Vicki.

marylou2Overall, the film goes through the motions of any possession opus, tossing in a handful of demises, crucially failing to ‘properly’ do away with the stock bitchy girl, who is summarily killed by a rod that falls from the ceiling at the dance, but at least it has some decent FX work and an interesting villain. Prom Night III: The Last Kiss sees the return of Mary Lou and wisely ups the laughs, resulting in a better film experience.

Blurbs-of-interest: Terri Hawkes was in Killer Party; Michael Ironside’s other slasher credits include Visiting Hours, American Nightmare, Children of the Corn: Revelation, Fallen Angels, and Reeker; Brock Simpson appears in all four Prom Night films in different roles.

2015 Halloween Spectacular Part 3: Lost After Dark

Lost-After-DarkLOST AFTER DARK

3.5 Stars  2014/85m

“And you thought the 80s were dead…”

Director/Writer: Ian Kessner / Writer: Bo Ransdell / Cast: Elise Gatien, Kendra Leigh Timmins, Justin Kelly, Stephan James, Alexander Calvert, Eve Harlow, Lanie McAuley, Jesse Camacho, Robert Patrick, Mark Wiebe, Rick Rosenthal.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “I don’t wanna be eaten by a cannonball!”


House of the Devil, The Sleeper, and (slightly less notably) Frat House Massacre are all recent films that have gone all out to pass themselves off as sort of ‘lost gems’ of the 1980s. As a possible reaction to the tidal wave of glossy remakes in the 2000s, more than a few people were yearning for the simpler days of horror: No cellphones, big hair, bad fashion, straight-forward plotting.

In the latest back-to-basics slasher film, eight high-schoolers skip out on a dance, steal a schoolbus, and set off to the forest cabin owned by good girl Adrienne’s dad. Sucks to be them when the bus runs out of gas on a lonely road and the nearest house is inhabited by the last surviving member of a cannibalistic family.

After that, expeditions to look for gasoline, food, candles etc, are scuppered by the hungry loon, who succeeds in taking them out one by one by pick-axe, pitchfork, and various other deadly implements.

lad5Initially, Lost After Dark tries a little too hard to pass itself off as a product of 1984, with selected music, garments, cars, a Rubik’s Cube, and references to of-the-time TV shows and stuff coming from everywhere. Not to mention the characters are each named after directors and starlets from the creme of the 70s and 80s teen horror wagon. This becomes a little try-hard and distracting, but is soon forgotten once the action starts and, convincingly retro or not, offers up a few genuinely tense scenes – the best of which involving one character stuck in the basement with the killer.

A ‘missing reel’ gag also feels out of place, something more suited to a cheapo 70s grindhouse film than a mid-80s B-movie, although it later reveals itself to be nothing more than a cunning plot device.

Although eyebrow shaping, body types, tiny nuances of movement and speech can never be rewound sufficiently enough to totally fool the viewer, the bigger picture is good enough on its own, with elements of Hell Night and even House of Death at play, as well as the intended Camp Crystal Lake elements – a full moon, creepy woods, dark outbuildings.

lad-3picsLost After Dark provides a sandbox of slasher simplicity to play in, and makes some good shapes out of the clichés it has at hand, improving as it goes once we’re down to the one girl remaining (and the best choice for final girl duties). What I didn’t like was the back-filling exposition on behalf of Rick Rosenthal’s sheriff, once all the action was over. This would’ve worked better as a campfire tale or the olde stop-and-ask-directions-from-local exchange. A minor complaint.

There aren’t any complex plot twists, save for a little bit of active misdirection as to who will survive; It plays out like it could have come from the golden age of the genre, although any number of internet cry babies are quick to point out the lack of nudity, while singing from the rooftops how well acquainted they are with the genre, seemingly forgetting that boobs really weren’t in every 80s slasher film to begin with. Seems as though every horror fan thinks they can do better, yet cannibalizes the attempts of fellow horror fans who actually go and do it! Rant over.

lostafterdark1In order to enjoy any slasher film, it’s best to go in expecting little and be pleasantly surprised, which pays off in this case. By some margin the best “new” slasher film I’ve seen in some while.

Blurbs-of-interest: Robert Patrick was in D-Tox; Rick Rosenthal directed both Halloween II and Halloween: Resurrection.

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