Tag Archives: death on campus

PARANOID

paranoid-copy2 Stars  2000/18/87m

“Look behind you, he might be there.”

A.k.a. Frightmare

Director/Writer: Ash Smith / Cast: Shanda Lee Besler, Shawn Wright, Summer Sloan LaPann, Brandon O’Dell, Michael Short, Denny Zartman, Tyler Thebaul.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “If a serial killer was stalking me, I think I’d know.”


I couldn’t find a good enough scan of the DVD cover so I had to draw it with Paint. That’s a bloody face and a knife instead of the ‘i’ in Paranoid. Yeah, I even drew the knife.

Anyway, let this not distract you from learning that this Australian film is an out and out Scream clone, which pretends to be be American. It begins with a girl and her parents being wasted in Sugar Hill, Georgia – “the most boring town in the world” – by a famous serial murderer known by the media as The Conscience Killer, who dresses scarily similar to the loon from Cherry Falls.

A slaughter subsequently begins after a an article about the killer is printed by budding high school journo Sarah, whose twin sister Laurie, we learn, was murdered. Yes, nothing ever happens in Sugar Hill. Four murders!? Move away, man! Move to Tazzie. Laurie had a bit of a Maureen Prescott reputation going for her. Let us stroke our chin and utter a big ‘hmmmm’…

Meanwhile, Sarah’s schoolfriends have staged a Halloween funhouse in order to raise money to send the senior class to the Cayman Islands. Why, I wasn’t sure, possibly to open a bank account. To the surprise of nobody bar the cast: the killer stalks Sarah, kills some extras and then goes for a homicidal home run on the last night of the funhouse’s operation – is it the Conscience Killer?? Is it fuck.

This roughtly demonstrates a choice scene from 'Paranoid'

A thrilling screenshot from ‘Paranoid’.

The resolution is far from satisfying and about as convincing as Arnold Schwarzenegger in drag, but apparently “no one suspected a thing!” In all fairness, the young thesps do quite well with the sub-par script but gaping plot holes claim any credibility that happened to be driving by and the score sometimes completely ceases during moments of ‘high drama’ only to return later as if nothing had happened.

But it’s just so lazy… Scream was successful everywhere so why bother trying to pass off a third generation photocopy as anything but a big pile of pants? The Gale Weathers wannabe is even called Kate Windsail!! Windsail!!?

Blurb-of-interest: Michael Short was Chet in The Greenskeeper.

SLAUGHTER HIGH

slaughterhigh1.5 Stars  1986/18/86m

“Marty majored in cutting classmates!”

Directors/Writers: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra & Peter Litten / Cast: Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore, Carmine Iannaccone, Kelly Baker, Donna Yeager, Billy Hartman, Gary Martin, Sally Cross, Josephine Scandi, Michael Saffran, John Segal.

Body Count: 12 – or not…

Dire-logue: “We’ll take my car…it starts every time.”


Another one for the filmclub de lá Final Girl

I saw this film a long, long time ago on a date. Said date frowned and shot questioning looks my way throughout, wondering if there was actually something wrong with me. Explanations that “they’re [slasher films] not all this bad, I promise!” notwithstanding, that was possibly the beginning of the end of that relationship.

Curiously, being that Slaughter High was a UK-US combo project shot in Surrey (albeit pretending to be America), it’s never been given a DVD release here and, due to the bitter memories emanating from my VHS copy, I’ve not seen it again. It took three guys to write and direct this bizarro Friday the 13th pretender, which was scored by Harry Manfredini, thereby allowing those who write things on poster art to state that it was “from the makers of” that film.

Slaughter High sports the now classic revenge opus with a clique of popular kids at Doddsville High School, led by a then 34-year-old Caroline Munro (it was apparently shot in ’84), playing pranks on cookie cutter nerd Marty Rantzen, one of which ends with him being horrifically burned by acid. Caroline is sorry, the others aren’t really.

caroline

“Let’s get physic-aaaaarrgghhh!!!”

A decade on, all ten are invited back to a bogus reunion at the now abandoned school where they are quickly locked inside and picked off by the jester-masked Marty, who does them in creatively with acid-laced beer, a pit of sludge and the usual array of axes and knives. He also manages to ensure one chick – spattered in blood – takes a bath in acid, melting off her skin in all of twenty seconds.

Grisly and gory where it counts but entirely inept in almost every other department, the characters of Slaughter High make time to stray for sex after they’ve witnessed several friends DIE! DIE! DIE! Said horny couple are electrocuted during the act, whilst another guy is crushed by the tractor he’s trying to fix (!?), which has a convenient spinning rotor on its underside…

Sooner or later, it’s down to Marty and Caroline. It climaxes slightly differently than one might expect but then there’s the twist. Jesus Wept, there’s that twist! If the inexplicable behaviour of most of the cast had you scratching your head earlier on, you’ll want to dig your fingernails through your skull and into your brain at the end proper.

As you can tell, I’m not a fan. But plenty are and the film has garnered a weird following over the years, partly due to Scuddamore’s subsequent suicide and the presence of bad-horror fixture Munro and the sometimes uncomfortable vibe the film has on parade, from seeing Marty full-frontally nude to the often sadistic deaths (deserved, I guess…), the film suffers from some of the lesser elements of British 80’s productions: grainy and drained of colour, it’s like a horror episode of Dempsey & Makepeace or a Bucks Fizz video that went askew! But they got it right with the jester mask –  it’s damn creepy.

Though it sucks, it’s kind of a crap-classic that I’ll give another spin one day should I require another date to make a quick exit…

Blurbs-of-interest: Munro and Baker both appeared in the even worse Don’t Open Til Christmas; Munro was also in Maniac and it’s sort-of sequel The Last Horror Film. And check out the pair of covers below, IMDb trivia states Cutting Class is a spin-off. Eww.

__4fds24842

HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER

halloweenh203.5 Stars

1998/18/83m

A.k.a. Halloween 7

“Blood is thicker than water.”

Director: Steve Miner / Writers: Matt Greenberg & Robert Zappia / Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, Janet Leigh, L.L. Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nancy Stephens, Beau Billingslea, Charles Durand, voice of Donald Pleasence.

Body Count: 7


Some things in life are inevitable; “death and taxes,” my dad always said. But let’s not leave out the commercial tendancy to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ so to speak, or, cash-in on a trend. In this case it was Scream. Scream, Scream, Scream wherever you looked in the horrorsphere left in the wake of Wes Craven’s let’s-state-the-obvious slasher flick. As that film featured footage from Halloween, only survivalist recluses would be fool enough not to consider a big time return to form for the first born serial slasher. Yes, Michael Myers came back!

h20-6

In Halloween H20 (oddly pronounced H-2-O like, y’know, water…), we catch up with Jamie Lee Curtis’ final girl extraordinaire Laurie Strode, who faked her death and went into hiding, ending up as the head teacher at an exclusive prep school in California, miiiiiiiles away from Haddonfield. Unbeknownst to Laurie – masquerading under the name Keri Tate – the late Doc Loomis’ house has been ransacked, his faithful nurse and a couple of unlucky neighbours murdered and Laurie’s whereabouts discovered. Roll titles.

h20-1

While we reacquaint ourselves with Laurie/Keri, learn that she’s an alcoholic with a rebellious seventeen-year-old in Josh Hartnett, Michael drives across country in time for a Halloween reunion, complete with kitchen knife, boiler suit and freaky white mask. On the day itself, Hartnett and a trio of friends hide out in school for a private party that is, of course, crashed by Mike, who chases the survivors in Laurie’s direction for the ultimate showdown when she opts to stay behind and kill big brother once and for all, doing a neat 360 on Laurie’s mousy run-and-hide attitude from twenty years earlier.

h20-2

H20 was intended to be the last word on the subject and so ends with one of the most satisfactory resolves in the history of a genre infamous for loopholes and get-out clauses to allow for possible franchising opportunities. Effective as it was, watching it back now in the knowledge that we were cheated to satisfy the ridiculous concept used in Halloween: Resurrection four years later is frown-inducing to say the least. This, along with the script’s choice to ignore the story arc created in films 4-6, makes for a bit of a redundancy on H20‘s part, it’s rendered nothing but a handsome distraction. And that’s a little insulting to longterm fans of the series, who’ve invested in the unfolding saga of Myers tracking down and killing all his relatives only for it to be closed off, denied and then reverted to cut n’ dried slasher shenanigans in the next film.

h20-5

Nevertheless there’s much to enjoy here; Curtis is on fine form as Laurie, while almost nothing like her former self, she’s tough when the chips are down and really gives Michael a taste of his own medicine during the climactic one-on-one smackdown. Her supporting cast are good too, with Arkin amusing but underused as her lover, Michelle Williams – fresh from Dawson’s Creek at the time – as Hartnett’s girlfriend and even LL Cool J manages to squeeze some likeabilty out of his standardly foredoomed security guard character. Curtis’ mom, Janet Leigh, also turns up for a great cameo as a secretary, complete with her original Psycho car and hints of its theme as she requests of Laurie that she “be maternal” for a moment…

h20-3

There are some decent back-to-basics terror sequences on show, with Michael leering through windows in the background and spooking lost teens around the deserted school. This is only tripped up by a shrunken body count, which could have used another couple of disposable teens to add gravitas to Michael’s killing ‘spree’ at the academy. Things are amped when Hartnett and Williams flee from Michael and find themselves locked in gated vestibule, being slashed at through the bars.

h20-4

The film, based on a draft by Kevin Williamson, who was involved in almost all the slasher flicks of the period (and is credited as co-executive producer here), is positively littered with references to former films in lines of dialogue, musical quips (Carpenter’s theme still plink-plonks along nicely when called for) and visual motifs, all of which make H20 an enjoyable experience, even if it was made irrelevant soon after, indicating it sold out for a slice of the Scream pie. A solid sequel, not as honestly enjoyable as Halloween 4 and possibly Halloween 6 but one of the better entries in a great series.

h20-7

Blurbs-of-interest: O’Keefe played the sex-crazed killer of Teacher’s Pet; LL Cool J was in Mindhunters; Nancy Stephens was reprising her role from the first two Halloween films; director Miner helmed the first two Friday the 13th sequels.

ALL-AMERICAN MURDER

allamerican4 Stars  1991/18/90m

“He’s about to enter a jungle of sex, sleaze and murder… He’s going to college.”

Director/Writer: Anson Williams / Cast: Charlie Schlatter, Christopher Walken, Josie Bissett, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Kind, Woody Watson, Amy Davis, Mitchell Anderson, Craig Stout, J.C. Quinn.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “I’ll be history before my next history class.”


Rebellious back-chatter Schlatter (cool, huh?) – Artie – is given ‘one last chance’ by his Judge dad to make something of himself and is sent to the prestigious, depressingly clean-cut Fairfield College where he falls for loved-by-all sorority chick Tally. When she is incinerated before his very eyes, suspicion immediately comes knocking at his door in the shape of Christopher Walken’s detective. Not working in Artie’s favour is a history of pyromaniacally-themed incidents of yore.

Walken gives Artie 24 hours to find the real killer before the murder is pinned on him. As the minutes tick by, it transpires that perhaps Tally wasn’t the god-fearing, picture perfect daughter-of-a-senator she was seen to be by everyone on campus. And those people who knew valuable information about her that might just clear Artie’s name find themselves power-drilled, bitten by snakes or blown apart by the old grenade-down-the-pants.

TV director Williams (who played ‘Potsie’ in Happy Days) pieces together a light-hearted mystery with charisma and flair, helped no end by Schlatter’s amusing turn as the put-upon protag, he delivers a succession of witty one-liners while Walken personifies cool as the laidback cop, Decker. Further support comes in good form from Richard Kind (my favourite character from Spin City) as an envious colleague of Decker’s, Joanna Cassidy as the Dean’s horny wife who spends her time seducing the male students and Mitchell Anderson as a smarmy jock.

Genre addicts should have no trouble establishing the identity of the killer by the finale, but it’s still a very satisfying conclusion to a strangely seldom seen and under-appreciated mystery thriller.

Blurb-of-interest: Mitchell Anderson was in Deadly Dreams; Josie Bissett was in Mikey.

#500

sorority-row-fb-poster2SORORITY ROW

3.5 Stars  2009/15/101m

“Sisters for life…and death.”

Director: Stewart Hendler / Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger & Mark Rosman (original screenplay) / Cast: Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Margo Harshman, Carrie Fisher, Julian Morris, Caroline D’Amore, Matt Lanter, Maxx Hennard, Audrina Patridge, Matt O’Leary.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “You make being a bitch an art form.”


My celebrated 500th slasher flick! Yay or nay? Perhaps a dash of both.

The dreaded R word crops up again in a case of yet another early 80’s pseudo-cult-classic being – ugh, I even hate typing it – “re-imagined”, “re-tooled”, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Actually, I’m not so fazed by them, anything that draws attention to the (usually) superior originals is positive. 1982’s House On Sorority Row is a fairly elusive member of the slasher alumni, one directed with both care and flair by Mark Rosman (who signs on as Exec Producer here), it was another of the moral-dilemma slasher pics from the era, or as everyone on the internet seems to think of them now, films in the I Know What You Did Last Summer mould. ‘Tis true that many-a-film have featured the not-so-secret secret characteristic at their core and it’s a form I quite like, opening up lots of potential for realistic characters and their respective reactions that give us good insight into their persona.

Sorority Row, as it’s now called, is a remake only in that it follows this same basic guideline. The girls of the Theta Pi Sorority are out to teach Megan’s straying boyfriend Garrett a lesson and trick him into thinking she’s died after he slipped her a few roofies given to him by substance-abusing big sis Chugs. President Jessica takes Garrett, supposedly dead Megan, and four other girls away from the house on the promise of taking her to hospital when they take a ‘wrong turn’ and end up at an old mine where a freaked-out Garrett impales her with a tire iron after they discuss the best means to ensure the body doesn’t float.

shaft

With a real body at their feet, the girls (and boy) bicker over what to do. Fortuitously, there is no cell phone reception and a nearby deep mine shaft. Only nominal nice girl Cassidy makes a real case for going to the cops but is out-voted, while nervy smart girl Ellie (we know she’s smart because she’s shy and wears oversized specs) is too broken up to have a say. Jessica convinces them to toss the body down the mine and forget about it. However, it’s nice that, for once, it’s mentioned that they will have to life with the dreadful secret for the rest of their lives.

Eight months later, the girls graduate and prepare to vacate Theta Pi to the tune of a hooj see-ya-later party. Spirits are soon lowered by the arrival of text messages that show the now ‘pimped-up’ tire iron in someone’s grasp. It’s a hell of a lot sharper… The girls assume Garrett is behind it and distract themselves with preparing for their party while a cloaked maniac begins a merry quest to set right their wrong. Could it be Megan’s sister, who’s just turned up out of the blue and wants to pledge? One of the girls themselves, wrecked by guilt? Megan risen from the grave?

sororityrowpr

After a few introductory murders, which are not limited to those involved in the prank, the killer baits the remaining girls with further text threats until only they and a sprinkling of others remain at the sorority house, post-party for the home run. It’s this final third where Sorority Row starts to sink under its own weight. The mystery element, up until now, has been engaging, the murders fun without being too grisly and Jessica’s never ending witty retorts and lack of sympathy for anybody else have been continually amusing. There are a few totally unsubtle changes, Carrie Fisher going all Ma Barker with a shotgun and a bizarrely realised threat in the form of another party ‘in the know’ who may or may not be the killer…

Memories of the ill-conceived Black Christmas remake flood back towards the end, which also takes a stroll down Slumber Party Massacre lane towards the flat climax and a not-so-clear “twist” prit-sticked on to the very end. It’s a shame as things were going so well up until the regrouping at the mine, where it becomes clear that perhaps Sorority Row isn’t the straight-faced slasher flick it looked like it was going to be. Case in point: there are certain characters we want to die with an added dose of cruelty because of their abhorrent nature, instead, said individuals are done away with far too quickly and…comically? What’s that about? Where’s the long, harrowing chase before the fatal blow? There are a few too many gags once the killer is unmasked, their exposition pretty feeble and unconvincing – but when did these guys ever play with a full deck, eh?

Ultimately a confusing one, not least because of mixed intentions, but enough merit to engage for the running time, well written dialogue (although most of it belongs to something like Jawbreaker) and a cast of semi-familiar faces to horror fans, plus a good central figure in Evigan’s take on Cassidy and Pipes is great as super-bitch Jessica. Sorority Row is one of those films that probably needs a twice-over to make sure you totally understood where it was taking you. It graduates, but sadly without honours.

sororityrow

Blurbs-of-interest: Leah Pipes was the heroine in Fingerprints; as was Margo Harshman in Simon Says. Julian Morris was in Cry_Wolf. Carrie Fisher had a cameo in Scream 3.

1 15 16 17 18 19 20