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Title Recall: Serial Slashers

More of those loveable title cards, this time from some of the series we love the most. And maybe not so much.

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THE slasher franchise of the 90s (and also 2011), Scream fell into a consistent fontage after the first movie (which oddly had the regular typeface on all the artwork), in 2 and 3, the part number was slashed across the screen after the initial double murder which kicks off each and every film and, in the 4th, it kind of morphs out of the ‘A’ – thus the film is really called Scre4m, which is stupid, but at least we haven’t yet have 5cream

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Stephen King probably hasn’t bothered watching most of the Corn sequels (maybe that horrendous 2009 remake). Where are parts IV thru eight? On VHS or not owned at all. I don’t like III but it came in the box with the first two. What to say? Hmm… nothing much really. They’re quite dull, aren’t they?

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The original slasher movie, Psycho‘s shrieking-string opening credits end with the title card cracking up as per the sequels we see here, albeit in 1960-era editing simplicity. The ‘cracked up’ (oooh, clever!) logo remained unchanged all the way up to the 1990 final entry in the cannon, shortly before Anthony Perkins’ death.

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Despite being one of the more memorable body count franchises, Final Destination has always been a bit of a flawed title concept. Yes, it works with the plane crash-centered first one, but can there be more than one ‘final’ destination? Turns out, yes. And even when they tried to end it by sticking a giant ‘THE’ in front of it, the sequels kept coming… 3‘s tarot cards only serve to remind me that none of the idiots in any of these movies have ever consulted a psychic, and 5 looks a bit boring here, though a second later is explodes, like, totally in 3D!

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What have we learned from this batch? That some franchises are better managed in terms of their brand continuity than others. But nothing else.

A brief overview of FrightFest

So, I went to London’s 14th FrightFest 5-day horror love-in at Leicester Square – albeit for two days rather than the entire thing – and saw eight movies. Before we get down to reviewing the three titles that fit in well with Vegan Voorhees’ missive, for anyone interested in the other stuff I saw, here’s a quick overview of what I thought…

THE DEAD 2: INDIA

3 Stars

When people gawk in asking me WHY I don’t watch The Walking Dead, it’s because zombie films leave me on a downer, regardless of how good they are. If there’s no hope of survival, it’s time to pop the anti-depressants.

I haven’t seen The Dead but it didn’t seem necessary for this film, which pits American windfarm-engineer Jim Millson against an army of toddling undead, while he and a ten-year-old orphan try to make it to Mumbai to save his pregnant girlfriend.

The on-location filming is excellent and photography well above par, but I can’t judge how it compares to other examples in a genre I tend to avoid.

CURSE OF CHUCKY

3 Stars

Don Mancini and Fiona Dourif introduced (and took Q&A) on this sixth tale of Chucky’s homicidal lunacy – plus we all got Chucky masks! He gets himself sent to wheelchair-bound Nica (Dourif) and her depressed mother, who mysteriously dies later that night.

Nica’s sister comes to stay with her husband, daughter, and au pair, and brings along Father Frank, and little Alice adopts the dolls as her own. Nica soon becomes suspicious of the ever-moving doll, who poisons, electrocutes, axes, and stabs those in the house one by one. Things end with some surprise cameos by cast members past, the best of which comes at the end of the credits.

I’ve never loved the Child’s Play series but it’s always been consistent and enjoyable enough, though the appearance of one particular character baffled me. As this entry is going straight to DVD, the budget is clearly lower, almost entirely set in one house, but Chucky looks neat and there’s some great one-liners: “It’s a doll – what’s the worst that could happen?” being the one that got the best reaction in the cinema. Full review to follow soon.

YOU’RE NEXT

4 Stars

A family reunion for a 35th wedding anniversary is crashed by a trio of weapon-toting loons in masks, who spear, slash, stab, and hack the kin to death.

The draw of this pacey home invasion-cum-slasher flick is that the attackers didn’t count on the girlfriend of one of the family sons having grown up at a survivalist camp in the middle of the Australian outback and has no qualms about fighting back with more ferocity than imaginable.

The gung-ho actions of the final girl got rapturous applause as she defeated the assailants one by one, using everything from a meat-mallet to a blender! Despite the free one-sheets we got, I can’t see this doing very well at the box office, but it deserves to.

THE DYATLOV PASS INCIDENT

4 Stars

An unexpected gem, freakin’ RENNY HARLIN directed this found-footage flick, which follows five American students (at least two of whom are played by British actors, who introduced the film) on a Blair Witch Project-style gambit to a Russian mountain where, in 1959, nine professional hikers were found dead in very bizarre circumstances. True story!

Things aren’t quite right. There are footprints in the snow in the morning, strange sounds, a severed tongue, and things just go from bad to worse.

Found footage films aren’t always particularly involving but I really liked this one, subtle by Harlin’s standards – barely an explosion in sight. The ending requires a healthy dose of disbelief to appreciate the threads that are being drawn together.

THE CONJURING

4 Stars

This wasn’t actually playing but as we didn’t fancy any of the three films available after Dyatlov Pass, we defected to another cinema down the road to finally see this.

Likelihood is you know all about it, so I’ll just say films about hauntings are the only ones that really give me the chills, Insidious being a prime example, and this did not disappoint.

Though the scariest aspect by far was the trailer for the fucking One Direction movie tacked on to the beginning because, y’know, “all trailers are relevant to the main feature…” Guh? Can only pray that the One Direction film is a slasher movie.

HATCHET III

1 Stars

The dud of the festival – what I saw of it – was the third and final entry in the never very good Hatchet franchise, which sees Danielle Harris’ Marybeth left in the slammer and blamed for the murders by Sheriff Zach Galligan; his ex-wife Caroline Williams (Stretch from Texas Chainsaw 2) claims she knows how to defeat Victor Crowley once and for all – as it appears that Marybeth’s annihilation of him was futile.

Paramedics, cops, and a SWAT team head back to the swamp and find themselves done in by the invincible Crowley.

Adam Green (who introduced it) handed the director’s reigns over the BJ McDonnell, but there’s virtually fuck all to work with except Kane Hodder killing stupid amounts of stupid people, most of whom arrogantly assume they can finish him off.

More horror cameos crop up, though they’re less interesting than the first two outings. Can only hope that this finale really IS the finale.

HAUNTER

3.5 Stars

If Groundhog Day turned spooky, this would be it. Abigail Breslin is a girl on the eve of her fifteenth birthday. Everyday. She and her Mom, Dad, and squeaky-voiced little brother are stuck in a perpetual ghost loop, living out the final day of their lives in 1985. But only Lisa is aware of it.

The more she investigates her situation, the more she uncovers about what happened in the house before they ever lived there, attracting the unwanted attention of the serial killer who also haunts the place in a parallel timeline, and he’s able to convince the living to commit murders from beyond the grave.

While not quite as clever as it thinks it is and not nearly eerie enough, Haunter is a good movie, though the kind you only ever need to see the once.

V/H/S/2

3.5 Stars

I caught the first V/H/S at FrightFest last year but didn’t like it at all, though it did feature a meta-slasher episode, which was kinda fun. Fortunately, this follow up is exponentially better, featuring four shorts that are draped around a couple of investigators who break into a house to look for a missing college kid.

The first video follows a man with a sort of bionic eye after an ocular injury. Trouble with super-eye is that is shows him the spirits of the dead around him. And the more he interacts with them, the more damage they can do to him.

Next is a cycle-helmet-cam shot zombie tale, gory and funny, following a poor forest biker who’s bitten, turns, and them lollops about trying to eat people.

The third section is an Indonesian documentary on a cult leader, who allows a film crew into the compound, which soon reveals itself to have a sinister endgame…

Lastly, annoying teenagers with cellphones mess around when their parents go away for the weekend and find themselves attacked by long-limbed aliens, that make a lot of noise, coloured smoke, and abduct the kids. It’s a difficult one to gauge with given the ever-shaking cameras and that the cute little dog who wears the camera for much of it is cruelly killed off. The kids can die, but not the dog.

Friday the 1st

A BAY OF BLOOD

4 Stars  1971/18/81m

“They came to play, they stayed to die…”

A.k.a. Reazione a Catena [Chain Reaction]; Twitch of the Death Nerve; Bloodbath; Bloodbath Bay of Death; Carnage; The Ecology of a CrimeLast House on the Left Part II (!); New House on the Left (!!)

Director/Writer: Mario Bava / Writers: Joseph McLee, Filippo Otoni, Dardano Sacchetti, Franco Barberi / Cast: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Volonte, Chris Avram, Anna M. Rosati, Leopoldo Trieste, Laura Betti, Isa Miranda, Giovanni Nuvoletti, Brigitte Skay, Paola Rubens, Guido Boccaccini, Roberto Bonanni.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “Can’t you sense the rattled breathing of death?”


Before The Texas Chain Saw Massacre… before Halloween… before Friday the 13th… but way after Psycho came this seldom appreciated (outside the horror community) massively influential unsung classic, that contains scenes that could be easily switched out with various Jason sequels and not raise suspicion.

Countess Donati is rolling around her fat ass mansion in her wheelchair when, totally out of the blue, a noose is flung around her neck and her chair kicked out from beneath her… The camera surprises us (those of us who’d seen other slasher films before this one anyway) by panning up and showing us the killer’s face. As he plants a suicide note and begins to tidy the scene, HE is knifed in the back by a different killer!

The “suicide” of the Countess and the disappearance of her husband (the first killer) attracts several interested parties to the bay; a developer, relatives, some bouncy teenage daytrippers – actually they happen by randomly – and the carnage soon begins. Everyone wants the bay, the house, the inheritance, whatever… and it seems that everyone is quite content to kill for it.

Undoubtedly the film peaks in terms of both fun and its proto-slasher sensibilities with the scene concerning the quartet of youths who come to the bay for a grand day out; two guys and their respective French and German dates. They find an old dance hall, lark about, then make themselves at home in a nearby house while one of them, the fabulous Brunhilda in her green dress and ribbons, opts to go skinny dipping. She happens upon the dumped corpse of the missing fellow and is murdered before she can alert the others.

Here, a scene that clearly inspired the infamous – and still unseen for 32 years – bunk-double-impaling from Friday the 13th Part 2 occurs. While the spare guy has his face split by a blade, the other couple are going for it in the bedroom next door. The killer picks up a spear and, from his POV, floats in and skewers the two of them. The Jason film recreated this moment almost shot for shot ten years later.

More people die, including innocent witnesses to the crimes. Suspects are narrowed to cranky fisherman Simon, son of the Countess, money-grabbing couple Renata and Albert, Frank Ventura the lawyer/developer/man-with-plans dude… But Bava is toying with our expectations. As per the original Italian title, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and by the time 81 minutes have clocked up, 13 people are dead and the bay is under new ownership.

Despite the never ending spectre of death haunting everyone who is unfortunate enough to be there, there’s a decent wad of humour present and the almost laughable lack of humanity on show from the cast. It’s gory, but not ridiculously, typical in its visual cues with plenty of bright colours, dark shadows, and focus pulling.

Shockingly, it’s yet to be remade and modern audiences probably won’t be able to appreciate the influence carried, but Bay of Blood is essential viewing regardless and worth seeing more than once, evidenced by the fact that I upped it by a whole star on my second foray (about a decade after the first).

A delightful fixture of Italian horror: the bizarre psychic lady

Sequel Showdown: 5s, Fives, and Vs

The further down the dark alley of multi-sequel franchises we go, the less light there is, and so we’re left with just seven films to choose from – so once again I’ve chucked in a Saw sequel to prevent the cart from spilling…

So, on with the fives…

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1985-1998

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning; A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child; Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers; Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror

Strangely, the three ‘big’ names in this round all have weirdness surrounding their titles: Friday 5 has no numerical suffix on the film itself, the same with Elm Street 5, and Halloween 5 appears on screen without the lengthy subtitle. Freddy and Michael’s fifth rounds, released within two months of one another, are both dreary affairs, whereas the fifth Corn movie is a fun, but of course entirely stupid and wildly off course with the previous and subsequent entries, leaving the gateway open for Jason 5, uh Friday 5 to take the win. Yes, it’s massively hated and not nearly as well made as the other films, but it’s by far the most fun!

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2005-2012

Seed of Chucky; Saw V; Final Destination 5; Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines

As before, I’m cruelly giving Jigsaw the kick straight away, followed by Wrong Turn 5, which could have appeared in the prequel round, but as Wrong Turn 4, was the ‘official’ prequel, and this just a sequel to that which happens to take place before the original movie, it lands here instead, failing anyway. The same could be said for FD5, but given that it’s prequeldom is in fact the ‘ big twist’ and that it otherwise plays out as a regular sequel until the last few minutes, we find it here instead. Seed of Chucky is funny but I’m not wild about the franchise, so it loses out to Death itself.

The Finalists

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So, not the most flashy of finalists and being that there are only two is also quite dull… For sixes, sevens, eights, etc, there won’t even be enough films to declare finalists, so make the most of it!

I don’t care what anybody says, Friday 5 is super-fun. So there’s no Jason (bar dream sequences), all manner of ridiculous set-ups, no end of babes willing to pop their tops, and just about every cut n’ dried slasher cliche in the book thrown into the mixing bowl, plus proto-Madonna punk girl Violet robot-dancing around her room.

So, it would be wrong to declare anything other than…

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…as the winner.

THE Final Destination [4] was supposed to be Death’s last word. Its 3D gimmick – however dreadful – somehow managed to rake in masses of box office receipts, more than enough to prompt a further chomping of the bit. In spite of the utter crap left in the wake of the previous film, and more 3D to send all manner of implements and shrapnel flying at the audience, Final Destination 5 turned out to be something of a gem.

While not doing the same business as the earlier one, FD5 brought back Tony Todd as Death’s riddle-spouting pal, provided a best opening catastrophe since the original, and also packed a great twist, albeit one that leaked before the release date. If there’s a better #5 in the body count realm, I’m yet to encounter it.

Watch a clown smackdown

stitches2STITCHES

3 Stars  2012/18/83m

“You’ll die laughing.”

Director/Writer: Conor McMahon / Writer: David O’Brien / Cast: Ross Noble, Tommy Knight, Gemma Leah Devereux, Shane Murray Corcoran, Eoghan McQuinn, Thommas Kane Byrne, Roisin Barron, Hugh Mulhern, Lorna Dempsey.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Oh, look, what a perfect pair: A dick and a c***.”


And here it is, slasher movie number 600. My therapist would have a lot to say.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. Some clowns are supremely creepy, others not. But there’s always been that sinister vibe since John Wayne Gacy moonlighted as a children’s clown while burying dead boys under his house, Tim Curry’s turn as Pennywise in IT, and then those sad ones in French circuses that are as depressing as they are unsettling.

Clowns in slasher movies aren’t necessarily a new thing; Victor Salva’s quasi-slasher flick Clownhouse had three of the bastards tormenting some kids, post-Screamie The Clown at Midnight featured a particularly stupid looking one offing teens at an old theater. And now from the unlikely shores of Ireland comes Stitches

Naff party clown Stitches appears at young Tom’s tenth birthday and suffers the slings and arrows of his guests, one of whom ties his shoelaces together, soon after causing him to lose his footing and land eye-first on an upturned knife in a dishwasher cutlery drawer – something yet to turn up in a Final Destination movie.

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Guilt-ridden, Tom discovers a funeral procession of clowns after hours, who conduct a voodoo ceremony in his honour scarring the lad for years to come, not to mention putting the wheels in motion for some deserved revenge.

Six years later, Tom’s friends cajole him into throwing a party while his mother is away. Though clearly not over what happened and popping Hynocil (!) to rid him of his daily hallucinations, Tom reluctantly agrees. In a timely fashion, Stitches is resurrected from the grave and returns to the big old adult-supervision-free house in the middle of nowhere to reap vengeance on the kids who humiliated him all those years earlier. And a poor cat.

Grisly and bloody demises soon befall those who venture off alone, including decapitation, umbrella through the eye, brain-scoop and, most memorably, a case of inflated head syndrome. It’s all executed with its tongue firmly forced into the cheek, albeit it occasionally with dodgy CG effects, but they certainly didn’t hold back on the grue and every sick moment is played out with relish. Eventually, it’s down to Tom and long-time crush Kate to stop the red-nosed fiend.

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The last time the Irish riverdanced with slice n’ dice was the miserable Shrooms and, before that, Evil Breed (a.k.a. Samhain). Comedian Ross Noble is clearly having a ball with the role, spouting enough puns to give Fred Krueger a run – clearly operating under the influence of the Springwood Slasher, complete with Tom’s meds and the whole children-hunted-by-undead-guy schtick. The teenagers fulfill their contractual stereotypes: nasty girl, horny guy, perv, camp fat-ass, emo, et cetera, efficiently enough, although the script never ventures beyond these tropes. Tom and Kate are pleasant enough leads but their doomed friends almost blur into one, like a rained-on portrait of a stock slasher movie victim.

It’s a fun film, stirring up memories of Brit-flick Tormented (which would make a great double-header) as well as Elm Street, but is as shallow as it is bloody, lacking in a few explanations where they may have helped, committing that cardinal sin of allowing the character who caused the accident to live. There’s also a confusing smorgasbord of accents at play, predominantly Irish, but I wasn’t sure where it was supposed to be set.

For some unadulterated splatstick, you can’t go wrong, and while there have been scarier clowns, few are as inventive as Stitches.

Blurb-of-interest: Gemma Leah Devereux has a teeny, tiny role in Comedown.

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