Tag Archives: death on campus

Lyin’ on a prayer

cry wolf 2005 dvd

CRY_WOLF

2 Stars  2005/12/87m

“BeLIEve.”

Director/Writer: Jeff Wadlow / Writer: Beau Bauman / Cast: Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi, Kristy Wu, Sandra McCoy, Paul James, Jesse Janzen, Gary Cole.

Body Count: 2

Laughter Lines: “Tonight you could’ve gotten laid, but instead you got fucked.”


As usual, a young blonde woman runs through the woods at night, heaving in her breaths, a flashlight behind indicating her hunter isn’t far behind. She hides, the mystery maniac loiters, produces a cellphone and calls ‘Becky’. The victim’s phone rings, revealing her whereabouts to the killer. Gunshot.

Like so many other teen horror films of this era, an aerial shot of autumnal trees reveals a posh looking, secluded school: Westlake Prep. Here, we’re introduced to Owen Matthews, a British transfer student. His first encounter is with doll-like flame-haired Dodger Allen, and later inducted into her group of friends, who meet after hours in the school’s chapel to play a game centred around lying: Who can be the most deceptive. This is Cry_Wolf‘s main thing – deception. Spoilers ensue.

cry_wolf 2005

Infatuated with Dodger from the off, Owen and she concoct a newer, better version of their game, selling a big lie to the entire faculty for the lolz. Remember 2000 campus thriller Gossip? Yeah, it’s that all over again but with knives.

Owen, Dodger, and the others invent a campus-cruising psycho called The Wolf, who wears a camo jacket and orange ski-mask, and slashes up students around Halloween. Tying it to the disappearance of the girl from the beginning only helps create an atmosphere of paranoia across the campus. Media teacher Jon Bon Jovi – yes, really – sees through the ruse and cautions serial-school-changer Owen about his behaviour.

cry_wolf 2005

A mystery game player begins sending IMs to Owen, claiming to be the actual killer, and threatens the group, his room in tossed, there’s a stranger following him and Dodger in the library, someone deposits a knife in his bag that tumbles out during class… Who is doing it? Why, etc…

Needless to say, somebody dressed in the camo and ski-mask clobber starts offing those in on the joke in the precise scenarios they dreamt up when they created their work of fiction.

cry_wolf 2005

Cry_Wolf is one of those films that thinks it’s way smarter than it actually is: Some moderate fanfare surrounded its US release that it packed an amazing twist. Well, it doesn’t. Nobody is dead beyond the girl from the start and Bon Jovi, who is Owen’s main suspect and, it turns out, the apparent slayer of woods-girl. The rest is written off as a joke on the new boy.

As it happens, Dodger has manipulated eeeeeverybody to cover up the fact that she is the killer, insanely jealous of an affair between woods-girl and Bon Jovi, she went the long way round to fool Owen into killing him. The rest of the story, The Wolf, the others being in on the gag, is all by the by.

cry_wolf 2005

So it’s ultimately one big lie of a slasher film, not a slasher film at all, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Hey, does that make it über smart? No, it makes it über fake and thus über annoying. At least April Fool’s Day was able to trade on likeable characters, not obnoxious, schemey teens who all seem to hate each other. There’s nobody really to root for: Owen’s not particularly sympathetic and drools after Dodger like a lovestruck puppy, while she is textbook bitchy girl material, and the others fulfil various SBC-101 roles with little to add.

Nicely made and casting a British lead was brave, but the amount of contrivances required for the idea to float is ridiculous to the point it makes Brenda’s big plan from Urban Legend look totally doable.

cry_wolf 2005

Blurbs-of-interest: Julian Morris was also in Sorority Row; Lindy Booth was in Wrong Turn and American Psycho II; Jared Padalecki was in House of Wax and the Friday the 13th reboot; Gary Cole was in The Town That Dreaded Sundown (remake-quel thingy).

Let’s go round again

happy death day 2017

HAPPY DEATH DAY

3 Stars  2017/15/96m

Get up. Live your day. Get killed. Again.”

Director: Christopher Landon / Writer: Scott Lobdell / Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken, Caleb Spillyards, Blaine Kern III, Rob Mello.

Body Count: 8… kinda


It would be impossible to forego mentioning Groundhog Day in the same breath as Happy Death Day - ostensibly the same idea, but staple-gunned to a slasher-lite opus.

This film provided a rare opportunity for me to go to a horror movie with VeVo’s lover, who is largely against bloody violence for entertainment, but hates Bill Murray to the point where they could use this film to project those feelings on to and imagine it was him being murdered over and over again…

At Bayfield College, self-centered sorority girl Tree (short for Teresa) wakes up hungover in the dorm room of sweet-natured Carter, grabs her clothes and a Tylenol, and is outta there. She walks by a girl trying to sign her up for an environmental campaign, sprinklers soaking a couple, a frat boy keeling over, a needy ex, and gets home to her sorority, where the bitchy house president Danielle is quippy with her, and finally rejects her nice roommate’s attempt to give her a birthday cupcake.

happy death day 2017

Tree goes through her day, classes, getting naughty with her professor, and then heads off for a frat party. Alone. Down dark areas of the campus. In a short tunnel, Tree encounters a creepy music box playing ‘Happy Birthday’ and is attacked and killed by a loon in a baby-faced mask that matches the school mascot.

Then she wakes up in the dorm bed. As most of us probably would, Tree stumbles through the day writing it all off as deja vu. This time, she sees the music box and goes the other way, making it to the frat house, where it turns out the party is a surprise for her birthday and, this time, ventures off upstairs with a guy, who is murdered before she is attacked a second time and killed with a shattered bong.

happy death day 2017 jessica rothe

Then she wakes up again. And again. And again. Tree is knifed, struck with a baseball bat, drowned, and hit by a bus as she tries to work out who it is who’s after her and why. With Carter’s help – after she’s convinced him each morning – Tree knocks names off the list of suspects and goes about making reparations to her unruly life, reconnecting with her estranged Dad, apologising to her suffering roommate, and ending the affair with her teacher.

But who is trying to kill her and why? Happy Death Day‘s eventual revelation is a tad contrived, but at the same time I didn’t guess it correctly, so perhaps I’m just being picky. It helps that Tree’s resurrections aren’t unlimited – each time she wakes up she’s weaker than yesterday, so the clock is ticking on solving the mystery before she’s gone for good.

happy death day 2017 jessica rothe

While almost entirely bloodless (it was a PG-13 Stateside), what murders there are besides Tree’s happen mostly to schmucks who get in the way of the killer and are undone each new dawn, resulting in a ‘real’ murder count of, well, none. It’s still a slasher film of sorts, in the same way April Fool’s Day is, despite not being… kinda?

Katie Cassidy-a-like Rothe is great in the lead role – balancing comic timing with final girl aplomb and going from nasty victim-type to appreciative heroine over the runtime. Rachel Matthews as bitchy Danielle is also a hoot and gets most of the best lines.

happy death day 2017 jessica rothe

A fun diversion, checking most the boxes Camp Daze failed to, and a surprising box office success that will hopefully trailblaze the way for some more theatrical slasher flicks, although whether audiences will embrace straight-up stalk n’ slash over this kind of concept remains to be seen.

Morality, Mistruths, and Military School

Day Two: I reviewed Child’s Play 2 some while ago, so it’s a hop, skip, and a jump (unless you’re three-feet-two, Chuck) on to the one that got blamed for a few things, Part 3…

 

child's play 3 1992CHILD’S PLAY 3

3 Stars  1991/18/86m

“Look Who’s Stalking!”

Director: Jack Bender / Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Travis Fine, Dean Jacobson, Dakin Matthews, Andrew Robinson, Peter Haskell, Brad Dourif.

Body Count: 8


Just as the folks at Camp Crystal Lake never learned and keep re-opening the joint, so the Good Guys toy manufacturer fails to learn from all the deaths linked to their product and keep resurrecting it.

Some of Chucky’s blood from the molten plastic heap he ended up as at the end of CP2 leaks into the production of a new batch and thus gives him a new body. He celebrates by tormenting and killing the CEO of the company, after he brands consumers idiots.

Eight years have passed and Chucky uses a computer to track down Andy’s whereabouts (he does this in about 16 seconds despite eight years of software upgrades), discovering he’s been packed off to the Kent Military Academy.

child's play 3 1991 justin whalin

Naturally, Chucky appears soon after but instead of being unwrapped by Andy, he’s picked up by pre-teen cadet Tyler, who, under the new-body rules, is now the target of Hide the Soul. Andy’s attempts to stop Chucky rile bullying Colonel Shelton, but draw the affections of fearless female cadet DeSilva (watch her awesome hair shake-out as the sadistic barber happens by).

So it’s death by garbage compactor, grenade, and terror-induced heart attack until the ghost train finale, which seems a bit contrived, even by the standards of this series. Creator Don Mancini was allegedly pushed into writing this outing without much preparation time and considers it the least impressive of the lot, which is a fair summary.

child's play 3 1991

Now, the film’s bizarre legacy has gained more notoriety than the picture itself: When two 10-year-old boys abducted and murdered a two-year-old in the early 90s, Britain’s infamously shitty tabloid press decided not to question parenting or social issues that led to the crime, no, they pointed the finger squarely at horror movies, in particular this one, which had been rented by the stepfather of one of the boys some months prior.

the mirror child's play 3 banned

Complete bullshit. Nothing was banned.

Never mind the fact neither of them had seen it, or that none of its content tallied with the crime, it was evil and must be banned, said the likes of The Sun and The Daily Mail, unquestionably THE worst newspapers in the history of print media. One paper even tried to encourage people to burn their horror video cassettes in a sad echo of the 80s ‘Video Nasty’ bollocks, and The Mirror praised itself for ‘banning’ Child’s Play 3 on its own front page – about the only time Chucky will get that accolade.

Coinciding with this but hardly reported on at the time, a teenage girl tortured and murdered was played a sample of Chucky’s infamous ‘wanna play’ utterance at full volume by a group of scutty assholes who killed her over a stolen coat!

As with these papers and their ilk, it was all lies. The film was not banned, it was simply withdrawn by the distributor CIC, the knock-on effect of which was that incoming psycho-child flick Mikey was refused a BBFC certificate. Nothing banned, nothing achieved by hack right-wing morality play journalists. The film reappeared within a few years, notably sporting an 18 certificate instead of the 15 granted to the first two movies.

Homicidal cockwombles will always exist and moral guardian tabloid wannabes will always find a sub-cultural scapegoat, be it horror movies, video games, or Marilyn Manson tracks, but never their own media moguls who exploit tax loopholes and lie to the masses in order to save more money. Nope, never them.

child's play 3 1991

All this drama aside, it’s probably the least fun entry in the series, but a moderately enjoyable hour-and-a-half nonetheless and the military school setting is good, if not used to its full potential. And fuck you, tabloid liars.

Sexyvil

american psycho 2 all american girl mila kunis 2002

AMERICAN PSYCHO II: ALL AMERICAN GIRL

2 Stars  2002/18/85m

“Angrier. Deadlier. Sexier.”

Director: Morgan J. Freeman / Writers: Alex Sanger & Karen Craig / Cast: Mila Kunis, William Shatner, Geraint Wyn-Davies, Lindy Booth, Robin Dunne, Charles Officer.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “I’ll make sure to get you home in time for Murder She Wrote.”


Burgeoning starlet Mila Kunis is apparently not fond of her involvement in this bizarre sequel to Mary Harron’s adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel. Where that film examined the vicious world of capitalism, where male swagger competing eventually spills over into serial murder, AS2 is a straight up slasher flick.

Kunis is college freshman Rachael, whose babysitter took her along on a date with psycho killer Patrick Bateman and became his last victim before Rachael stabbed him dead with an ice pick. Undetected in this incident, Rachael successfully gets on to a criminal profiling course run by ex-FBI officer Robert Starkman (Shatner) whose one career black spot is the Bateman case.

In the week before Spring Break, Starkman is set to elect a teaching assistant for the following semester, and there’s no task Rachael won’t undertake to ensure she gets the job, which will lead her to her destiny – FBI training at Quantico. Firstly, her goal entails offing the three most likely contenders: Rich boy Brian, roommate Cassandra, and brainy Keith. Matters are further complicated by her interfering shrink who, after one session, diagnoses her as a ‘textbook sociopath’ and Rachael finds herself killing excess individuals to get her own way.

Sanger and Craig’s script shares more in common with the likes of Ripper: Letter From Hell and obsessed-femme-stalker sequel Teacher’s Pet than its predecessor. Kunis is a good soap opera style bad girl, but her narration of events severely tugs at the rug of credibility, and without the killings this would play more like an episode of Clarissa Explains It All than a serial-slasher pic.

Handsome production values go some way to distracting the viewer from what is really a wafer thin cash-in, probably rewritten to awkwardly tie in with the Bateman plot in order to get the greenlight. Still, seeing William Shatner traumatised is good for a laugh.

Blurbs-of-interest: Shatner was in Visiting Hours back in 1981; Lindy Booth was in Wrong Turn and the lead role in Cry_Wolf; Robin Dunne was in Scarecrow.

 

Head Girl

night school 1980

NIGHT SCHOOL

3 Stars  1980/18/85m

“A is for Apple, B is for Bed, C is for Co-Ed, D is for Dead, F is for failing to keep your head.”

A.k.a. Terror Eyes

Director: Kenneth Hughes / Writer: Ruth Avergon / Cast: Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Nicholas Cairis, Karen MacDonald, Elizabeth Barnitz, Annette Miller, Holly Hardman.

Body Count: 6


With only viable suspects, you won’t have to do much thinking to work out who is beneath a black motorcycle helmet beheading girls around Boston with a rather unique, boomerang-shaped blade. Although, a slow-witted peeping Tom is thrown into the mix to try and sway suspicion away from the real killer.

Nicely put-together from the director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with lush photography, but it never really settles into itself – is it a police thriller or a slasher pic?

Either way, accusations of misogyny could be quite fairly levelled at this one, despite having a female scribe, the eventual motive does little to defuse the women-are-nothing-more-than-vacuous-victims subtext.

night school 1980

Splatter wise, there’s a fair serving of blood for kitty to lap up, but it’s nowhere near as explicit as its residency on the Video Nasty list would have you believe: The killer leaves the decapitated heads submerged in buckets, aquariums, and kitchen sinks, but the gore is no less sloppy and amateur than a zillion other, cheaper flicks.

Rachel Ward probably looks back on his with the half the embarrassment she’d feel over The Final Terror, another title which, like this, isn’t particularly appropriate, as the school is hardly relevant. The Childcatcher is still way scarier.

Blurb-of-interest: Leonard Mann was later in Silent Night Deadly Night III.

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