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cult of chucky 2017CULT OF CHUCKY

3 Stars  2017/18/88m

“You may feel a little prick.”

Director/Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Fiona Dourif, Michael Terriault, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Adam Hurtig, Zak Santiago, Elisabeth Rosen, Grace Lynn Kung, Ali Tataryn, Marina Stephenson Kerr.

Body Count: 8

“…The look on my victim’s face when they realise in that final moment that it’s all really happening: A children’s toy is actually beating them to death with a yardstick.”


Credit where credit’s due – the Child’s Play series has done an impressive job when it comes to continuity, more or less keeping on top of film-to-film plot lines for almost thirty years and seven movies. To that end, rather huge spoilers are necessary to ‘splain Cult of Chucky

Four years after the events in Curse of, original hero Andy Barclay – now mid-30s – has kept Chucky’s living head in a safe at home, and ritually tortures it. Nica Pierce, meanwhile, has been locked up in an institution and convinced by her shrink that she was the one responsible for the murders of her family.

cult of chucky 2017

Said shrink decides to move Nica to an isolated lower security clinic now that she no longer blames it all on a possessed Good Guy Doll, going so far as to bring in such a doll to a group session. Nica is fine with it, and the doll is summarily adopted by fellow inmate Madeleine, who treats it like a real baby. Bitchy Claire doesn’t trust Nica; away-with-the-fairies Angela claims she received a phone call from Chucky, warning them all he’s coming back; and multiple-personality sufferer Malcolm flips between thinking he’s Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Phelps.

cult of chucky 2017 alex vincent jennifer tilly

Nica receives a visit from Tiffany, who was somehow appointed guardian of her niece Alice, and breaks the news to her that Alice is dead. Broken, Nica attempts suicide but wakes in the morning to find her slashed wrist stitched up and a message for her left in blood. Meanwhile, another patient has successfully topped themselves, and the floodgates soon open in Nica’s memory.

Chucky stalks the halls, killing patients and staff by shattered glass and powerdrill, while Andy races to save the day, but has to get around Tiffany first.

The cult in Cult of Chucky is reached by a new voodoo curse that allows his spirit to possess multiple vessels at once, so ultimately we end up with this:

cult of chucky 2017

At the time Curse of was released, there was much hoopla over the back to being scary approach, which was the result of the remake falling through and the straight-to-DVD quasi-reboot coming instead. Though the film was sluggish in places due to its reduced budget, it succeeded in creating some atmosphere lacking in the Bride and Seed chapters.

Well, forget all that as Cult takes us back to the comic one-liners (albethem sometimes hilarious), wacky demises, Jennifer Tilly’s loony toon Tiffany back in the fray (but not centre stage), and a bit of a mess to try and untangle as things get weirder and weirder.

cult of chucky 2017

Mancini weaves things together well enough, leaving the door wide open for the eighth film – Christ knows what they’ll title it though – and as per Curse‘s post-credits gag, another face from pastures old puts in an appearance, giving the entire series a familial boost over its contemporaries. Fiona Dourif also gets to flex some reasonable acting muscle as well.

I’ve never been more than a casual fan of Chucky at best – he’s always entertaining and none of the instalments are crap, but I’d rank Cult in the lower echelons of the series, though it’s great to see the original creators still onboard and pushing things forward rather than phoning in a crummy remake or instalment-ignoring cash-grab as most of the others have done.

Blurb-of-interest: Adam Hurtig, who plays Malcolm, was also in Curse as Officer Stanton.

The goings-on at this camp would scare Jason away

sleepaway camp 1983

SLEEPAWAY CAMP

3 Stars  1983/18/84m

“You won’t be coming home.”

A.k.a. Nightmare Vacation (original UK release)

Director/Writer: Robert Hiltzik / Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Christopher Collet, Paul DeAngelo, Mike Kellin, Karen Fields, Katherine Kamhi, John E. Dunn, Desiree Gould, Susan Glaze, Owen Hughes, Robert Earl Jones.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “She’s a carpenter’s dream – flat as a board and needs a good screw!”


Queer goings-on abound in this strange little cult classic with an ending so iconically deranged it completely overshadows the shortcomings of the preceding 82 minutes. Spoilers follow.

A man and his two kids are sailing on a lake when an out of control ski-boat plows into them, killing father and child. This scene sets up a few of Sleepaway Camp‘s weirdnesses: Overlong shots, Noo-Yawk accents, and over-acting. Check out the waterskier girl’s caterwauling moment.

sleepaway camp 1983

“OHMYGOD somebody PLEASE help the people PLEASE!”

Eight years later (yay! not five or ten!) the surviving sibling Angela and her cousin Ricky are sent off to Camp Arawak for the summer by Ricky’s kooky mother. She, like ski-girl, is something to behold, but a classic character nonetheless. Ricky has been before and happily reintegrates with old friends – bar sour-faced camp bitch Judy – but Angela barely says a word (in fact she doesn’t speak until 31 minutes in) and finds it hard to fit in.

Aunt Martha sleepaway camp 1983

“‘Return to Sleepaway Camp’? No, that wouldn’t do at all.”

It doesn’t help that the campers of Arawak are about 23% assholes who rejoice in mocking Angela one way or another. She’s almost raped by the pedophiley cook, waterbombed by the macho-swagger boys, thrown in the lake by her nasty dorm counsellor, and generally tormented verbally by most of the others.

So who is behind the series of bizarre accidents that begin to plague the camp? Said cook is scalded by a huge vat of boiling water; a boy is drowned beneath a canoe; another has his bathroom break interrupted by a wasp’s nest being thrown through the window… Later there’s death by curling-tongs amidst the more standard knife-in-the-back and arrow-in-the-neck.

sleepaway camp 1983

sleepaway camp 1983

The camp owner wants to keep it all under wraps and writes the first few fatalities off as accidents, much to the chagrin of his staff, but begins to suspect Ricky as the deaths continue. Why the whole place wasn’t closed after the first death is a real mystery.

Anyway, things culminate with a bit of a spree and the killer’s identity is revealed in the unforgettable final few frames, partnered nicely with a flashback to fill in the blanks. Most review books give it away and if you, like me, happened to see the sequels first, well then all is ruined.

Sleepaway Camp is a bit of a one-trick pony in this sense. It’s a bit of a chore of a film to reach the famed ending, peppered with some really strange elements and moments that don’t make a whole lot of sense, giving the impression that Hiltzik was so focused on his reveal that he back-pedalled a bit to fatten up his picture with a few extra bodies (when and why are the kids who go on the camping trip hacked up?), the strange flashback of two men embracing in bed together, which is a strange thing to be crowbarred in, especially in the less-than-tolerant early 80s.

sleepaway camp 1983 gay

Is Sleepaway Camp a gay movie? -shrug- I honestly don’t know where I stand with it. There’s nothing particularly pro or anti-gay going on. That the killer turns out to be a reluctant transgender teenager and possibly had a gay dad seems a bit of a lazy ‘queer things are deadly’ resolve, but the fact the film ends as soon as we’re informed what’s been going on, there’s thankfully nobody around to go “Well, yes, all non-cisgender people are homicidal killers, aren’t they?” Add to this the errant homoeroticism of many-a-boy in short-shorts that leave little to the imagination, crop-tops, and going skinny dipping together and, well, hmmm…

sleepaway camp 1983 fashion

The Sleepaway Camp Fashion Show

sleepaway camp 1983

Oh…

sleepaway camp 1983

OH.

The scattergun effect of Sleepaway Camp is its biggest foe. Who is the main character here? The crowded supporting cast are largely indistinguishable from one another, though that may accurately reflect life at camp with so many groups and cliques. Victims are sorted pretty much by who is nasty to Angela, so the nice counsellors and campers are (mostly) spared.

There’s still mucho 80s goodness (read: badness) to lap up, from the horrific fashion outings, Judy’s t-shirt with her own name on it, Meg spelling out her monosyllabic name in case anyone was in doubt, and Ricky’s unrelenting stream of profanities: Cocksucker, fucking pussies, chickenshit, asshole etc. The kid could work at any branch of Sports Direct.

And also the many stares of Angela*:

the many stares of Angela sleepaway camp 1983

I can’t ever seem to settle on an opinion on this film, whereas the 1988 sequels are a much easier pill to gulp down. It has enough decent content to entertain, with some ambitious photography here and there, and a good idea at its core. Were the world not so politically correct now, I’d nominate this as a prime candidate for a remake… but you know that final shot would never be permitted!

*Yes, I asked Stacie Ponder’s permission to re-use this term.

Blurbs-of-interest: Rose, Tiersten, and DeAngelo all came back twenty years later for Return to Sleepaway Camp; Rose was later in fellow summer camp slasher Camp Dread; Katherine Kamhi was a sub-final girl in Silent Madness; Mike Kellin was also in Just Before Dawn.

Scream if you’ve had enough of these parodies

shriek if you know what i did last friday the 13th

SHRIEK IF YOU KNOW WHAT I DID LAST FRIDAY THE 13TH

2 Stars  2000/15/83m

“It’s a scream!”

Director: John Blanchard / Writers: Sue Bailey & Joe Nelms / Cast: Majandra Delfino, Harley Cross, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Tom Arnold, Danny Strong, Julie Benz, Simon Rex, Aimee Graham, Chris Palermo, Coolio, Shirley Jones.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “I killed my cousin, my heart’s broken, and my sister’s dead.”


In a race against the Wayans’ Scary Movie (originally titled Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween), you could feel a bit sorry for Shriek… as it didn’t make it past the cutting room quick enough and was consigned to a video release, while Scary Movie inexplicably carried on to generate several increasingly cringe-worthy sequels, not to mention Epic MovieDate MovieDisaster Movie ad infinitum.

Regardless of whomever got there first, Shriek… is largely a Xerox of its competitor, as we’re thrown into the lives of the exaggerated stereotypes who go to Bulimia High, who did something last summer that they’d rather forget about.

Ergo, much silliness ensues and death abounds – but not at the hands of the killer, which only makes it more annoying. In a (failed) attempt to try and be funny and original, the characters actually die from other things before the nutter has a chance to get them: Bee stings, coronaries, etc.

So there’s no murder count and 88% of the jokes are the same as in Scary Movie. To its credit though, there is an inspired parody of VH1’s old Pop-Up Video during the final chase scenes, and a couple of other almost-laughs along the way, but it all weighs down under the forehead-tappers of fart jokes, erection jokes, gay jokes, and a killer with absolutely no motive, most likely thought up at the last second.

Blurbs-of-interest: Delfino was in RSVP; Simon Rex was in several of the Scary Movie sequels.

“Scream 4″

final stab 2001FINAL STAB

3 Stars  2001/18/78m

“Last one alive wins.”

A.k.a. Final ScreamScream 4

Director/Writer: David DeCoteau / Writer: Matthew Jason Walsh / Cast: Melissa Renee Martin, Jamie Gannon, Erinn Carter, Chris Boyd, Bradley Stryker, Laila Reece Landon, Forrest Cochran, Michael Lutz, Donnie Eichar, Scott Hudson, Brannon Gould, Britt Soderberg.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Why don’t you go find a phone, some help at a nearby farmhouse, or a fucking tampon?”


I wrung some enjoyment from this cheapo cash-in that was marketed as Scream 4 in some territories.

Trash director DeCoteau takes on the post-modern slasher trend that has more in common with April Fool’s Day than it does Wes Craven’s films, putting rich college kids in an abandoned mansion with a bloody history.

Kristen (Carter), the self-confessed “Queen bitch of deception” plans on driving her estranged-sister’s unhinged boyfriend off the deep end by staging a murder mystery evening. Expectedly, her plans are hijacked by a real killer – identically dressed, of course – starts to do away with the players one by one.

The usual cliches come thick n’ fast, most repeated the victims assuming the killer is the actor employed by Kristen (who was a Skeet Ulrich-a-like!) and the olde thinking bodies are their buds playing dead.

DeCoteau inserts his signature homoerotic sequences, with one guy parading about in a pair of very small, very tight shorts, and a secret fling between two of the ‘straight’ male characters. Nearly all victims are cute college guys, while the largely empowered female roles are occupied by Kristen, her naive sis Angela, a the shallow, dopey other girl/victim.

Mucho film title dropping and a motive that amounts to “I like horror movies” are where the Scream comparisons start and end, with a few explanations as to the ‘rules’, but ultimately it’s a cheaper, less amusing Cut, but a fun one if you catch it in the right mood.

Blurbs-of-interest: Brannon Gould was in Maniacal; DeCoteau’s other slasher credit is Dreamaniac.

Slither n’ Slash

venom 2005 dvd

VENOM

3.5 Stars  2005/15/87m

“He never hurt a soul until the day he died.”

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten & Brandon Boyce / Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Rick Cramer, Laura Ramsey, Meagan Good, D.J. Cotrona, Pawel Szajda, Bijou Phillips, Davetta Sherwood, Method Man.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “You stole it?” / “Well, I wasn’t gonna buy it, it’s too ugly! I felt bad taking a nice one – I have a conscience.”


Kevin Williamson produced this ill-failed feature, for which he was reunited with I Know What You Did Last Summer director Gillespie. It ended up being released within days of Hurricane Katrina – not good for a Louisiana-shot, voodoo-centric teen horror film. Predictably it tanked, raking less than $1million.

In spite of this misfortune, Venom is a handsome critter, which benefits from above average production design, and a brutality absent in other recent slasher films. And there weren’t many around theatrically in 2005. Initially, the film was conceived as a backstory for a pending video game, Backwater, which featured an antagonist known as Mr Jangles. Whether that ever surfaced I do not know.

venom 2005 meagan good agnes bruckner

A mambo priestess in the deep south retrieves a suitcase full of snakes possessed by the evil of people whose bad mojo they’ve sucked out in a ‘milking ceremony’. Whilst transporting it to safety, she, grimy local mechanic/outcast Ray Sawyer, and sexy teens Eden and Eric, are involved in an accident on a bridge, which culminates with the hulking Ray trapped inside the sinking car with the loose snakes.

Ray’s body is retrieved and the mambo also dies from her injuries, but the former is soon up and about, killing the coroner, Method Man’s deputy (what happened to him!?), and a string of teens leading back to the mambo’s house, where her granddaughter CeCe (Good, who is, uh, good) is mourning her loss.

venom 2005

Meanwhile, the demon-formerly-known-as-Ray sandblasts a light-fingered teen to death before heading in the direction of the house where the depleting teens gather to comfort CeCe. After finding their VW Beetle turned on its head (at least it wasn’t completely trashed, gorgeous thing that it is) the assault begins with a ripped-off arm, death-by-crowbar, and even house-wrenched-in-half when CeCe’s voodoo powder-scattering blocks his entry.

Venom goes to some lengths to provide creative demises for all involved, but by doing so adheres to that is-it/isn’t-it true stereotype of killing the black characters first: The first three murdered aren’t white and the ripe opportunity to finally cast a black girl as the heroine is squandered.

venom 2005 bijou phillips

That said, Agnes Bruckner, as Eden, does just fine with the role – running and retaliating where required and I’d forgotten just how long the third act of Girl vs. demon-formerly-known-as-Ray carries on, so her dues are well and truly paid.

Despite reliance on some real contrivances – one of the teens is Ray’s illegitimate son, perfect to make a voodoo doll with – there’s much to enjoy here, from the swampland locus (although why does nobody have a southern accent?) to the comparably luxury production qualities. The characters blue together somewhat, with little to them beyond final girl Eden wanting to go be a doctor in New York, her boyfriend moaning about it, the gay boy, the drunk boy, and a host of ‘other ones’.

venom 2005

Venom isn’t likely to be regarded as a classic by any metric, but it’s definitely worth a look for its surface gloss appeal alone, which is rare in low-end slasher fare, and some MTV hyper-edits aside, ticks all the boxes a fun horror ride should.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gillespie also directed D-Tox; Laura Ramsey was in Cruel World.

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