Tag Archives: Euro-horror

Twists of fury: The Nun

Ever since The Sixth Sense, the film biz has been out to trump the twist endings of yore, to really knock the audience for six and have them gasping as they realise something that has been staring them in the face for the past 90 minutes.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve all seen movies where the twist can be seen lumbering over the horizon towards us ages before ‘the big reveal’, and there are the times where the twist sort of just appears, senselessly, undoing hours of work and, in some cases, completely destroying the film.

Let’s begin to celebrate/mourn* them together, starting with The Nun. Massive spoilers follow.

Set Up: A spectral nun is offing a bunch of grown up Catholic school girls who accidentally killed her eighteen years earlier.

Twist: It isn’t the nun. It’s the final girl. She’s nuts and it’s all been going on in her head.

Problems with this revelation:

  • An ‘event’ set her off. This is getting wet in a shower. Then her mother is murdered. But mom was the SECOND victim, the first reportedly being murdered BEFORE the shower ‘event’.
  • One person is murdered before the final girl even arrives at the hotel where it occurs.
  • She can decapitate a person from the other side of the door in a locked room.
  • She can impale herself underwater with a speargun.
  • We saw the nun do it all.

Likely explanation: Executive meddling, for sure. What’s the point of a horror film WITHOUT a gasp-inducing twist, the producers of this Spanish production probably rationalised. Flashbacks during the explanation (inexplicably worked out by someone hardly involved) show “how she did it” but it still doesn’t make sense of the above points.

I would hope that the original writer threw an almighty tantrum over it, because it turns a modest three-star film into a truly idiotic affair.

 

*you choose

Dire-logue’s Greatest Hits Volume 10: Stay calm, now…

“We all go a little mad sometimes,” so said one Norman Bates many, many moons ago. He wasn’t necessarily just speaking for “those of us” (but not me) who flip and start killing people, far more common is that many of us (this time including me) just flip and yell a lot…

THE DRILLER KILLER (1979): “I’ll tell you what you know about… You know to BITCH, and how to eat, and how to BITCH, and how to shit, and how to BITCH!”

FINAL STAB (2001): “Why don’t you go find a phone, some help at a nearby farmhouse, or a fucking tampon! I don’t care.”

HARPOON: REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE (2009): “I might be disgusting to you, but this fag here is the only hope your Bible-belt ripped church ass has of getting out of this alive!”

HAVE A NICE WEEKEND (1975): “You do exactly what I tell you! Mother – make sandwiches for everyone.”

HOLLOW GATE (1988): “Just a few Halloween nuts – is that all you old bitches want? Happy Halloween you filthy old HAG!”

KOLOBOS (1999): “How about a nice, hot cup of shut the fuck up!?”

MR HALLOWEEN (2006): “Why does everybody in this GODDAMN town gotta tell me my GODDAMN job? Got no GODDAMN  respect!”

OFFICE KILLER (1996): “Kim: go home… go to unemployment… just leave!”

SCARECROW GONE WILD (2004): “If I hear the worlds “let’s split up” I will bitch-slap the both of you.”

TENEBRAE (1982): “Male heroes… with their hairy, macho bullshit.”

TOOLBOX MURDERS (1977): “Come here, you dirty fornicator!”

VOYEUR.COM (2000): “Hey, you’re killing my buzz, Euroboobs!”

10 more final girls we love

One volume of great final girls notwithstanding, here’s a second round of lovable, ass-kicking, shy, shrewd, girl-scoutery. Naturally, as few sequels match the original, these girls maybe aren’t QUITE as awesome as those from last time, but they deserve our love and clingy “be my friend”-ness…

Jannicke (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Cold Prey (2006)

All-round lead character Jannicke (pro: Yaneka) is pegged as the final girl in the landmark Norwegian slasher from the moment she appears. Smart, wise, democratic, and strong when it really counts, Jannicke slips on the shoes of a real heroine with ease when her group of friends and she find themselves hunted down by a hulking mountain man in an abandoned ski lodge.

Good decision making properties and a gutsy final battle with the killer make Jannicke a vital person to have around. In the sequel she does the same but gets angry with it.

Marti (Dame Linda of Blair)

Hell Night (1981)

Having survived being possessed by the devil himself, you’d think Linda Blair would know not to partake in ill-conceived frat pranks that involve spending the night in the world’s creepiest manor house. Where people were murdered. And the killer still hangs out.

Mechanic, liberal, loyal, and feisty, Marti hot-wires an escape vehicle and you can literally SEE her change from fleeing victim to power-wielding supervixen when she spies the spiked gates that she’ll use to rid herself of the annoying killer on her roof.

Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris)

Halloween 4-5 (1988-89)

Poor little Jamie Lloyd’s mom (Laurie Strode!) escaped the clutches of Michael Myers about 83 times on Halloween night, 1978. Then died in a car crash (or did she?). Daughter Jamie is adopted by the Carruthers family and a decade after THAT night, Uncle Mikey comes back for the remainder of the bloodline. Then he does it again the following year. And six years after that.

Nine-year-old Jamie really becomes the final girl in Halloween 5 where there’s no big sister left to help her. It seems like the little girl screams, cries, and runs for an eternity but she continues to survive, much like her homicidal uncle, until cruelly offed in Halloween 6 (though by that time J.C. Brandy had taken over the role).

Pam (Melanie Kinnaman)

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Although the world is largely in agreement that Friday 5 is redundant of quality, one of the many joyful elements going for it is spunky heroine Pam Roberts, resident psychologist at the Pinehurst Institute of Mental Health. Or: home for crazy teenagers. In the middle of the woods.

Just as little Jamie Lloyd is ten years younger than most of her sisters, Pam is older than your average final girl. Having spent a majority of the film trying to find troubled teen and mortal enemy of Jason Voorhees, Tommy, she then returns to the nuthouse and finds that a hockey-masked loon will do anything to slice her up.

Mucho running and screaming through rain-soaked trees later, Pam fights back with a chainsaw until she, Tommy, and that kid from Diff’rent Strokes manage to do away with “Jason”.

Jessie (Eliza Duskhu)

Wrong Turn (2003)

Here’s an odd one: Buffy herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, appeared in a couple of the big 90s slasher films as a victim, quite possibly wanting to play anything but righteous, ass-kicking uber-final girl for a change. In Wrong Turn, vampire slayer-gone-bad Dushku took on the role as love-robbed camper-in-peril when her quartet of BFF’s are chopped up for dinner by a trio of cannibals.

Curiously, Dushku doesn’t get that much to do as a final girl, having to be saved by Desmond Harrington’s take-charge doctor, though she does get to go all primal and shrieky with an axe once she’s free to do so. Nevertheless, her extraneous casting makes for an interesting heroine, even if we all know that, as Faith, she could’ve laid those loons to waste in a couple of kicks.

Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis)

Terror Train (1980)

Jamie Lee’s third round as final girl came in Roger Spottiswoode’s rather lush and mature killer-on-a-choo-choo film, in which a graduating class of med students are terrorised by a mask-switching maniac who is still peeved about a joke that went wrong three years previously.

Alana has a wholesome moral center and is more gutsy than Laurie Strode and more involved than Kim Hammond (her Prom Night character). After running for a bit, Alana uses whatever she can find to strike back at the hell bent killer but, as in her other films, she is ultimately saved by the intervention of an older male authority figure, which robs her of some of the glory a bit. But she’s still awesome.

Kristen (Patricia Arquette)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

Nobody will ever replace Nancy as the ultimate Krueger final girl, but Patsy Arquette’s “suicidal” rich kid probably comes closest. (Some will vouch for Lisa Wilcox in films 4 and 5 but I never really liked her).

As the pivotal ‘Dream Warrior’, Kristen has the power to pull other people in her dreams, thus she and her fellow inmates can fight off Freddy Krueger together. But this pales in comparison to Kristen’s best bit, after eeeeevil Dr Simms fires Nancy, she flips out: “You can’t take Nancy, she’s all we have! You stupid bitch! You’re killing us!”

Clear (Ali Larter)

Final Destination (2000)

Originally, James Wong wanted Kirsten Dunst to play the role of Clear Rivers in Final Destination. In the DVD commentary he says that “Ali Larter is… is OK.” Bet she loved hearing that.

Nevertheless, Larter goes for the jugular as the only one who exits the doomed Flight 180 to believe Devon Sawa’s rantings that the plane will explode. She keeps this to herself for a while, later confessing that she could ‘feel’ his premonition without necessarily sharing it. After that, she becomes a Fuck Death ambassador, opening up and, in the sequel, coaching a new group of escapees how to cheat their imminent deaths. She helps, I guess, but most of them die anyway and so does she.

Cass (Tamara Stafford)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1983)

If Clear’s ability to ‘feel’ a premonition weren’t enough, Cass is a full blown psychic. AND she’s blind!

Wes Craven’s mucho-hated sequel to his own 1977 siege flick is a sell-out slasher movie with a decent cast, a Harry Manfredini score, and a dog capable of having a flashback.

Cass emerges as the obvious final girl, tottering around blind, feeling her friends’ dead faces and still conquering the hulking mutant who’s after her. Stafford’s career was too short-lived to be able to discern whether or not she is, in fact, blind. But she’s a cool, likable heroine at the center of it regardless.

fgs-spm1

Valerie, Trish, and Courtney (Robin Stille, Michele Michaels, and Jennifer Meyer)

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Threesome! Feminist writer Rita Mae Brown originally conceived The Slumber Party Massacre as a comic reaction to the veritable tidal wave of neo-misogynistic low-rent slasher films emerging in 1981 and 82. The studio execs changed much of the script but both the laughs and the girl power are still very much present.

Once the killer with his phallic weapon of choice – an enormous power drill – has done away with much of the girls’ basketball team and some boyfriends, girl-next-door Valerie comes to the rescue, attacking him with a machete and chasing him down. When he fights back, host Trish and Val’s little sister Courtney join forces and go for him.

In what’s a rather dumb (but fun) movie, the end scene actually musters some real gusto and “go on girl!”-type audience participation. It’s EXCELLENT when they all set upon him. One of the few pre-90s movies where there is more than one female survivor.

Shitty Sequels III: Cash Cows Forever

Take me down to the sequel city where the grass is green but the films are shitty…

…and I keep watching them like a dick.

Previously – here and here to be specific – we looked at an array of cruddy slasher movie follow-ups over the years. There will always be sequels and some sequels will always be shitty. Hence, round three…

Ripper 2: Letters from Within (2004)

The original Ripper movie in 2001 was divisive enough but I liked it quite a bit. Sure, it’s as flawed as any other collegiate body count film of its era you care to dip-check, but when compared to this truly dreadful sequel, it’s practically Halloween.

Retconning much of the foundations laid by the first one – a lot of which was never fully resolved anyway – carry-over character Molly (now played by Eric Karpluk) is packed off to a European castle for some deep dream therapy and some cloaked-hulk is somehow awakened by these experiments and offs her fellow nubile residents.

Whether this character is supposed to be some incarnation of Jack the Ripper is another question for the blackboard and the only certainty in the whole project is that the film sucks.

A friend of mine auditioned for a small role (one which I could never identify in the finished product) and, to date, it doesn’t seem to have reached distribution in the UK almost a decade after it was made.

Jason X (2001)

I, for one, don’t actually mind this deca-sequel, but it’s clearly crap.

Produced somewhere between 1999 and its long-delayed release, the idea of ‘Jason in space’ might have seemed funny but once it finally got out there, it was clear nobody got the joke and it’s the only film in the whole Friday the 13th canon to have not even broken even at the US box office.

A combination of timing and content is to blame (what else is there?): Scream and the cycle of big-studio slasher films was already over and out by the time the release date for JX crawled around (I remember Valentine and D-Tox (another delayed one) were released earlier in the year to negative reviews) people were sick of slasher movies all over again and poor ol’ Jay barely got a look in.

Otherwise, the film is neither funny enough nor scary enough, seemingly a recurrent theme in writer Todd Farmer’s horror scripts.

Thankfully, he would get another shot two years later battling Freddy Krueger, a film where, in box office terms, they got most things right.

Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2001)

No, not a sequel to that schmaltzy Michael Keaton snowman comedy, but to a B-movie of the same name featuring a serial killer who, after getting into an accident with a truck carrying various chemicals, becomes a murderous snowman and takes revenge on the small town where he was captured.

Full of goofy dialogue and sub-Chucky one-liners, the film is amusing enough on a make-fun-if-it level (tagline: “He’s chillin’ and killin'”). This follow up, however, is the as much fun as a sudden attack of diarrhoea in a traffic jam.

Relocating to a tropical island (!?), the titular snowman follows returning actor Chris Allport (also seen in Savage Weekend way back in ’76) and wife on holiday to kill various schmucks. A Tremors sequel-like life cycle element sees small fluffy balls representing baby-Jack Frosts highlights how cheap and rubbish things have become. Ideas about a possible Jack Frost 3 have, thankfully, melted away.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992)

I really like Maniac Cop. Tom Atkins! Bruce Campbell is a straight role! Fast paced and high body counted – it’s a great little 80s flick. Maniac Cop 2 carried over the surviving characters and was entertaining enough. The third film though… shoulda been called Bride of Maniac Cop.

Big-faced Robert Z’Dar respectably returns to the role of undead zombie cop Matt Cordell once more after some religious nut resurrects him for no apparent reason. He falls in love with a devoted girl-cop, who has been set up by the media as a Cordell-like super villain. His resolve? To kill! kill! kill! them all!

While more in the slasher mold than MC2, this is one of those explicit cash-in productions that exists for almost no reason. But it’s still better than Jack Frost 2. And Ripper 2.

AND ANOTHER SHITTY SEQUEL I LOVE:

Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

I’m sorry. Really, I am. What can I say? I enjoy it.

Killing Jamie Lee Curtis aside. Busta Rhymes inept acting aside. Tyra Banks thankless and wasted cameo aside. Most ridiculous un-doing of previous movie’s finale ever seen on film aside. I still enjoy Resurrection.

In the ‘for’ column – slim-pickings though they are – there’s a good cast outside of Rhymes. Katee Sachoff in a pre-Battlestar Gallactica appearance; the adorable Sean Patrick Thomas; American Pie player Thomas Ian Nicholas; Alicia Witt-lite Daisy McCrackin from cruddy DVD flick A Crack in the Floor.

The zeitgeist reality TV plot prevents the film from aging well and if that could’ve been removed as an obstacle this might have worked better as an earlier sequel, say between number six and H20. There was internet chatter about what was going to be Halloween 9 (before mainstay Moustapha Akkad was killed in a terrorist attack) might include the revelation that final girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich – what happened to her?) turning out to be Jamie Lloyd! Could’ve been a good way of undoing some of the hurt H20 caused when it pretended the interim films never happened.

All in all, it sucks as a Halloween film, but it’s an enjoyable, well made slasher movie beyond that.

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Break a leg.

STAGEFRIGHT

3 Stars  1987/18/86m

“The theater of death.”

A.k.a. Aquarius; Bloody Bird; Sound Stage Massacre

Director: Michele Soavi / Writer: Lew Cooper / Cast: Barbara Cupisti, David Brandon, Mary Sellers, Robert Gligorov, Jo Anne Smith, John Morghen, Martin Philips, Piero Vida, Ulrike Schwerk, Lori Parrel, Clain Parker, James E.R. Sampson.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: (cowering victim to chainsaw swinging killer) “I’ll do you a deal… you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone, OK?”


I really need to seek out StageFright again someday. It’s probably worth more than three stars.

Anyway, based on what I do remember many moons after I saw it in the age of big box ex-rental VHS tapes, young stage actress Alicia (Cupisti), injures her ankle, she’s taken to a nearby psychiatric hospital to get it checked by a doctor. High-profile psycho loon Irving Wallace breaks out of his cell at the same time and hides in the back of her car, getting a ride back to the theatre where she’s just been fired from an all-night rehearsal for a play about Jack the Ripper.

When the costume designer gets a pick-axe in the mouth outside, egotistical director Peter decides to change the play to be about Wallace (under the illusion the killer fled the scene) and re-hires Alicia out of sympathy. And locks them all in.

It soon becomes clear that Wallace is stuck inside with the cast and crew and begins offing them with knives, axes, power-drills, and a handy chainsaw – all under the disguise of a pretty creepy bird mask. This gory flick supposedly influenced Argento’s Opera and features some good, intense sequences and downright brutal demises for a majority of the cast.

Alicia’s brushes with the killer as she struggles to find an escape route peak in a scene where she tries to retrieve the key to her escape from beneath his feet. Of course, at the end they engage in one on one combat and she prevails, but the added scene lends a most surreal slant when Alicia returns to retrieve her lost watch and the caretaker repeats the same line over and over for no apparent reason…

The only flaw is the re-recorded dubbing, which disables much of the effect of the original dialogue and, like so many European movies, cannot recapture the ‘in the moment’ performance, drawing laughter sometimes when there should be terror.

Blurbs-of-interest: Director Soavi played the role of a victim in Absurd and was also in A Blade in the Dark; Mary Sellers was also in the super-creepy Ghosthouse.

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