Tag Archives: Euro-horror

Omicidio Ha Scritto

bloodstained shadow 1978

THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW

2.5 Stars  1978/109m

Original Title: Solamente Nero

Director/Writer: Antonio Bido / Writers: Domenico Malan & Marisa Andalo / Cast: Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, Craig Hill, Massimo Serato, Juliette Mayniel, Luigi Casellato, Sergio Mioni.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “I’m beginning to be frightened again – take me away from here!”


Imagine this as a kind of feature length pilot of Italian Murder, She Wrote, with Capolicchio as a Professor taking time out of his hectic life in Rome to visit his big brother, a priest on one of the small islands off Venice, where a school girl’s murder years earlier remains unsolved.

On his first night there, big-bro witnesses a murder occur outside his window and begins to receive threatening letters from the apparent killer. The victim, a self-professed medium, and her small group of regulars, including a Count who habitually forces himself upon young boys, a nurse providing illegal abortions, and – gasp! – an atheist doctor, are the ones to find themselves hunted down by the black-gloved, face-never-on-screen killer.

bloodstained shadow 1978

Prof. – who looks just like Howard from The Big Bang Theory – joins forces with artist Sandra, who has a painting that ‘speaks to him’ and finds herself caught up in the drama. Together, they go boating, have sex, and talk about paintings a lot. Meanwhile, the Count gets run through with an antique sword, and the threatening notes keep arriving at the church.

Clocking in just shy of two hours, The Bloodstained Shadow grinds on quite relentlessly, but there are some good scenes – the canal murder-by-boat is inventive, and there are some proto-slasher POV stalking sequences to crank the tension, but throw Angela Lansbury into the mix and this could pass for another trip for Jessica Fletcher to visit her nephew’s cousin’s college roommate’s aunt’s dogsitter and become embroiled in a murder. But you’ll probably clock the killer within the first twenty minutes.

Watch out for the world’s only jump scare-by-accordion.

Scream 19

braxton butcher 2015

BRAXTON BUTCHER

3 Stars  2015/15/111m

“Every town has secrets.”

A.k.a. The Butchering (USA)

Director/Writer: Leo McGuigan / Cast: Shaun Blaney, Jenna Byrne, Andrew Stanford, Diona Doherty, Ciaran McCourt, Vicky Allen, Joshua Colquhoun, Rachel Morton, Philip Rafferty, Natalie Curran, Stephanie Donaghue, Odhran McNulty, Brandon McCaffrey.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “Ready to be the final girl?”


During the rehearsal of a prank in Braxton Butcher, one character turns to another and says: “It’s too Scream 3, it should be more Scream 2.” And that pretty much sums up what this cute homage is all about. Leo McGuigan, only nineteen when he directed this, is clearly on Team VeVo in terms of ranking the Scream flicks in realising the second one is the best one. Minor spoilers ensue.

It’s a well established fact that the sexiest accent in the world is Irish. Those with a keener ear will be able to delineate between regions therein; but spades being spades, everyone in this film could drop my pants any second with just a few brief utterances. Ahem, anyway…

Cops are called to the Miller house in the small NI town of Braxton after the neighbours hear screams. There, they find Mom and Dad slain, laid out on the bed, their teenage son, Tommy, nowhere to be found. Instead he’s busy crashing a party at the town hall, where he slashes up a number of classmates, leaving survivors Ryan and Cora.

braxton butcher 2015

Ten years later – never nine, never eleven – the two have drifted apart: Ryan has grown up to become a detective, and Cora presents a local radio show. In a curveball turn of events, she and her bratty teen sister are slashed up by a mask and Parka wearing loon, leaving Ryan to investigate with the help of his new partner, Will.

News of the murder fascinates the local teens, who show no sign of calling off their town hall throwdown, even when their own peers begin getting sliced up. Ryan’s seventeen-year-old niece Julie is thrust into the centre of things, as she has a sort of Sidney-Billy on-off romance with Danny, who has been dating bitchy girl Claudia, who is seeing Oliver on the site, despite the fact he’s with Sarah. Confusing.

braxton butcher 2015

Clocking in just shy of two hours is ambitious for any slasher film, and Braxton veers into being quite talky here and there, with a lot of characters to keep track of, but McGuigan has clearly studied what works on a visual level and pushed these elements to the forefront, most commonly extended scenes of characters being stalked or chased. Sure, the budget is probably quite far south of Wes Craven’s but this is still leagues ahead of other recent British efforts that looked like local am-dram groups rented a camera and wrote a stalk n’ slash script in an afternoon: “Yeah, it just needs tits, lesbians, and some ketchup!”

The actors are all game – screaming at the right moments and not really making all the idiotic decisions expected of them in this genre, although the killer opts to terrorise female victims with more drawn out cat and mousery than the boys, who are largely victims of quick stab n’ go drive-bys. Vicky Allen is a hoot as bitchy Claudia, who would have VICTIM stamped on her forehead in any other film, but here is given the chance to redeem herself as the situation heads south.

braxton butcher 2015

I read a couple of effusive reviews that had me thinking I was about to see the next Cold Prey, which isn’t quite the case, but considering McGuigan’s tender age and the effort he and the crew appears to have put in, seeing beyond the usual pitfalls of making a teen-horror film, this deserves more exposure, if not only to see what is likely the beginnings of an impressive career.

La luna de la mierda

bloody moon 1981

BLOODY MOON

1 Stars  1981/18/85m

“Don’t panic, it only happens once in a [Bloody Moon]”

A.k.a. Die Sage Des Todes (The Legend of Death)

Director: Jesus Franco / Writer: Rayo Casablanca / Cast: Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Jasmin Losensky, Corinna Gillwald, Ann-Beate Engelke, Peter Exacoustos, Maria Rubio, Alexander Waechter

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “If we could just get rid of everyone around us… then things could go back to how they were.”


If Bloody Moon was intended to be the Scary Movie of its day, I might be able to see past the fact it has a 5.3 rating on IMDb, but it’s seemingly played straight, rendering it one of the more misogynistic and unarguably awful exports of the early days. I imagine its residency on the Video Nasties list of the 80s has probably afforded it some credibility it’s entirely unworthy of.

A German-Spanish co-production, things begin with a disco at a Spanish language school, where a facially-scarred man procures a Mickey Mouse mask and fools a girl into thinking he’s someone else and then, when sex clearly fails, he settles for stabbing the girl with scissors instead in a scene that really plays into the accusations of woman-hating rhetoric in the genre: She gargles orgasmically as goes at her over and over in a play on sex he’s incapable of performing.

Five years later, the man – Miguel – is released into the custody of his sister, Manuela, who runs the language school, much to the chagrin of her aunt/owner, the wheelchair bound hag, Countess Maria Gonzales. Bro and sis enjoy an incestual relationship they wish to keep quiet – see Laughter Lines.

bloody moon 1981

No sooner does new student Angela rock up, the bouncy look-a-like girls of the school start getting murdered in graphically stupid ways. There’s little character development to show, they gossip about caretaker Antonio being the best lover on campus (there’s a second mentally deficient caretaker as well, of course). He asks Angela why she’s there and she replies she can speak fluent Spanish, and reels off a bunch of ‘my first Spanish lesson’ phrases like ‘Hasta Luego’, ‘Mañana’, and translations akin to: ‘Where can I buy potatoes on a Sunday?’

Also, if she’s fluent – WHY IS SHE EVEN THERE?

Angela is to room in the bungalow where the murder took place five years before. You know, the one where the perpetrator has been allowed back to live in the very same place? First to go is her friend Ava, who asks to borrow a sweater and then gets stabbed through the boob. Angela finds the body, screams, and of course by the time help comes, it’s gone, there’s no blood, and the murder mystery she’s reading is blamed for a nightmare. Her own clothes also change mid-scene from nightgown to floral print sweater.

When Ava doesn’t show for class, Angela worries, and in a pre-I Still Know What You Did Last Summer karaoke-machine moment, her language recording is interrupted with a message saying “I’m going to kill you and chop you up” etc. Of course, when teech comes over, no such voices.

bloody moon 1981

Angela then goes down to the harbour to look for Ava and a falling rock nearly kills her. She flags down two motorcycle cops who direct her to the warning on the sign. Her reply: “What good does a sign do when I can’t understand it?” Strike two against her fluency declaration.

Back at school, other girl Inga pretends to be having sex but isn’t. The other girls laugh at her through the window and she’s all like “I’ll have the best sex ever – you’ll see!!” and in the next scene she’s going past Angela down at the harbour in a car with the killer!? He drives her to some crumbling old mill and she allows him to tie her to a slab, saying “Hey I normally wouldn’t do this, but OK, as it’s you…” and then: “I still don’t know what you look like, why don’t you take off your mask?”

I mean, fucking hell, COME ON? She willingly goes off with a non-speaking masked guy to an abandoned place in the middle of nowhere and allows him to tie her up.

bloody moon 1981

Anyway, the slab thingy moves and a buzz-saw comes along, takes forever getting there, while some spying little kid tries to intervene and save her, the head comes off eventually and it’s anti-climactic and crap FX-wise. But then Franco throws in something a bit taboo: The fleeing child is cruelly run over by the killer.

Aaaaand back to the school again: Angela is convinced the killer is after her and barricades herself in her room and stabs a mannequin. Where the fuck did that come from, you ask? Like many goings-on here, it’s left unexplained. Laura says Angela reads too many scary books and offers to go get some drinks from the ‘Disco Club’ at the school (!??) but is killed with some garden-prong-thingy on her way back.

The killer attacks and Miguel tries to save the day, while Angela flees for help. The revelations that follow seem more at home in a soap opera than a horror film, but suffice to say, there’s more bloodletting, double-crossing, the obvious identity of the killer is revealed, and somebody utters this priceless line: “He came at me, you remember that! And just be damn sure to remember it.”

bloody moon 1981

Took me awhile but I realised the left image isn’t the shears making contact with her face, merely a promo shot cannily reproduced from the actual scene on the right.

Bloody Moon is just stitched together failed scenes; a slasher film based on the most rudimentary understanding of the genre where girls are either naked or stupid and nothing more, shot on the cheap with little care going into a cohesive script and hardly any visual flair ether – look out for the zoom where a chair obscures the subject’s face. The dubbing is also one of the more comically bad efforts out there (“just let yourself melt into my arms!”), and the moon isn’t even shown, let alone bloody in any way.

Undistilled crap from start to finish.

The 50 Best Foreign* Slasher Flicks: 10-1

Whoop! Here we go – who is numero uno?

Go back and see: #50-41; #40-31; #30-21; #20-11

10: Deep Red (Italy, 1975)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 7.7

deep red 1975Psychic Helga Ulmann senses the nearby presence of an unhinged psycho and begins to take notes in the hope of identifying them, only for them to come and cleaver her to death. This is witnessed by her musician neighbour, who then teams up with a plucky reporter to uncover the identity of the loon.

I saw this one quite late so much of its effect had blunted due to so many body count movies, but the amazing revelation that we actually have seen the killer’s face earlier on is nothing short of excellent.

*

9: Dream Home (Hong Kong, 2010)

VeVo: 4 Stars
IMDb: 6.7

dream house 2010

Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities, and affording a penthouse with a view of its admittedly stunning harbour is of such crucial important to bank employee Sheung, that she decides a spate of murders in her desired apartment block will force the prices to drop.

Sometimes staggeringly and disturbingly violent (the murder of the pregnant woman especially), but also darkly funny in part, this slasher satire is unflinchingly forthright with its grue and handsomely produced with an engaging non-linear narrative.

*

8: Opera (Italy, 1987)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 7.1

opera 1987

When the diva breaks her leg after being hit by a car, ingenue opera star Betty is given her big chance but finds instead that she is stalked by a psychotic black-gloved murderer who is obsessed with her and tapes needles beneath her eyes to force her to watch as he kills various people in her life in Argento’s usual grisly ways.

At least partly inspired by Stagefright (and also featuring the lead actress Barbara Cupisti), this is less of a straight-up body count affair – as is always the case with DA – but nonetheless features some icky demises and the usual overdose of awesome visuals.

*

7: Anatomie (Germany, 2000)

VeVo: 4 Stars
IMDb: 6.1

anatomie 2000

A classy combo of 70s thriller Coma and Urban Legend, brilliant anatomy student Paula becomes suspicious when a classmate who had a rare heart condition ends up on the slab before her with gum-like blood. Some investigation uncovers a secret group of doctors who dissect living patients to get a closer look at diseases before they claim their victim’s life.

Amidst mucho medical chatter, there’s a solid slasher film at work, with some particularly awesome chase scenes towards the end.

*

6: Tenebrae (Italy, 1982)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 7.2

tenebrae 1982

Argento again, as a famous American writer promoting his latest novel in Rome seems to be at the centre of a series of grisly razor blade slayings. With the help of his young protege, he investigates a possible suspect while countless sexy young women are hacked and slashed to ribbons as usual.

Tenebrae could be the most ‘American’ of Argento’s films (not that I’ve seen them all), with B-movie fixture John Saxon playing the agent of the main character. Wait for the inventive way the killer is modern-arted to death at the end.

*

5Julia’s Eyes (Spain, 2010)

VeVo: 4 Stars
IMDb: 6.7

julia's eyes

Julia (Belen Reuda) has a degenerative sight disorder that is slowly blinding her. After her twin sister Sarah – ahead of her in the sight-loss department – apparently hangs herself, Julia suspects somebody else assisted, but every avenue she investigates seems to result in the deaths of people around her.

Mucho giallo posturing takes place in this Spanish gem, with an entirely creepy moment where a blind woman says to Julia: “There’s someone else here with you – he’s right behind you.”

*

4: A Bay of Blood (Italy, 1971)

VeVo: 4 Stars
IMDb: 6.7

bay of blood 1971

Arguably the most important Italian giallo movie, a body count bonanza more than a little responsible for Friday the 13th‘s general outlook: Various people drawn to the home of a recently deceased countess are targeted by a killer or killers hungry for money, land, inheritance, whatever.

Nobody can be trusted and almost everyone is capable of killing to get their way, which sucks when you’re just one of a quartet of sexy teens who have no interest in any of it and just wants to party!

This has a veritable phone book of alternate titles around the world.

*

3: Haute Tension (France, 2003)

VeVo: 4 Stars
IMDb: 6.8

haute tension 2003

While the French take credit for inventing cinema and I sat there in my film screenings wondering what the hell all the fuss was over Amelie, it can’t be denied that they scored most of a home-run with Haute Tension (a.k.a. Switchblade Romance), a straightforward slasher tale so brutal and so edge-of-your-seat it’s just wiser to sit on the floor from the beginning.

College girls Marie and Alex go to the latter’s farmhouse home for their break and the family are assaulted in the night by a nasty psycho who drives the creepiest truck this side of Duel. He offs the family and takes Alex away for nastier pursuits, unaware that Marie was even at the house. She follows to rescue her friend and spends the next hour dodging detection.

But then there’s that twist, so divisive it could end marriages. Personally I didn’t mind it, but would’ve preferred them not to try and be so clever.

*

2: Cold Prey II (Norway, 2008)

VeVo: 4.5 Stars
IMDb: 6.2

cold prey ii 2008

Showing the world how to do a proper sequel, Cold Prey II not only manages to get the leading lady back for another round with the Fjellmannen, but even has the other cast members back to play their corpses in a genuinely heartbreaking morgue identification scene.

Going down the Halloween II route, sole survivor Jannicke recovers while foolish authority types try to resuscitate the killer, who rises from his slumber to break necks, slash throats, and pulverise faces with extinguishers anew. A heartbeat behind the original in terms of tension.

*

1: Cold Prey (Norway, 2006)

VeVo: 5 Stars
IMDb: 6.4

cold prey 2006Shocker. Squeezing kilometres out of tried and tested methods, Cold Prey is quite rightfully holder of the crown of best non-American, non-Canadian, non-British, non-Irish, non-other-English-speaking-nation, non-foreign-but-pretending-to-be-American slasher movie.

Five young snowboarders take shelter at a seemingly abandoned ski-lodge after one of them breaks his leg, but find that it isn’t abandoned at all, and a hulking Jason-like figure lives there, who doesn’t take kindly to intruders.

Everything that happens has pretty much happened before in another film, but it’s all brought together so perfectly in Cold Prey you have to wonder why that Jason-in-winter Friday the 13th episode has never been forged ahead with.

* * *

So there we have it – Norway apparently produces the best non-English language slasher films. I’m a tad disappointed it was so obvious, and that both #1 and #2 were occupied by sibling films. Hey-ho.

Since starting this, there’ve been a number of other foreign language films that entered my life, and so these adorables would’ve surely featured too:

Basag Ang Pula (Philippines, 1984) – thanks to Jenny Lo!
Bloody Reunion 
(South Korea, 2006)
Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp (South Korea, 2010)
Trampa Infernal (Mexico, 1989)

The 50 Best Foreign* Slasher Flicks: 20-11

Almost there!!

Go check out: #50-41; #40-31; #30-21

20: Fear (Italy, 1981)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 5.4

fear 1981

Director Riccardo Freda, sometime mentor of Mario Bava, was already in his 70s when he helmed this comment on the slasher genre. An actor in a giallo film takes the weekend off to go visit Mom in her secluded country home, taking some friends from the film world with him. Once there, weird things happen: Girlfriend has massively long nightmares about spiders (with fingers!), the handyman dude acts all strange and stares a lot, and your off-the-shelf black-gloved maniac starts killing the newcomers one by one.

Cheesy as a slab of stilton floating in a fondue in the middle of Cheddar Gorge, Fear is a relatively obscure little gem of a flick, fun to watch and zany as fuck. Make a drinking game out of the number of times boobs ‘accidentally’ tumble out of the actresses’ blouses.

*

19: Scared (Thailand, 2005)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 5.5

scard 2005

A class trip doesn’t quite go as planned when their coach crosses a wooden bridge too flimsy to hold it, plunging everyone into the river below. The survivors clamber ashore and find a deserted hamlet that’s rigged with dozens of traps that chop, crush, and choke them to death.

Sadly, this fun little Battle Royale-inspired flick has yet to be given an international release, meaning the only available DVD comes sans subtitles, making it hard to follow and, with a crowded cast, difficult to distinguish the teen characters, although when they start fighting back, they really fucking go for the jugular.

*

18: Amsterdamned (Netherlands, 1988)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 6.5

amsterdamned 1988

At times more of a generic cop-vs-serial killer flick than a straight up slasherama: The canals of Amsterdamn (duh) are plagued by brutal slayings, including the awesome moment (above) where the hooker’s body hung beneath a canal bridge is dragged across the top of a glass-roofed tourist boat.

The film reaches new depths of desperation to try and circumvent the end we can all see coming, but is a solidly entertaining outing nonetheless.

*

17: Veritgé (France, 2009)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 5.6

vertige high lane 2009

Four old school friends and the new boyfriend of one of them embark on a climbing adventure in the Croatian mountains, trapping themselves on a trail after the bridge they cross collapses in their wake. To make matters worse, the mountain is home to a homicidal loon with a penchant for bear traps.

France’s combo of The Descent and Wrong Turn has some magnificently vertigo-inducing scenes early on, before switching into slasher gear, however it soon transpires that not everybody can be trusted. A stupid ending deflates an otherwise solid flick.

*

16: Death Bell (South Korea, 2011)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 5.7

db4

Exam results are everything at a haughty academy in Seoul, where at the end of term the Top 20 students stick around for a nerd-off, but instead find themselves being abducted and killed if their classmates can’t solve academic problems put before them in an allotted time: One boy is literally waxed to death, and a girl in shoved in a washing machine on a spin cycle.

There’s a sub-plot hoopla about the prerequisite Asian ghost-girl, which is never really resolved, but the identity of the killer was revealed in a good way, complete with flashbacks showing us just how they did it. Great stuff.

*

15: Stagefright (Italy, 1987)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 6.8

stagefright 1986

Michele Soavi’s back to basics stalk n’ slasher has a cult following and reportedly inspired Argento to create Opera soon after. Actors locked up in a theatre for an intense rehearsal become the objects of play for escaped homicidal maniac Irving Wallace, who, donning a creepy bird mask, drills, slices, and chainsaws them off the stage, until only one resourceful girl remains, and she won’t go down without a fight. Plenty of intense scenes and gory demises in this one.

*

14: Inside (France, 2007)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 6.8

inside 2007

Pregnant Sarah is about to pop and the night before she’s due to check into hospital, a mysterious woman comes a-knockin’ and then won’t go away, eventually gaining access to the house and set upon cutting the unborn child out of Sarah.

While not reaching the dizzy heights of Haute TensionInside opts for a more visceral, invasive approach, all of it relating back to the fatal car crash only Sarah and her unborn survived some months earlier. This is the kind of film even I find too intense in the heartless violence stakes, which, of course, means everyone else loves it.

*

13: Sleepless (Italy, 2001)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 6.3

sleepless dario argento 2001

Dario Argento ‘returned’ to giallo in 2001 with this usual tale of attractive young women being murdered all over the place and a man thrust into the centre of the mystery. In this case, the son of a victim killed 17 years before. The killer was caught, and is dead, so what the fuck is going on?

Argento’s flair for the visual sells it to me, but, as usual, the representation of women as dumbfucks who can’t operate simple locks, or fall over every five seconds is annoying, while their male counterparts are free to act like prize pricks and go unslashed.

*

12: Eyes of Crystal (Italy, 2004)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 6.3

eyes of crystal 2004

A millennial entry into the giallo canon, which sees a mystery taxidermist hacking people up in order to create a human doll – a bit like Pieces but with ten times the class. Two grizzled detectives investigate and try to forge a link between a college student and her stalker, and their hospitalised ex-cop friend, who keeps having flashbacks to a fire in the orphanage he grew up in.

All threads will come together by the end, and after almost two hours it’s impressive young director Eros Puglielli has kept us so entertained all that time, with imagery striking enough to give Argento et al pause.

*

11: Flashback (Germany, 1999)

VeVo: 4 Stars
IMDb: 5.4

flashback 1999

A young woman who survived the attack of a sickle-wielding, dress-wearing killer as a child gets a job as a French tutor to a trio of rich siblings at their remote country home. No sooner does she arrive then do similar killings begin.

One of Germany’s earliest responses to Scream is pure fun, sullied in part by atrocious dubbing on the international DVD (subtitles > dubbing every time), with much bloodletting, an abundance of pet-i-cides, inventive murders, and a satisfying resolution.

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