Tag Archives: Euro-horror

I Know What You Did 100 Summers Ago. In Sweden.

drowning ghost strandvaskarenDROWNING GHOST

2 Stars  2004/100m

A.k.a. Strandvaskaren (Swedish title)

Director/Writer: Mikael Hafstrom / Writer: Vada / Cast: Rebecka Hemse, Peter Eggers, Jenny Ulving, Jesper Salen, Daniel Larsson, Rebecka Ferguson, Frans Wiklund, Anders Ekborg, Kerstin Steinbach, Kjell Bergqvist.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Three pupils were murdered a hundred years ago. We must celebrate that.”


Sweden is famous for a lot of awesome things: meatballs, Ikea, exquisite songwriting, winning Eurovision, high taxes, beautiful Nordic people…

In recent years, Sweden has become known for its gritty, slick thrillers, on TV or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, most of which revel in the dim light, stoic expressions, and a sense of melancholy.

One would be forgiven for thinking this would transfer well to the horror movie industry, much like neighbouring Norway, with the no-less-than-excellent Cold Prey series. Sadly, Drowning Ghost retains only the good look of a typical Scando-production, and is otherwise terminally dull.

Set against the backdrop of life at the exclusive Hellestad boarding school, where, one year on from the suicide of a lonely female student, a killer begins stalking and doing away with a group of over-aged students. Or could it have something to do with the hundred-year-old legend of a local farmer who slaughtered a trio of boys before drowning himself in a nearby lake? The school is home to a traditional annual celebration of the event, when the ghost of the farmer is rumoured to walk the halls…

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Studious Sara is researching the tale and uncovers factors that may connect the killings to one of the Hellestad board members’ ancestors, much to the vexation of the haughty headmistress. Sara subsequently becomes the target of practical jokes and pranks carried out by said board member’s son, with whom she was previously involved.

The identity of the sack-masked killer isn’t immediately obvious, but the film builds up little that will make you care anyway. For all the fancy camerawork, score, and overlapping plotlines, there’s really not much going on here at all.

The body count is low and many of the killing off-camera, and the only ghost that bothers to show up is one of dead expectations.

Arguably, drowning might be a more engaging experience than sitting through this exercise in tedium.

Blurb-of-interest: Rebecka Ferguson (the unquestionably stunning girlfriend of the nasty guy) went on to star in one of the Mission: Impossible sequels.

Pop Eye.

eyeball-1975EYEBALL

3 Stars  1975/89m

“A blinding vision of horror.”

A.k.a. The Secret Killer

Director: Umberto Lenzi / Writer: Felix Tusell / Cast: Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini, Andrés Mejuto, Mirta Miller, Daniele Vargas, George Rigaud, Silvia Solar, José Maria Blanco, Marta May, John Bartha, Verónica Miriel.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Are you saying the killer’s a sadist?” / “I wouldn’t rule it out.”


That this film begins with a tour guide saying: “Coming up on the left now is Barcelona’s bullfighting arena,” when it’s on the right sets things up awesomely.

Fun little giallo shot on location in and around Barcelona (where I’ve spent a majority of the last year) where a bus chock full of American tourists provides a victim pool for an eye-gouging killer who favours plucking peepers from various nubile young girls. Beware a few minor SPOILERS.

I’m not particularly well-versed in giallo classics, but I’ve seen enough to spot the standard hallmarks in play: Mystery glove-wearing killer, many-a fast zoom into character’s faces as something suspicious is said, “Americans” with Euro-accents, amusing translations and clunky dubbing.

*sigh* I miss the 70s... Oh wait, I wasn't there.

*sigh* I miss the 70s… Oh wait, I wasn’t there.

Being a pre-American slasher product, Eyeball nevertheless presents itself with more than a few 80s teenie-kill aesthetics: There are POV shots as the killer floats towards his next unsuspecting victim, boobs-a-plenty, and a short but sweet final girl sequence – with, shock, a black final girl!

So, Paulette is on the tour and her boss/lover Mark, has run out on his disturbed wife to catch up and romance the hell out of Paulette. This is scuppered by the onset of the killings – first a local girl at La Ramblas, then one of the tour group is murdered on a ghost train, a waitress at a bar they all visit is dispatched while she feeds the pigs (!), and so on.

Naturally, all the men are suspects and it’s down to retirement-nearing Inspector Tudela and his young successor to solve the case before he embarks on a life of trout fishing. Fun. Aside from Mark, there’s a creepy Reverend, the boring husband of a restless wife, a cigar-chomping Texan, and the pervy tour guide, who likes to prank the young girls with his array of crappy fake spiders and rodents. Each of them is afforded more than a handful of the zooms-of-suspicion at one point. Even Jessica Fletcher would be dumbfounded by the sheer number of potential loons on this vacation.

eyeball2Spain is presented in lush colours and inimitable 70s fashion choices, which lends the film a pleasantly diverting quality, as if you’re taking a holiday from the same-old American slasher film conventions.

Nothing really lets Eyeball down, it just suffers from the ridiculousness that haunts the whole sub-genre, with a motive so whacky I had to re-watch the ensure I’d actually not misunderstood it.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual: The females are all super hot and super killed, while the only male victim is old and creasy-faced, and killed off-camera. The men can be slimy, sleazy, and annoying but still survive intact, which is a general motif in most Italian body-count horror.

There’s a curiously long exchange about mud on footwear: “It’s elementary, as I’m sure you’re aware that simple walking can get a pair of shoes quite dirty.” There are eyes in a box, daggers conveniently monogrammed with the initials of a suspect, secret photographers and rolls of film with aaaaall the answers. Eyeball has it all. You won’t be bored.

eyeball1Blurbs-of-interest: Brochard and Richardson were reunited in 1981’s Fear; Umberto Lenzi later directed Welcome to Spring Break and also the unsettlingly creepy Ghosthouse.

The Blood Baths

pooldvdTHE POOL

3.5 Stars  2001/15/92m

“Evil has surfaced.”

A.k.a. Swimming Pool: Der Tod Felert Mit

Director/Writer: Boris von Sychowski / Writers: Lorenz Stassen & Ryan Carrassi / Cast: Kristen Miller, Elena Uhlig, Thorsten Grasshoff, John Hopkins, James McAvoy, Jason Liggett, Jonah Lotan, Isla Fisher, Cordelia Bugeja, Maximilian Grill, Lynda Rybová, Bryan Carney.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “Forget it, Frank, I’d put an end to your sex life before it even got started.”


Beware! Spoilers ahead.

The triangular formation of pretty young faces tells us where the influence for this collaborative European venture hails from. The Pool even starts with the old girl-tormented-in-house routine, as a planned dinner date is crashed by a skull-masked machete-swinging schizo.

At the International Highschool of Prague, exams wrap up and everyone wants to party, which is the big thing for rich, popular man-about-campus Gregor, who is renowned for his amazing secret after-parties. Obv heroine/American Sarah is smart and nice, everyone’s friend blah blah blah, while her German BFF, Carmen, is the promiscuous siren. There’s also Scottish bloke, British bloke, American bloke, German bloke, Australian girl, Czech girl, and girl-whose-accent-I-couldn’t-place.

pool7Scottish bloke and Australian girl are boyfriend/girlfriend, and also happen to be played by bona fide Hollywood A-listers to be James McAvoy and Isla Fisher. No big name should go without having been in a teen horror film before hitting the big time. It’s law. Anyway, She’s screwed up her final and is a bad mood, which lends well to her storming off and being the next one to meet Mr Skullface, who stalks her through the woods in an effectively pumped chase scene.

After the official school graduation ball thingy, the gang meet up and Gregor leads them convoy style to a pool complex outside the city. Swimsuits are provided, nobody knows they’re there, and they successfully jimmy their way into the bar. Awesome times ahead.

Well, awesome times would be ahead were it not for one of the group having stopped taking their meds, slaughtering his own stepsister, and is now among them at the party. But who, who? A grumpy detective in on the case, but he inexplicably speaks English to his Czech colleagues and says “damn kids” a lot. He’ll be useful.

pool1Sarah doesn’t swim and she doesn’t talk about it. Although later, when the issue is forced, her big secret warrants a one-line exposition of “oh… is that it?” gravitas. She lets the others have fun, flirt, pair off, la de da…

Up next is the infamous waterslide murder. An inventive set piece I’m sure we’ve all worried about at one time or another while sliding down the inside of a plastic tube towards God-knows-what. What if there’s crap in the splash pool? Or a dead body? *gasp* what is something sharp penetrated the floor of the slide!? See the results in this old Icky Way To Go. Ouch.

The murders are discovered and the group find that they are locked inside. Spitting into two groups, as numbers deplete, Sarah’s friends try to convince her that Gregor (elsewhere) is the most likely suspect. He brought them there. He made loads of suspicious statements earlier. One half of the group attempts to escape through the venting system, only for the killer to start piercing it with the machete.

pool2By this point it’s fairly obvious who the killer is, and it was a bit of a ‘that old chestnut’ situation as it’s revealed to be – yawn – the British guy, but the actor does a fine job of camping it up as he goes head to head with hydrophobic Sarah.

One distinguishing feature of The Pool is that not everyone else dies, there’s quite a number left intact by the time the credits roll. It’s helpful, as it offsets the weight on Kristen Miller’s shoulders, as she’s something of a cookie-cutter final girl, all deep trauma and niceties. Normally, the promiscuous girl who, it turns out, bedded Sarah’s boyfriend, would be sliced in no time, but she actually ends up saving the day here.

pool4The refresher comes from the cross section of accents and looks; the film was initially going to be a German-language homegrown production (evidenced by three of the five surviving characters being German), but cottoned on to the global market well enough, is produced with enough gloss to rank well as one of many Scream knock-offs, and doesn’t shy away from the bloodletting in favour of laughs. One eyebrow-raiser is the “advanced age” of several of these “teens” – some of them look like they should be thinking about retirement rather than graduation.

A fun diversion, aided abundantly by Prague’s beautiful scenery, and some ambitious ideas. The sort-of sequel is merely a re-edited Do You Wanna Know a Secret? with some new scenes tossed into the salad. As there’s no way in hell I’ll ever subject myself to that film again, I’ve not exposed myself to it.

Take a dip.

Blurb-of-interest: Miller was the bitchy girl, Cindy, in Cherry Falls.

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Where Tin Tin fears to tread

welp2

CUB

3 Stars  2014/84m

A.k.a. Welp / Camp Evil

Director/Writer: Jonas Govaerts / Writer: Roel Mondelaers / Cast: Maurcie Luijten, Evelien Bosmans, Titus De Voogdt, Stef Aerts, Jan Hammenecker, Gill Eeckelaert, Louis Lemmens.

Body Count: 17


The surface of this crowd-funded Belgian campers-in-the-woods horror may scream Friday the 13th at the top of its lungs, but the comparable text pretty much ends there. Europe has kicked ass creating quality slasher films for some time now, subverting standardized clichés and presenting things in a divertingly multicultural light.

Disappointingly, Cub doesn’t quite live up to the standards of, say, Haute Tension or Cold Prey, and the viewing arc followed the saddening Starts-Amazing-and-Gradually-Loses-its-Way trajectory.

Still, there’s a lot to like in this tale of a pack of boy scouts from Antwerp, their three pack leaders (including obligatory hot blonde girl, Jasmijn), whose jamboree into the wilderness plants them in the centre of a nightmare, when their nominated site is unavailable to them, thanks to a couple of jerks with a quad-buggy, and they have to go further into the creepy woods.

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An exchange with a rotund cop informs us that a nearby bus factory closed down, suicides followed, and the locals are superstitious of the woods. Add to this the legend of Kai, the Werewolf Boy told by the Akela, and suggestible, possibly-traumatised outcast Sam eats it up.

Of course, the legend is true. Sort of. A wood-masked feral child is indeed lurking, stealing things from the camp, and a handful of murders ensue: The fat cop vanishes, and one of the buggy-jerks runs into a Goonies-style trap that ultimately pins a beehive into his torso and his torso into a tree. Cool.

The final third of the film gradually deteriorates as the tidbits we’ve been thrown about what’s in the woods is kept too ambiguous to comprehend, and a twist that can be seen coming through the trees some way off, recalling the rather stupid sudden-change-of-allegiance resolution in Texas Chainsaw 3D.

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But the film is particularly nicely shot, well acted, and has plenty of neat moments, with demises by rustic sub-Saw traps, and the balls to go after the boy scouts, which most films would shy away from, but it never seems to really reach its full potential, giving away a particularly decent moment in the prologue that should’ve been saved to the end.

For a change from the usual cowgirl slasher conventions, Cub is a worthwhile one-time venture.

Die mittelmäßigen film

SCHOOL’S OUT

2.5 Stars  1999/94m

“This class is dying to graduate.”

Director: Robert Sigl / Writer: Kal Meyer / Cast: Katharina Wackernagel, Niels Bruno Schmidt, Marlene Meyer-Dunker, Nils Nellessen, Rita Lengyel, Urs Remond, Sandra Leonhard, Enie van de Maiglockjes, Raphael Vogt.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Wine in a plastic class is like a blowjob with a condom.”


The native title of this German made-for-TV stalker flick translates as Scream! For I Will Kill You!, which clues us in on where many of its ideas came from.

At their high school graduation party, a quintet of teen friends concoct some spider-themed pranks for their teachers as a sort of final goodbye treat for themselves. Nina and Tom are having relationship troubles; Anne is worried she may have contracted AIDS, and Philip and Eva just want to party! But what happened to Jessica? Why didn’t she ever turn up? Could it have something to do with the escape of a psychopathic killer from an institution eleven years after he stabbed several women with a huge pair of scissors… Scissors very similar to the pair Eva bought along with her to aid the group’s prank setup?

Before long, the kids are being stalked and skewered by a masked maniac in a harlequin costume, replete with requisite snippers. The first hour of this slickly pieced-together number is involving and nostalgic for early 80s campus slashers. However, once good-girl Nina is safe and sound in the arms of her detective uncle, the wheels begin to work loose as she and fellow survivor Philip try to suss out what really happened, a curiosity which takes them back to school and forces them into a deadly confrontation.

While its TV origins may be responsible for the tame quotient of grue, School’s Out is still better than many American features that have gotten wider international exposure, making it a worth a look for genre masochists.

Followed by a sequel: Dead Island: School’s Out 2.

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