Tag Archives: Euro-horror

Fahrenheit 1988

COLD PREY III

3.5 Stars  2010/98m

“The legend begins.”

Director: Mikkel Brænne Sandemose / Writers: Lars Gudmestad & Peder Fuglerud / Cast: Ida Marie Bakkerud, Kim S. Falck Jorgensen, Pal Stokka, Julie Rusti, Arthur Berning, Sturla Rui, Endre Hellestveit, Terje Ranes, Nils Johnson.

Body Count: 9


The law of diminishing returns applies quite stoically to the slasher realm. Sequels are more often than not retreads of their predocessors, lacking in imagination and largely barren in the imagination department. They’re cash-ins.

This is the point of view of most.

Me, however, I’ll watch just about any old crap. Although this year I “decided” to give up on camcorder-quality films altogether. There’s never been a good one, so I’m going cold turkey. Oh, how will I cope?

Anyway, in the realm of the NORWEGIAN slasher movie, things are a little different. This is aided by the fact that there are only about half a dozen in existence anyway. Manhunt sucked and probably won’t generate a follow up, but Cold Prey surfed in on a freezing wave of freshness, filling the lungs of a haggard genre with life and resetting certain cliches so they weren’t embarrassing in the context of the film and its kick-ass sequel, which is the hands-down best dayum hospital slasher flick going.

cp3-8-copy1The declaration of a third film was better than the announcement that so-and-so is pregnant with your child. Screw that, there’s gonna be another Cold Prey! Light up a cigar for something more fulfilling.

Neatly, Cold Prey III comes full circle on the 80s homage of the first two films by setting itself in the 80s. The Norwegian 80s. Where everyone loved Kim Wilde.

Yes, it’s prequel time. I’m neither for nor against prequels. I rather enjoyed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre one, to which this bears some similarities. ‘Origin tales’ have become a bit popular in horror lately, or ‘reboots’ that permit a re-telling of Jason, Michael or Freddy’s murderous arc.

Cold Prey III provides a minimal sequence that fills us in on the Fjellmannen’s early years as that kid with the eye-birthmark thing living in the eerie ski lodge. He offs his unloving folks and disappears.

Twelve years later, in what I assumed was a warm spell for Norway as there’s no snow in sight, usher in six bouncy teenagers (four boys, two girls) who want to check out the hotel but end up camping by a beautiful lake. They do the usual teenage things of drinking beer round the fire and being giggly n’ such and two of them wander off for midnight nudie time, which is thwarted when they tumble into an animal trap, which unfatally skewers Knut, leaving final girl-candidate Siri to go and get help.

Fjellmanenn: The Wonder Years finally turns up on scene to start killing and I’ll not give away some factors which make the story different to the other films. Suffice to say, this one owes a fair wad of inspiration to Wrong Turn and is notably bloodier than its kin.

The other teens soon find themselves on the run when they go looking for Knut and Siri and instead find the killer. There’s an energetic race through the woods to an abandoned house, which shows that the ‘USP’ of the Cold Prey brand is still creating tension out of tried and tested sequences: here, Walkman-toting Magne finds himself creeping away from the killer around the ground floor of the tiny cottage. Don’t. Even. Breathe.

Interesting, while Siri is being held captive elsewhere, the final girl reigns are passed over to the ever-frowny Hedda, who, being the only one without injury, is forced to try and save herself, her boyfriend Anders and arrow-through-the-foot-victim Magne.

Hedda does a good job, but she’s no Jannicke. In fact, most of Cold Prey III‘s problems lie in the rather lax characters, some of which barely have any lines before they’re dispatched. There’s a friendly ranger-cum-cop trying to find them after he gave them a ride to the forest in the first place, his estranged backwoods brother and a revelation some two thirds of the way through that links back to a throwaway line from Cold Prey II.

If you divorce the other films from the equation, this is a decent, above average forest-centric slasher flick. Its ties to the lore set out previously are strictly superficial and by cutting a few lines and the hotel scene, you might not even make the connection that the film is even related.

cp3-7aCold Prey III is good enough on its own but don’t wade in expecting the same dizzy heights; this is a cash-in, a contrived way of making a third film without having to somehow resurrect the maniac from his (very final) termination at the end of the previous movie. Production attributes are very good, scenery gorgeous and performances adequate. The good scenes outweigh the bad but, as with all prequels, you can see how it’s going to end, although some effort goes in to subverting an entirely predictable fate for the last one standing, which shows some imagination still at work.

Ahem… “Hot Shit”

COLD PREY

5 Stars  2006/15/94m

“You’ll catch your death.”

Director: Roar Uthaug / Writers: Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland, Roar Uthaug, Jan Eirick Langoen & Magne Lyngner / Cast: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Endre Martin Midtstigen, Viktoria Winge, Rune Melby.

Body Count: 5


Hands up in da air for a Final Girl Filmclub entry.

Fans of Friday the 13th have long wanted an episode set in the snow. To date, Cold Prey is the closest any of us are going to get. And I say this as a long time Jason advocate… Cold Prey would probably still be better.

Seems as if in the wake of the Scream generation, European slasher films are where it’s at. Them toyed with the concept of uninvited guests long before The Strangers; Haute Tension lived up to its name; and Norwegian export Cold Prey not only packs in more tension than its French counterpart but unfolds as possibly the best slasher film in a long, long time. Combined with its equally well-crafted sequel, this is one franchise to be reckoned with. Although reports of the yet-to-be-released-internationally prequel, Cold Prey III, paint a picture of inability to leave well enough alone. Apparently, it sucks.

EDIT: I’ve since seen it, it doesn’t suck after all.

Never mind, it can’t change the fact that Cold Prey is a sensationally well made film, constructed out of a thousand cliches but using them wisely rather than retreading old ground and falling into a pit of topless babes going off to check on weird noises and dialogue no deeper than “oh my God, Todd looks soooooo hot!” Beautifying its simple story with a good eye for what looks scary and an evident lack of spoon-feeding the audience, it perfectly avoids the kind of executive meddling that has plagued way too many bigger budget American releases of the test-audience era.

Five young friends – horndogs Mikal and Ingunn, cutesy couple Eirik and Jannicke, and singleton Morten Tobias – drive out to a desolate frozen landscape for a day of snowboarding, which is soon cut short when Morten Tobias breaks his leg and they end up seeking shelter in a long-abandoned ski-lodge.

They bed in, stoke up a fire and the generator, get loaded on booze and get wasted by the hulking pick-axe toting psycho who resides there.

Cold Prey adopts the kind of slow burn approach often preferred in European horror. Little horrific happens for the first half, we simply spend time with the group, who have a few unspoken issues between them, most notably, sweet natured dork Morten Tobias’ unrequited love for Jannicke. The debut murder, some 40 minutes in, is set up just like something out of a Jason movie and remains undiscovered until the next morning, after Eirik opts to trek back to the car, leaving the other three alone at Hotel Creepshow.

Meanwhile, Jannicke and Mikal come across a room filled with ‘abandoned’ ski apparel, jewellery and keys, echoing that creepy cabin scene in Wrong Turn. Spooked, they decide to actively look for their friend who hasn’t been seen all morning and when they realise the extent of their dilemma they barricade themselves in a room until Eirik returns. Of course, we already know he’s been incapacitated by the nutter, who looks like he’s just hiked in from Lapland. Maybe he has. Maybe he’s Santa and they’ve all been bad.

The Friday-meets-Shredder outlay is soon cranked into overdrive as attempts to raise help are repeatedly thwarted by the killer until only Jannicke is left to battle him, culminating in a scene reminiscent of something I saw in Hostel of all things, but used to better edge-of-your-seat effect here. Despite the formula, the fact it comes from foreign shores leaves a gap in your expectation – the first time I saw the film I found it positively nerve-shredding.

All in all, while there’s not much to say about clever plotting elements in this otherwise standard slasher flick, Cold Prey undoubtedly benefits from believable and – gasp! – likeable characters, none of whom ‘have it coming to them’, their complicated personal motivations and the unrelenting cloud of bleakness that hangs over proceedings, ever threatening to shower things in sticky blood.

Director Uthaug’s vision was that the true horror was found in the helplessness of the situation and the killer was just a conduit for converting the underlying brood to a more accessible legion of terror. It works.

The byproduct of this is that we don’t really know what drives the killer. It’s hinted at and even shown in brief flashbacks towards the end but it makes little sense. It’s left up to you to decide rather than rammed down your throat.

Low-concept, high-art stalk n’ slash with a fond recollection of what actually made the hey-day films so good. Impressively, all cast members were brought back for roles in the 2008 sequel, which I frankly didn’t have time to fawn over so will follow some time soon.

To see how Cold Prey fared when pitted against similarly-named band Coldplay, go here.

More rubbish films that don’t deserve long reviews

Would you believe that quite a lot of slasher films suck? No, me either. I expect brilliance in everything. But as before, some slasher films have failed me. Failed miserably. And thus, they don’t warrant any more of my ludicrously precious time than they’ve already sucked away with their suckiness. Sucks to them!

BLOOD TRAILS

1.5 Stars  2006/18/87m

“You can’t outride death.”

Director/Writer: Robert Krause / Cast: Rebecca R. Palmer, Ben Price, Tom Frederic, J.J. Straub.

Body Count: 7


A terminally dull German film masquerading as American by casting British actors effecting bad accents.

Moody bicycle courier Anne is approached by her estranged ex, Michael, and agrees to get out of the city for some fresh air after a particularly bizarre sexual encounter with unhinged traffic cop, Chris.

Now, if you were a fisherman by trade, would you go on a fishing holiday? No. Still, Anne being a bit of a simpleton, she and Michael decide to go mountain biking deep in the woods. Guess who shows up and manages to cut Michael’s throat with a bike tyre via a nifty Matrix-style in-air skid?

After this development, about twenty minutes in, the rest of Blood Trails consists of Anne pedalling away; Anne sitting on rocks; Anne crouching behind trees on lookout… Everything takes forever to unfold, supposedly in the name of tension building but, if anything, if there was ever an excuse to fast forward, this was it.

At one point, Anne comes across two forest workers, neither of whom utter a single word despite the obvious fact that the woman is traumatized and that the tree they were sawing down fell on her! It matters not, as Chris soon floats in and kills them.

Minimal interest kicks in as Anne attempts to escape but it all goes out the window with a stupid finale in which the unarmed killer manages to shoot two cops who turn up out of the blue for no reason.

It looks like helmer/scribbler Krause was trying to create a ‘true’ survivalist horror but the film spends too much time with an unsympathetic simpleton of a heroine who makes some of the most ridiculous decisions in slasher movie history, i.e. you have a car at your disposal, which you could run down the killer with but instead get out and cycle away. Says it all.

Blurb-of-shame: Tom Frederic was in Wrong Turn 3.

WHISPERKILL

 1988/15/90m  1 Stars

“Shhh… You’re next.”

A.k.a. A Whisper Kills

Director: Christian I. Nyby II / Writer: John Robert Bensink / Cast: Loni Anderson, Joe Penny, June Lockhart, James Sutorius, Jeremy Slate, Joe Leter.

Body Count: 4


It’s great that this made-for-cable “mystery” doesn’t give away the killer’s identity on the DVD box, isn’t it? Oh look, it’s obviously a female in a film with only two female characters.

Bad-movie-fixture Loni Anderson is the owner-slash-editor of newspaper in the small town where a ski-masked fiend is first making murmured phone calls to the people who later get stabbed.

Like others of its ilk, Whisperkill is laced with stock soft-focus erotic scenes between Anderson and leading man – and suspect – Joe Penny. Meanwhile, the real killer knocks off a few of her male acquaintances and the rest is fattened up by crummy sex-scenes until the identity of the “mystery killer” is revealed for us all to go “oh, for fuck’s sake!” at.

Commits the unforgivable sin of being boring as well as crap.

THE DEADLY INTRUDER

1 Stars  1986/18/84m

“Someone out there is watching you… Don’t unlock your door.”

Director: John McCauley / Writer: Tony Crupi / Cast: Molly Cheek, Chris Holder, Tony Crupi, Danny Bonnaduce, Laura Melton, Styart Whitman, Danny Greene, Marcy Hansen, Santos Morales.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Cooking without garlic is like making love without foreplay.”


Another escapee from an asylum arrives in another small town (Midvale, pop. 18,000) and begins laying the locals to waste. This truly horrible film has the audacity to declare itself “in the Hitchcock tradition” on the back of the box but could not be further from Hitch’s style if it boarded a rocket to Jupiter. And I wish it had.

Things kick off in a fairly pacey Friday the 13th way with seven murders in the first 35 minutes before the rot begins to set in. The rest of the plotless plot centres around screechy heroine Jessie, who throws a party for some friends (two of whom never make it) where she is introduced to Bob, a magazine writer from Canada working in a local clothes store to “get the working man’s perspective.”

And while nobody but Jessie and friends believe him, there’s a homeless drifter loitering outside the windows, wandering aimlessly with a sickle, looking like a psychotic Paul McCartney. Said hobo abducts Jessie that night and ties her up in a shack about 30 feet away from her house!

A good third of the film is taken up by this senselessness that never goes anywhere as we decide who is now more likely to be the killer: Wino McCartney or Bob? The outcome is anything but a surprise and the obnoxious twist that somehow anticipates the sequel-that-never-was is the only scary thing that happens in The Deadly Intruder.

There is no merit to this film with the possible exception of seeing Danny Bonaduce of The Partridge Family murdered with prejudice. Add this to the ghastly repetitive synth score and it hurts like fingernails down the chalkboard OF MY SOUL!

SNAPPED

2005/15/80m  1.5 Stars

“Picture yourself dead.”

Directors: Jeffrey Prosserman & Julian Van Mil / Writers: Steve Abbott, Michael Bien, Prosserman & Van Mil / Cast: Tiffany Knight, Michael Bien, Joe Costa, Natalie Van Rensburg, Peter Soltesz, Sara-Jean Villa, Brett Rabinowitz, Lindsey Veenendaal.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “So, you’re solution to my dilemma being ‘all men are dicks so stick yours in me’?”


I like weird things: cold toast with Vegemite, sideburns, Dr Pepper and Eurovision. Snapped is a weird film, really weird. But I didn’t like it. Sorry, Snapped and all ye affiliated with you.

Tiffany Knight is the curiously named Amy Mechanic, a struggling photographer who lands a well-paid new job for a mystery client. Without any credible explanation, Amy begins bludgeoning and hacking up bystanders in her life and taking pictures of the bodies to win the praise of oddball gallery rep Virgo.

Much of the build up to her ‘snapping’ (get it?) concerns the split from her junkie painter boyfriend and moving into the basement of bitchy best friend, Rose, whose own boyfriend is getting visits from an ass-kicking female loan shark. None of these things are of much importance, merely devices to bring more pitiless victims into Amy’s path.

Like so many post-millennial slashers, Snapped suffers from an overabundance of assholey characters we don’t care about, rather than nice folk battling for survival, rendering it the kind of picture you shouldn’t stop to gaze upon, let alone attempt to figure out the ridiculous twist ending, which makes even less sense!

BLOOD REAPER

1 Stars  2004/18/80m

“The legend has just become a bloody reality…”

Director: Lory-Michael Ringuette / Writers: Douglas Hensley, Ringuette & Michael J. Stewart / Cast: Cameron McHarg, Alison Moon, Jerri Badenhop, Mark Siegel, Charlene Amoia, Lory-Michael Ringuette, Brinke Stevens, Bernard Mann.

Body Count: 10


As if the barrel-scraping of Camp Blood and its shoddy sequel was actually a challenge to other filmmakers, here’s another shot-on-video campers-in-peril quickie with equally abysmal results.

More youngsters ignore warnings of a mythical killer living in the woods blah, blah, blah. They go camping anyway, blah, blah, blah. Even Brinke Stevens – who gets top billing for her seven minute cameo – looks glazed with disappointment that it’s come to this.

Long, boring sequences of individuals milling silently amongst trees while the camera bobs behind branches pad out the eighty minutes, while the audience pleads for someone to put us out of our misery. There’s an almost eye-opening innovation of electing the chubby girl as the heroine but, alas, they make it not so and kill her with a sharp log.

The intermittent gory murders are sloppy and unrealistic, reproducing everything we’ve seen elsewhere in better films and they even try to recreate the famous Ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma sound of Jason and toss in a plinky-plonky Halloween-style theme to lighten proceedings but all it does it remind us that Blood Reaper will never live up to those standards.

Murder, Midgets & Misogyny

SLEEPLESS

3.5 Stars  2001/18/113m

Director: Dario Argento / Writers: Argento, Franco Ferrini & Carlo Lucarelli / Cast: Max von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli, Gabriele Lavia, Rossella Falk, Paolo Maria Scalondro, Roberto Zibetti, Roberto Accornero, Barbara Lerici, Guido Morbello, Massimo Sarchielli.

Body Count: 12


This review is dedicated to Ross of the excellent Anchorwoman in Peril!, a real Gift-Horsley who began overseeing his New Year’s resolution of familiarising me with Italian giallo – a resolution made on my behalf by Ross. But if such involuntary resolutions produce free DVDs then bring on 2012.

I’m not particularly unfamiliar with giallo, I’ve seen maybe two dozen or so films from the slashier end of the subset but I’ve yet to see one that’s, you know, massively converted me into some loose-lipped advocate of Italiano horror. Yeah, even Suspiria - it was okay. But anyway, on to the freebie that was Sleepless

Compared to the other Argento slasher flicks I’ve seen (Tenebrae, Opera, Phenomena, Trauma), it’s functional in terms of plotting, no more or less so than the others but where it truly succeeds – indeed where all the aforementioned examples succeed – is in the visuals. Slasher films would be so much richer a subgenre were all directors as focused on presentation as Argento is. The plot, however, doesn’t offer much we haven’t seen before, albeit an interesting and engaging little mystery…

A long-thought solved case of serial murder that occurred around Turin in 1983 – credited to dead dwarfed writer of twisted horror Vincenzo de Fabritiis – begin to reoccur seventeen years later when a hooker accidentally makes off with a dossier of the killer’s handiwork. In what’s clearly the film’s best sequence, she is tormented and murdered on the completely empty train back to the city, as is her roommate, and the old killings begin all over again.

Retired and aged detective Moretti (von Sydow) who investigated the original murders is brought back into the fold and contacts the grown up son of one of the previous victims (who suffered a grisly case of death-by-broken-clarinet) and the pair begin looking into the possibility that Vincenzo isn’t actually dead.

More slayings ensue, each of them left with a paper cut-out of a farm animal that corresponds to an old poem while Giacomo (the son) reconnects with his old flame, much to the annoyance of her dorky boyfriend. But who is the killer? What is his motive? Why are all the female characters in the film so fucking stupid?

I mean, really… what keeps me at arms-length with Argento’s work is his portrayal of women as dumbfucks who can’t operate locks on doors, fall over a lot, and drop the contents of their over-stuffed purses, leave their things behind so they have to go back for them, say they don’t require company walking home but then act all skittish and jump out of their skin at every little sound… Meanwhile, the ranks of idiotic male counterparts go largely unpunished despite acting like prize pricks – they’re exempted from the slashes of the killer’s blade. It’s annoying and goes against the the story by crowbarring these unlikely simpletons into the complex nature of what’s actually going on.

This issue brushed aside, Sleepless is an above average slasher film with a nice surprise ending that, for once, isn’t direly predictable, aided by the film having limitless background characters who could be the killer. The connection to the murders two decades earlier is neatly tied off in a believable way and it pretty much all makes sense. How hardcore fans of Argento’s see this alongside his earlier, more famous, more bloodthirsty work is a mystery to me but I can say with certainty that I liked it, I just wish the man himself would turn out a film where the victims were primarily stupid men and the women saved the day, or some gay blokes – hey, it could happen!

One final word on it, there was a brief laugh out loud moment when, almost out of nowhere, this person appeared:

She just…pops up, spinning to the camera before we cut back to something else. Look how happy she is. And she’s a waitress. Isn’t she supposed to be surly and annoyed? It looks like she works in one of those ‘theme’ establishments so at the very least she should be hocking up phlegm globs in the fries. Again, Argento’s talent for representing folk fails on this count.

Pant-Soiling Scenes #16: 28 DAYS LATER…

Is it a zombie film? Is it not a zombie film? I’d say it’s a zombie film but without zombies. Per se.

Regardless of how you look at it, it’s still shit scary. Well…was – it’s been duped to death now, the whole man-wakes-up-after-the-event thing. The Walking Dead just started practically the same.

Anyway, 28 Days Later‘s pant-soiling-scene comes when our recently-awoken hero Jim looks for help and hope at the nearest church but instead finds a pile of bodies and a couple of The Infected, who were peacefully dozing until he hollered, thus resulting in a super-eerie moment when what looks to Jim like other people is evidently anything but…

Although why Mr Infected has a sheet tucked into his collar like some massive napkin is a mystery… Dining in?

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