Tag Archives: Canuck

EVIL JUDGMENT

EVIL JUDGMENT

2 Stars  1981/93m

“A homicidal maniac bcomes judge, jury and…executioner!”

Director: Claude Castravelli / Writers: Claude Castravelli & Vittorio Montesano / Cast: Pamela Collyer, Jack Langedyk, Roland Nincheri, Nanette Workman, Suzanne De Laurentis, Walter Massey, Septimiu Sever, Sam Stone.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: Dino – “You know, where I come from they strap hookers to a mule and run ‘em out of town.” April – “Yeah, is that how your mother came to America?”


My third Let’s-Celebrate-Halloween-by-the-medium-of-VHS outing.

I possess a strange fantasy about living in Canada. But maybe it’s not all trees, lakes, and Celine Dion. At least, if the Canadian embassy handed out copies of Evil Judgment instead of DVDs showing video of the a fore mentioned things, I might change my mind and go for Australia instead. Hmm…don’t like the sound of those killer spiders.

EJ isn’t a dire film. Canada makes good slasher films as it happens. Except for Study Hell. Alas, this is no Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine. This possibly explains why it wasn’t released until 1984. Unlike those other films, EJ is an ambitious little tike, deciding to take a handful of stalk n’ kill and shove it in the mouth of some gritty cop thriller and sprinke a Mafia plotline overhead. When I was young I didn’t think the Mafia was real. Chalk that up there with the Canadian life-plan.

Anyway, Janet is a bit of a wimpy, naive waitress who moans enough about her lack of cash that hooker gal-pal April talkes her into accompanying her on a little menage a trois at some wealthy judge’s mansion for $200. Janet reluctantly goes but soon regrets it when both April and the judge get their throats slashed.

She wakes up in hospital and is told by arsey detective Armstrong that she tried to kill herself. ‘Bullshit,’ she says, ‘I so escaped from a psycho looney killer!’ He’s all; ‘who’d believe a junkie whore?’ and she’s like; ‘I’m a waitress, man!’ The only person who seems to take her seriously is her hot n’ cold boyfriend Dino, who’s the dude with the Mafia connections.

The killer returns to try and do away with Janet and she and Dino decide to play Fred and Daphne and soon discover a whole conspiracy to do with the murdered judge, Armstrong and some botched trial. I lost interest here for a while until the killings were reignited. The assailant finally puts in an appearance and here I paid my dues for not paying attention as I wasn’t sure who he was or what was going on. I’ll blame the aged VHS copy and the tracking on my player. I don’t feel like watching it again.

The main shortcoming in EJ is the acting. Or, lack of. Pam Collyer, as Janet, isn’t so much bad, more that she feels the need to annunciate each and every word of her dialogue, robbing it all of any tension or meaning. The film’s rarity meant it escaped being scissored and there are some grisly throat slashings chucked in (mainly women of course) and, with a higher budget and more taut scribing, this could have been a minor cult classic. As it is, there’s not much her to earn a recommendation from me. Of course, feel free not to pay heed and dive in headfirst, it’s what I’d do. And should ‘judgment’ have a second E? J-U-D-G-E-M-E-N-T ?

Blurbs-of-interest: Roland Nincheri (Armstrong) had walk-on parts in Visiting Hours and Terror Train.

It’s The Breakfast Club, ayyy?

STUDY HELL

1 Stars  2004/87m

“School’s out forever.”

Director: Mark McNabb / Writer: Jeff McArthur / Cast: Lindsay Dell, Brian Austin Jr., Steve McDougall, Shaylyn Doyle, Ryan Fisher, Michael Henry, Paul Pinel, Karen Dunn.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “The cool kids look at me as a geek, the geeks kinda see me as too mainstream, so I’m stuck in the middle.”


Everyone should love The Breakfast Club, it’s the essential brat-pack flick. Molly Ringwald’s in it for frack’s sake! I’m sure some who saw it back in the day wished the cast would bite it Jason-style. Well, their wishes have been answered and they only had to wait 20 years!

OK I’m lying. Sort of. Molly Ringwald did do a slasher film though. So did Judd Nelson. And Ally Sheedy had already been in Deadly Lessons a couple of years earlier. Instead of these has-beens starlets of the past, we’re given five ‘updated’ versions of them. The likenesses are uncanny as you can see from the trailer…

But wait a minute…this isn’t Shermer, Illinois… What’s with their accents? They’re saying ‘abowt’ and ‘ay?’ Are they- are they Canadian? Actually it’s about the only memorable thing here, I like the Canadian twang; it’s a nice combo of American and Australian soundages, ask my Vancouverianian friend August.

Anyway, with detention in full swing and the same assignment handed out by dorky looking teech Mr Keller, ’tis he who rapidly descends into madness and decides the wayward students must DIE! DIE! DIE! We want this too, as they’re very annoying and cannot act very well.

There’s a rubbish explanation courtesy of the janitor (who ain’t no John Kapelos!) to do with ‘Nam and murdered cheerleaders. The athlete, princess, geek and ‘criminal’ (yes, he’s the bespectacled one) all bite it, leaving the Sheedy-clone to face off with the killer. Some weird-ass twist is sellotaped on to the end, which, when added to the rubbish FX work, divided by the sub-drama class acting, multiplied to the power of shit equals one waste of the six or so hours it took me to stream this flick. And I was sick that day. And I missed  Murder She Wrote to watch it. Boo@Study Hell.

Singular blurb-of-interest-that-should-be-taken-as-a-heeding: many of the cast and crew also produced Dark Fields, which couldn’t possibly suck as hard as this…could it?

Disco Deathtrap

PROM NIGHT

4 Stars  1980/18/89m

“If you’re not back by midnight… You won’t be coming home.”

Director: Paul Lynch / Writer: Ron Oliver / Cast: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton, Michael Tough, Antoinette Bower, George Touliatos, David Mucci, Marybeth Rubens, Joy Thompson, Sheldon Rybowski, Pita Oliver, Jeff Wincott.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “For a guy so fast on the dancefloor, you are the slowest!”


Life is a ballet where the dancer falls, or some such wisdom once sang the lovely Bucks Fizz. Indeed, if life is one big, merry dance made up of moshers, ballroom, jivers, Steps-lite routines and High School Musical glee, then why not swirl it all together in one big cocktail of super-fun-happiness-yeah!

Now, mixing the rumba that is Halloween with the delicate ballet of Carrie sounds pretty cool – but tossing in the grooves of Saturday Night Fever!? That’s Prom Night for ya! No, not the shitty remake. That was akin to mixing ice cream with shit. We’re talking about the original, one of the earliest and most successful low-rent attempts to take what John Carpenter did, go to Canada, and add a bit more stab n’ drip to it.

As was the case in all of the stalk n’ slashers of olde, things begin in the past. Not 1732 or anything, but six years before the main section of the film. At a creepy old school, four kids are playing a macabre version of hide and seek they call ‘Killer’ – totally a riff on the formula. Along comes Kim and her younger siblings, boy/girl twins Robin and Alex (in matching stripy sweaters just to labour the point), who are, in no uncertain terms, told to go away by Kim’s classmate, Nick.

Kim and Alex continue in different directions while little Robin decides to take a closer look at the workings of the game of ‘Killer’, which culminates in the nasty little brats ganging up and scaring her until she takes a tumble backwards out of a window…to her DEATH!!!

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs - Prom Night has everything

Evil children, big hair, disco dance-offs – Prom Night has everything

The kids quite coldly under react and make a pact never to tell and the death is blamed on a handy mental patient who is then burnt by fire and incarcerated. Six years later – to the day, natch – Kim and Alex, now model teenagers and offspring to straight-laced Principal of Hamilton High, Leslie Nielsen (!), are prepping for the school’s senior prom, where Kim will be crowned queen along with her boyfriend… sister part-killer Nick! Complex, ay?

Being that Kim is played by Jamie Lee Curtis, we know she’s the final girl from the outset and, as usual, JLC delivers a great performance in spite of her worst slasher hair-do (including her looney-bin wire mop from Halloween: Resurrection). Nick (the late Casey Stevens) is the only participant in Robin’s death who seems to harbour any remorse. Two of the others, Kelly and Jude, are Kim’s best friends! You’d think they’d be smart enough to give her wide berth considering they killed her lil sis! But no, this is a slasher film and thus character sensibility has no place here!

Jude is the not-as-pretty girl who couldn’t get a prom date until porky wannabe-playa dork Slick turns up and inexplicably wins her affections. Kelly is the jittery chick who can’t work out whether or not she should let her pushy boyfriend enter unchartered territory. Then there’s Wendy, former ringleader of the guilty group, bratty then, mega bitch now…and clingy ex-girlfriend of Nick’s. Wendy therefore hates Kim and recruits school bad-boy Lou to organise a prom prank that will see them sabotage the crowning ceremony and humiliate Kim and Nick forever! Ooh, the melodrama! It’s just like an early incarnation of Degrassi Junior High.

...plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

…plus retarded caretakers, bums, and dope

Meanwhile, Kelly, Jude and Wendy have all received crank calls from a whispery fiend who says he’ll see them at the prom. Despite their past crime and some major hinting from the caller, none of the girls seem to take much notice of the warning. Nick blissfully misses his call altogether. Elsewhere, the man convicted of Robin’s murder has conveniently escaped from his mental insitution and murdered a nurse in doing so. The rent-a-shrink supposes he could return to town to seek revenge! There’s also the slow, drooling school custodian who turns up to stare at pretty young girls intermittently (especially when mooned) – is he more than just a red herring. Is he, huh?

The pieces are on the board, now it’s time for action! Yes, the prom finally begins and brings with it some much needed killing. It’s almost an hour’s wait for the debut murder, a vicious throat-cutting with a shard of broken glass. However, this horror pales when compared to the disco-dance scene when Kim and Nick decide to ‘show Wendy how it’s done’, cheered on by their evidently high classmates, the overlong sequence is overflowing with horrible moves that make the sugary routines in High School Musical look like funeral marches. Jamie Lee spins, twirls, makes bizarre Semaphore-like signals with her arms, and does this bizarre above-the-head clapping motion…

More sanely, Jude loses her virginity to the ironically-named Slick while Wendy and Lou scheme to hijack proceedings. Alas, the killer intervenes on both counts, doing away with the young lovers first and then chases Wendy for ages around the deserted school. It’s a great scene, the best in the film, and has rarely been matched in subsequent efforts, flawed only by the fact that ultimately we don’t get to see the film’s nastiest character buy it on screen, having to settle instead for hearing the thwacks of the ski-masked killer’s axe going into her head.

The piece de resistance of the killer crashing the prom proper and mistakenly beheading Lou instead of Nick is the sweet topping on this cheesecake. It leads to a disco-floor showdown between the ‘mystery’ killer, Nick, and Kim, which is almost as awkward as the dance scene from 20 minutes earlier, and backed by the same over-energised disco songs (“prom night / no more feeling uptight / everything is alright…”) that sound like the worst of ABBA covered by Alvin & The Chipmunks… Kim manages to subdue the fiend and the requisite unmasking occurs with heartbreaking results for her.

prom-4-pics2

Prom Night is essentially a nicely done revenger but leaves a few loose ends – some primary cast members disappear from the film completely with no explanation. The premise was echoed in I Know What You Did Last Summer seventeen years later, despite being based on a book written in 1973. It gains more from its cheesy composites than it loses, with a good cast playing mostly nice characters, Wendy’s great chase scene, the paperthin cloak n’ dagger act and the broadcast ‘thoughts’ of some of those involved. A lot of people don’t like Prom Night because it’s slow and not very wet with grue, and I’d like to say they’re WRONG! But my inner-Buddha democratic self will not allow it. For Vegan Voorhees, it doesn’t get better than disco NRG, an axe-wielding killer and Jamie Lee fucking Curtis – what more could there be!?

The sequels were variable and largely unconnected aside from Hamilton High’s presence in all four; #3: The Last Kiss is the best of which. The 2008 remake recycles only the brand name and general theme but was so watered down it doesn’t merit being affiliated with the franchise at all. It’s horror for 12-year-old girls, and an antithesis of its own genre.

Blurbs-of-interest: Curtis has made six slasher flicks altogether plus the TV series Scream Queens; Anne-Marie Martin, who played Wendy under the name Eddie Benton, has a tiny role in Halloween II and later wrote Twister with hubby Michael Crichton. Antoinette Bower (Curtis’ mom) was in peculiar Frankie Avalon slasher Blood Song. Jeff Wincott is brother of Michael Wincott. Director Lynch also turned in Humongous the following year. Brock Simpson, who played Young Nick, appears in all four Prom Night movies in different roles (dying in 2 and 4).

Whodunit? No, really, who???

RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL

4 Stars  2001/18/110m

“Jack’s back…”

Director: John E. Eyres / Writers: John Curtis, Evan Tylor & Pat Bermel / Cast: A.J. Cook, Bruce Payne, Ryan Northcott, Claire Keim, Jurgen Prochnow, Derek Hamilton, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Daniella Evangellista, Kelly Brook, Courtenay J. Stevens.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “For the second time in a few years, people are being murdered around you and you don’t think there’s a connection?”


Looking at the DVD cover for Ripper, it’s plain to see where it’s got some of its ideas from. That old triangle formation of pretty cast members up for the chop from another merciless killer. Mwa-ha-ha-haaaa…

Brit Director Eyres gave us the pitiful Goodnight, God Bless back in ’87 but his eye for what makes a decent body count flick has doubtlessly improved in the 14 year gap between that tripe and this impressive looking Canadian export, which owes as much to Urban Legend as it does to the story of Jack the Ripper.

We begin with a blonde girl running through the rain, finding her friends dead – nailed to trees; covered in a mountain of soil (!?) – and watch her swim to a nearby yacht where more bodies are found and one unlucky gal gets sucked into the propeller (pictured). Ouch.

ripper-victim

Blonde girl – Molly – ultimately survives and we leap five years into the future and rejoin her, now a red-head and full of attitude, at a college where she is studying criminology under Professor Marshall Kane (Bruce Payne), currently learning about serial killers. During a lecture we get to the meet the meat in the form of Molly’s student colleagues. There’s prissy French girl Chantelle, wannabe-lothario Eddie, stuttering, frowny Aaron, and a few less interesting ones. Then there’s Kelly Brook as the (who knew) oversexed chick with in a short skirt, Marisa.

At a costume party-slash-rave in some delapidated city building, Marisa is chased and murdered before being flung through a window for all to see. Eyres makes the most of this debut murder (excluding the stuff at the beginning), as it occurs quite some way into the film. Marisa is first suspended upside down out of a window several stories from the ground and then hoisted back in by the killer who proceeds to knife her to death while her blood drips on to a starlet dancing on the floor below. We also get a few of those cool screaming-face-reflected-in-the-blade shots.

ripper-kellybrook

Back at school, everyone’s talking about what happened at the party. Which is to be expected, I suppose. Some of the students in Molly’s study group want to investigate on their own despite her preference to steer clear. It’s already been established that Molly is a bit of a cow. She’s pretty damn aggressive, doing a goth-chick thing that slowly dissipates over the course of the film. Her attitude is one of Rippers shortcomings, evidently an attempt to give things a ‘gritty’ feel by having her wear dogtags and reside in a graffiti-walled shithole. One must wonder what she’s doing at such a pompous university with all her inoffensive, pastel-wearing classmates. A.J. Cook later played the psychic girl who predicted the freeway crash in Final Destination 2, so we know she can be a nice girl too.

When another of the group is murdered in a stylish road-rage manner, Molly connects the dots and puts it to the Professor (and the class and Jurgen Prochnow’s apple-chomping detective) that the killer is copying Jack the Ripper’s M.O., right down to the number and location of stab and slash wounds on the victims.

ripper-molly

Stupidness soon ensues after a third murder (coupled with some weird hallucinations) and the remaining four teens feel it’s wise to go, with the Professor, to his cabin in the middle of the woods where there is no phone reception or shortage of cutting implements to hand. It must be noted at this point nobody has proposed why their particular study group is being targeted…

The inevitable soon unravels and nasty ends await Eddie, Chantelle and Aaron (who has followed them). The latter two endure falling into a logging conveyor which drags them into enough deadly saw blades to make Leatherface squeamish. So it’s between Molly, her love interest Jason and Professor Kane. Having worked out that the initials of the group correspond to those of the Ripper victims, they’re all concerned that they may be next.

ripper-maryanne

Ripper suddenly stalls once the remaining characters enter the rain-soaked woods. The identity of the killer – and whoever slaughtered Molly’s friends five years before – is revealed, and then unrevealed, and then sort of revealed again. In short, there are maybe three twists that overlap in the last few minutes, each negating the previous one. According to the commentary, Eyres didn’t get the end he wanted, so it’s debatable whether the close we’re left with is a comment on The Ripper’s true identity, something that will remain cloaked in mystery forever.

Ultimately Ripper is a handsome, engaging film that sadly loses its way in the last ten minutes. It runs too long and takes itself too seriously but is leagues ahead of the usual straight-to-DVD shelf filler in terms of its production values and core ideas alone. The gore is plentiful and, watching it yesterday, I noticed for the first time a fleeting shot of the poor sod’s head meeting with the saw blades during the gruesome logging mill scene. I wasn’t keen on all the violence against women stuff that came through good n’ strong, it’s something I still find a bit uncomfortable, not helped in this case by one of the least likeable final girl’s going. There’s also the killer’s copy-the-killer schtick that Molly latches on to – did Jack the Ripper use a jeep to mow down any of the Whitechapel hookers? Hmm… Not sure he had access to a saw mill either. It’s a slightly pretentious, wannabe slasher par intelligentsia, followed by a really rubbish sequel a couple of years later.

ripper-group

Blurbs-of-interest: Three of the actresses – Cook, Vaugier and Evangellista – appeared in various Wishmaster sequels. Vaugier crops up in The Fear: Resurrection too. Chantelle’s accent is actually real, contrary to what some IMDb critics assumed. Derek Hamilton was in Taboo. If you’re feeling masochistic, check out the more-or-less unrelated sequel.

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