Tag Archives: Final Girl Filmclub

Beards, Borgnine, and “Boys”

DEADLY BLESSING

3.5 Stars  1981/18/98m

“Pray you’re not blessed.”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Writers: Glenn M. Benest & Matthew Barr / Cast: Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Susan Buckner, Ernest Borgnine, Lisa Hartman, Lois Nettleton, Doug Barr, Jeff East, Colleen Riley, Michael Berryman.

Body Count: 7

Dire-logue: “She’s so dumb she couldn’t pour piss from a boot if [the] instructions were printed on the heel.”


All hail this entry for Final Girl’s Filmclub, another of Craven’s early ones that gets little attention. But at least nobody’s remade it. Yet.

Set in a region of Texas inhabited by the sub-Amish ‘Hittites': Bible-bashing, God-fearing folk who make the devotees of He Who Walks Behind the Rows look like 60s flower children. 70s disaster movie fixture Ernest Borgnine is Isaiah, their leader, and wears a dodgy stick-on beard. They brand all outsiders as followers of the Incubus, and the more naive members of the tribe enjoy tormenting the few non-Hittite locals at nearby farms, including Isaiah’s son, who was shunned for marrying outside the religion.

When said sonny boy is suspiciously run over by his own tractor (hey, it can happen – ask Brian Harvey), his widow Martha (Jensen) invites a couple of gal-pals from the city to come and stay. One of them is Sharon Stone. Whoop. The other… looks… sort of… “special” in this pic. Actress Buckner previously played prissy Patti Simcox in Grease. Therefore her “specialness” is allowable just this once.

Creepy incidents soon begin and gradually escalate to a series of stabbing murders of both Hittites and outsiders alike. Naturally, puritanical Isaiah and da crew believe it’s the work of the Incubus and his/her followers, but Martha and friends think otherwise…

Titanic composer James Horner conducted the lush score and the film is dotted with familiar faces from other Craven films, as well as scenes that he seemed to later recycle in other work:

Baths are bad places to be in Craven flicks

The slasher sub-plot appears as more incidental than anything, as Craven does his best to avoid replicating moves already made by Carpenter and Cunningham. Though it should be noted the identity of the killer seems at least partly indebted to Friday the 13th and predates the shock finale of a certain other summer camp slash-fest, but it works against the peculiar cultural landscape.

In a way, it’s sad that Wes’s later achievements have overshadowed this very competent and occasionally out-and-out terrifying film. Who hasn’t encountered a blindly religious person yelling in their face with such ferocious belief before? In fact it’s let down only by a bit of a cheapo last second shock that unravels the tight ball of credibility he’s wound over the previous 90 minutes.

I’ve only seen this the once and quite a long time ago, so here’s hoping we get a Region 2 release at some point.

One weird thing I noticed while researching the film is that while it was one of megastar-to-be Stone’s first films, neither Jensen nor Buckner acted in any subsequent movies, according to their IMDb pages. Sad face.

“The Incubus… It capsized the Poseidon, ye must know! I was there!”

Blurbs-of-interest: Doug Barr was also in The Unseen; Michael Berryman was in both of Craven’s Hills Have Eyes films, Penny Dreadful, and more recently, Mask Maker; Colleen Riley was also in The Hills Have Eyes Part II. Craven’s other slasher outings include A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Scream movies, and My Soul to Take.

Hellego Night

For Final Girl‘s Film Club, the assignment was the 1981 goth-slash-classique Hell Night, definitely a mainstay of my slasher movie Top 20, if not Top 10.

As I’ve already reviewed Hell Night in full here and didn’t fancy my chances of fashioning a costume to go with the flick (though I’m due respect for sewing up holes in my gloves last week) so I decided to render my favourite moments of Hell Night… in Lego.

 

hellnight-hellegonight

Drink in the likeness!

So… the Hell Night plot is simple and sweet: Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity pledges and those of its sister sorority (same name? I don’t know how the Greek system works) Jeff, Seth, Marti and Denise have to spend one night in Garth Manor as their final initiation task.

Garth Manor was the scene of a gruesome mass family-i-cide 12 years earlier but not all of the bodies were found. ‘Gorked out’ Andrew Garth is rumoured to still live in the joint.

The quartet of plucky adventurers flirt, drink, pair off and while pranks are played on them by a trio of upperclassmen outside, Andrew, it seems, objects to the intrusion and begins offing everyone on site one by one by one by one…

What makes Hell Night such a rocker is that it simply goes further than most of its brethren by drawing more likeable characters than expected. Most of the primary cast are worthy of survival on their own merits and, in some cases, it’s even sad that they have to die.

I love this shot – it’s as if the director said “just look as retarded as you can for a few seconds…”

Linda Blair, as Marti, makes for a sympathetic, slightly out-of-the-box final girl. Yeah, she’s a mechanic with a boyish name and she makes sensible decisions along the lines of “let’s get the fuck away from here!” but her slightly plump figure in period costume gives the flick that Hammer-style gothic appeal, fusing two genres nicely.

While it’s not gruesome, the happy kids of Hell Night find themselves beheaded, impaled with sickles, tossed out of windows and having their heads twisted backwards.

OK, back in Hellego Night, things are a little more, uh, “daylightey” – but rest assured the horror was just as frightening for Lego Marti and pals. As it goes, Marti is left to scramble out on to the roof… Then she finds her beau-to-be, Jeff, dead after not making it through the window as efficiently as she…

hellego-night-jeff

Then she finds Peter, the prank-playing  frat president impaled in the maze… (OK I know the film still shows Jeff finding him and I should’ve thought about that before setting up the diorama with Lego Marti rather than Lego Jeff (who had an awesome hat!))

hellego-night-maze

But in the end she dispatches the killer quite awesomely using her fabulous driving skills and the good fortune of a felled gate with some spikes atop…

hellego-night-gate

In conclusion, Hell Night translates nicely to the Lego realm, dontcha think? Lego Marti kicked as much ass as Linda Blair. Look at that complacent victorious grin she has!

I love Hell Night. Really, I do. It’s a classy little shindig that’s probably a plodding, slow bore for the A.D.H.D. audiences of today. Could you honestly imagine sitting in a cinema with a group of bloodthirsty teenagers while it takes Jeff and Marti about seven minutes to walk around a room trying to identify an extraneous clicking sound? No. They’d be all like “Wah! It’s too slow! Wah! Why’s there no tuneless rock music blaring throughout! Wah! Wah! Wah!”

I say it again, I’m mid-thirties and I did this with Lego. I’ll go away and re-evaluate my life now.

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.

Funhouse, Pat Sharp’s Mullet and the Barbeau Proxy

THE FUNHOUSE

3.5 Stars  1981/18/89m

“Pay to get in. Pray to get out!”

A.k.a. Carnival of Terror

Director: Tobe Hooper / Writer: Larry Block / Cast: Elizabeth Berridge, Cooper Huckabee, Kevin Conway, Miles Chapin, Largo Woodruff, Sylvia Miles, Shawn Carson, Wayne Doba.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “He’s a nice guy!” / “When you’re stoned Charles Manson’s a nice guy!”


When Stacie at Final Girl announced that November’s film club subject would be The Funhouse, the first thing that went through my head was this:

You remember it too, don’t you? Yeah that’s it – Pat Sharp’s mullet, those twin hyperactive Aryan cheerleaders, that freaky theme song: “it’s a whole lotta fun, prizes to be won…” etc.

This would not be the only curiosity associated with the viewing that ensued as you will see. Or: if you can’t be bothered to read the interim, scroll down a bit and see for y’self…

Anyway, fortunately for the world at large, she was referring to Tobe Hooper’s neat little slasher flick from that super-fab golden year of 1981.

I hadn’t watched The Funhouse in a few years and only have it on a dusty old VHS so in it was slotted and away we went in amazing full screen grittiness.

Beginning with a brazen homage to both Halloween and Psycho, we’re introduced to our main character Amy: teen, pretty, bratty little brother, likes showers. Well, did until said brat, Joey, scares the beejeesus out of her with a mask and rubber knife, prompting Amy to tell him that she’s gonna get him for that, really get him good!

Amy lies to her folks and tells them she’s off on her date with a guy named Buzz to a movie when in fact they swan off to a travelling carnival. Standard teen dialogues occur, they ride the ferris wheel and visit the freakshow where the animals are alivah…alive, alive, alive.

Meanwhile, Joey had snuck out and followed Amy to the carnival, save for a bizarro scene where some looney toon in a pickup decides to point a shotgun at the poor kid. But then, he was a little shit at the beginning so do we care if he’s blown away? No, not really.

Liz’s boyfriend Richie comes up with the idea of spending the night in the carnival funhouse, pretty much because someone else supposedly did it once. If those somebodies once jumped off a bridge, would Richie? The girls agree and the quartet succeed in hiding in the ride after hours where they make out and spy through the floorboards on the Frankenstein-masked carny paying Madame Zena $100 for a handy. When the volcano erupts too quickly and she refuses to refund him, he strangles her to death.

His pop intonates that sonny boy has killed before and they detect the presence of others in the funhouse, leaving them no choice but to exterminate the newcomers to cover their asses. Slasher goodness ensues.

The Funhouse is very Halloweeny in part: it’s relatively bloodless and trades more on its setting and the predicament of the characters than the grue and the carny – soon unmasked and revealed to be a hideously malformed freakshow with, like, three noses or somethin’!?

Undoubtedly the most inspired moment is when Amy’s parents turn up to pick up a shocked-out-of-his-skin Joey (after a close encounter with the psycho) and she is screaming through an air vent, silenced by the hum of the fan while ‘lil brat bro stares catatonically at the funhouse’s creepy front.

In a seldom-occurring change of pace, I was joined for most of the film by my anti-horror mancub who expanded the lack of features with his very own commentary: “Why is she screaming so much?” / “Turn it doooooown!” / “Ugh, VHS is awful – throw it away!”

Nevertheless, we made it to the end relatively unscathed – more people die, Amy bests the monster and gets away in one piece. Roll credits. And here, here’s where the weirdness truly branched out. By adjusting the tracking and hovering with my iPhone, I captured THIS:

Adrienne Bourbeau!? Who is this impostor? What does she want? Were the cast and crew freaked out by her presence?

Conclusion: Pat Sharp’s mullet was a hell of a lot scarier than the monster. Adrienne Barbeau need watch her back. The Funhouse is good and I like it more than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but not as much as Poltergeist.

Blurbs-of-interest: Miles Chapin was also in Pandemonium; Hooper later directed Texas Chainsaw 2 and the Toolbox Murders remake. Executive producer Mark Lester later directed Groupie and produced both Devil’s Prey and The Wisher. “Adrienne Bourbeau” supposedly didn’t work on any more films. Hmmm…

SLAUGHTER HIGH

slaughterhigh1.5 Stars  1986/18/86m

“Marty majored in cutting classmates!”

Directors/Writers: George Dugdale, Mark Ezra & Peter Litten / Cast: Caroline Munro, Simon Scuddamore, Carmine Iannaccone, Kelly Baker, Donna Yeager, Billy Hartman, Gary Martin, Sally Cross, Josephine Scandi, Michael Saffran, John Segal.

Body Count: 12 – or not…

Dire-logue: “We’ll take my car…it starts every time.”


Another one for the filmclub de lá Final Girl

I saw this film a long, long time ago on a date. Said date frowned and shot questioning looks my way throughout, wondering if there was actually something wrong with me. Explanations that “they’re [slasher films] not all this bad, I promise!” notwithstanding, that was possibly the beginning of the end of that relationship.

Curiously, being that Slaughter High was a UK-US combo project shot in Surrey (albeit pretending to be America), it’s never been given a DVD release here and, due to the bitter memories emanating from my VHS copy, I’ve not seen it again. It took three guys to write and direct this bizarro Friday the 13th pretender, which was scored by Harry Manfredini, thereby allowing those who write things on poster art to state that it was “from the makers of” that film.

Slaughter High sports the now classic revenge opus with a clique of popular kids at Doddsville High School, led by a then 34-year-old Caroline Munro (it was apparently shot in ’84), playing pranks on cookie cutter nerd Marty Rantzen, one of which ends with him being horrifically burned by acid. Caroline is sorry, the others aren’t really.

caroline

“Let’s get physic-aaaaarrgghhh!!!”

A decade on, all ten are invited back to a bogus reunion at the now abandoned school where they are quickly locked inside and picked off by the jester-masked Marty, who does them in creatively with acid-laced beer, a pit of sludge and the usual array of axes and knives. He also manages to ensure one chick – spattered in blood – takes a bath in acid, melting off her skin in all of twenty seconds.

Grisly and gory where it counts but entirely inept in almost every other department, the characters of Slaughter High make time to stray for sex after they’ve witnessed several friends DIE! DIE! DIE! Said horny couple are electrocuted during the act, whilst another guy is crushed by the tractor he’s trying to fix (!?), which has a convenient spinning rotor on its underside…

Sooner or later, it’s down to Marty and Caroline. It climaxes slightly differently than one might expect but then there’s the twist. Jesus Wept, there’s that twist! If the inexplicable behaviour of most of the cast had you scratching your head earlier on, you’ll want to dig your fingernails through your skull and into your brain at the end proper.

As you can tell, I’m not a fan. But plenty are and the film has garnered a weird following over the years, partly due to Scuddamore’s subsequent suicide and the presence of bad-horror fixture Munro and the sometimes uncomfortable vibe the film has on parade, from seeing Marty full-frontally nude to the often sadistic deaths (deserved, I guess…), the film suffers from some of the lesser elements of British 80’s productions: grainy and drained of colour, it’s like a horror episode of Dempsey & Makepeace or a Bucks Fizz video that went askew! But they got it right with the jester mask –  it’s damn creepy.

Though it sucks, it’s kind of a crap-classic that I’ll give another spin one day should I require another date to make a quick exit…

Blurbs-of-interest: Munro and Baker both appeared in the even worse Don’t Open Til Christmas; Munro was also in Maniac and it’s sort-of sequel The Last Horror Film. And check out the pair of covers below, IMDb trivia states Cutting Class is a spin-off. Eww.

__4fds24842

1 2