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VIP’s of Slasherdom: Radish

Being brutally honest, there’s not much going on in Final Exam. Sure, I love it and it made it to the Top 100 ’round here, but as far as seminal 80s slasher films go, it’s probably not going to be remembered by many.

The reason I like it, apart from superbly likeable final girl Courtney, is that it put more effort into character than many contemporaries. And as such, we celebrate one of its most memorable facets – Radish.

final exam radish 1981 joel s. rice

 “It’s happening… the psychopaths are here!”

What’s he do?: Radish is the know-all type at Lanier College, celebrating the end of his exams by opening a bottle of Bourbon (was it Bourbon? I can’t remember) and finally working up the nerve to tell best friend Courtney that he kinda, sorta, might like her…

But isn’t he…? Textually, no, and I’ve no idea if Joel S. Rice is, but you wouldn’t need much in the way of intuitive deduction skills to conclude it from his camp delivery and general… ‘swishyness’. VeVo does not discriminate though (duh!)

Why we love him: Radish goes all out to save the day, after failing to convince the police of the threat, his first thought is to save Courtney – which doesn’t end so well for him.

Seems that Rice went on to enjoy a notable career as a producer. Bonus yays.

Never go back

reunion of terrorROT: REUNION OF TERROR

1 Stars  2008/79m

“Traditions were made to be broken.”

Director/Writer: Michael A. Hoffman / Writers: Meghan Jones, Justin Powell, Bill Cassinelli / Cast: Christian Anderson, L.J. O’Neal, Monique Barajas, Hallie Bird, Mark Carducci, Nori Jill Phillips, John Shumski.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “I don’t know about you, but I’m harder than Chinese arithmetic.”


The IMDb blurb for this tells us: “a secret is uncovered which reveals one of the most controversial and brutal twist endings in cinematic history.”

In order to investigate this thoroughly, unavoidable SPOILERS must follow.

Six high school friends reunite some years after school at a cabin in the woods, rented by one of them, who is nowhere to be found. Previously, a couple of lesbians were murdered while camping in the same woods.

The game warden keeps turning up, there’s no food, and the hitchhiker one of the party brings along doesn’t get on with the other girls. Then people start disappearing.

The assailant gathers most of them and kills them together, meaning little killing happens for most of the running time.

And that controversial, brutal twist? The killer is punishing the others because they gave his girlfriend a ride home years ago and afterwards she was raped, contracted HIV, and died. Yeah, totally their fault. This is topped by him infecting the lone survivor (a guy for once) and a total misrepresentation of what having HIV means (“it’s a death sentence!”)

Absolute crap from start to finish.

Blurbs-of-interest: Hoffman directed the equally risible Spring Break MassacreSigma Die! and Girls Gone Dead. Both Anderson and Shumski were in the former two.

Clone Zone

sigma die! 2007

SIGMA DIE!

1 Stars  2007/76m

Director: Michael A. Hoffman / Writer: Meghan Jones / Cast: Reggie Bannister, Joe Estevez, Brinke Stevens, Aly Hartman, Christian Anderson, Heather Zagone, Nikie Zambo, Katie Kiefel, Jeff Pride, Nick Bubb, Brian Parillo, Tony DeGuide, John Shumski.

Body Count: 12

Bigots Paradise: “If I ever decide to hire a woman, remind me to check between her legs first.”


A precursor to Spring Break Massacre, which may as well be the exact same film. So much so, I wondered if it had just been repackaged under a different name a year later. Sadly not the case.

Instead, this outdated piece of shit begins with a quick meta-slasher tour through a teen party, crashed by an alien-masked killer who quickly does away with several of them in the space of about ten minutes.

Then we skip back to ‘one day earlier’. Why, exactly? We already know what’s going to happen. There is no cleverly threaded twist going on in Sigma Die! that necessitates a flashback 24 hours. It also means we get to see much of the massacre scene again, evidence that the film probably clocked in at about 63 minutes before this stroke of editing genius came into the picture.

There’s a legend of a twenty-year-old (never nineteen, never twenty-one) murder mystery, after a frat boy was embarrassed to be found dressed in lingerie: “He’s a queer!” they all guffaw.

In the present, ‘he’ is revealed to be Brinke Stevens, back for revenge on the grown frat boys who humiliated her. They never moved away, of course. Any ‘sluts’ who happen to get in the way are fair game.

So in Reunion of Terror, HIV was dumbed down to a death sentence, in Sigma Die! gender dysmorphic issues equate to homicidal tendencies, and all girls are sluts who walk around with nothing on who are willing to have sex for a drag on a joint. It’s okay for hot girls to experiment with being gay, but boys throw around the word ‘fag’ at the drop of a hat.

Not to mention gutter-born production qualities, barely any comprehension of what a decent slasher film requires, this production group should just sidestep into exploitation porn, as that’s all they seem to give a fuck about. Seriously – fuck off.

Blurbs-of-shame: Bannister, Hartman, Anderson, Pride, and Shumski were all in Spring Break Massacre, and Anderson and Shumski were also in Reunion of Terror; Bannister was also in Bloody Bloody Bible Camp; Joe Estevez was in The CatcherScar, and Axe Giant; Brinke Stevens can be seen in American NightmareBleedBlood ReaperThe Cheerleader MassacreFatal GamesJack-O, and most importantly The Slumber Party Massacre.

Social Commentary or Sleaze?

girlhouse 2014GIRLHOUSE

4 Stars  2014/18/101m

“Enjoy the show.”

Directors: Trevor Matthews & John Knautz / Writer: Nick Gordon / Cast: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine, Alice Hunter, Alyson Bath, Elysia Rotaru, Chasty Ballesteros, Wesley MacInnes, Erin Agostino, Nicole Fox, James Thomas.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “I’ve thought this through completely. I really don’t see how anything bad can happen.”


Sexy girls in a house decked out with cameras so guys can log on and crack one out. No! Don’t go! I know it sounds like two dozen other camcorder exploitation flicks with nothing to offer, but GirlHouse is, hugely to my surprise, a pretty solid slasher flick with some of the best production attributes this side of the millennium.

In 1988, two girls tease a tubby preteen and trick him into a one-sided game of show and tell, which ends with them laughing in his face about the size of his cock and sending him running away. A little later, the ringleader is ambushed as she cycles home down a back road and no amount of sorrys can save her from being thrown off the side of a bridge.

Just this five minute opener packs a punch absent in 90% of contemporary slasher films, evident from the effort going into building an atmosphere. Like the films of yore, the shots fragment all around the victim and we know something bad is going to leap out any second, just not from where… This simple approach, used all the time in the 80s, makes a lot of difference.

gh6

Fast forward to the present, hard-up college girl Kylie needs money enough to agree to go and live at GirlHouse, the pornhub of the future, owned by gay Hefner-lite Gary Preston, who puts his girls up in a huge secluded mansion, location under wraps, where they’re filmed around the clock, performing little laptop shows, playing in the pool, the sauna, eating, watching TV… whatever.

One repeat customer is Loverboy, our grown up psychotic, who worships all the girls and is technically able enough to hack through the firewalls to send a photo of himself to Kylie. Her heart, however, is slowly being won over by old schoolmate Ben, who stumbles upon her online and is prompted by his Ed Sheeran-esque roommate to drive to her college and strike up a conversation.

After a girl evicted for her drug habit is permitted to stay in the house again, she finds Loverboy’s photo – not the most flattering – prints it, and sticks it up on a wall, where he eventually spies it in the background and, humiliated, loses his shit and stomps in the direction of GirlHouse.

gh3

Before long, most the tech and security guys have been murdered (largely off-camera and always fully clothed) and Loverboy seizes control of the house functions, stalking the girls one by one while helpless patrons watch, including Ben and his roomie, who embark on Halloween: Resurrection-esque attempts to help remotely.

One girl has her fingers axed off, making it impossible for her to type in the address of the house to summon help; another is choked on a dildo; one locked in the sauna with the thermostat cranked up… What sets GirlHouse apart from the dreck that share its premise (Voyeur.com comes to mind), is the will of (most of) the girls not to just sit there naked and die: The sauna girl manages to bust out and runs straight for the pool; another thought dead waits for the killer to happen by and strikes out at him; and Kylie, when inevitably the last one alive, pulls all the feeds and lures the killer to the basement where she uses nightvision to fight back and then beats the crap out of him with a camera.

gh1

If there’s a comment on the relationship between pornography and objectification, it’s either too vague or forgotten in a tide of blood. A quote from Ted Bundy kicks things off, though it later falls back on on cliches of sad, fat, drooling loners who hate women. That said, the menfolk prove to be the most dispensable, often blindsided and incapable when confronted with the killer. Or do the unwritten rules of voyeurism apply and the perception is that the audience don’t want to see the murders of men on screen and that it’s the girls who are to blame? Would Guyhouse work? It’s one of the oldest dilemmas to plague the genre. But the genders are equally represented when it comes to dead bodies by the end, and it’s Kylie who does all the hard work when push comes to stab.

Even if elements of the story have to cave to genre tropes to work, GirlHouse succeeds through production attributes alone, something most horror producers don’t even seem to consider, largely under the illusion that T&A and corn syrup splashed on a wall tick enough of the boxes.

Overlook the skeezier elements and there’s a solid gem lurking beneath.

Killer Cop Out

scream-queens-1338SCREAM QUEENS

1.5 Stars  2015/585m

“Pretty evil.”

Cast: Emma Roberts, Skyler Samuels, Lea Michele, Jamie Lee Curtis, Abigail Breslin, Billie Lourd, Glen Powell, Keke Palmer, Diego Boneta, Oliver Hudson, Nasim Pedrad, Niecy Nash, Nick Jonas, Breezy Eslin, Lucient Laviscount, Jeanna Han, Ariana Grande.

Body Count: 21

Laughter Lines: “This school could survive a few serial killings but I don’t think this university could survive losing me.”


Necessary spoilers follow.

The generally accepted path for a slasher story to take is that young, lively characters are introduced and over the course of the tale we watch them get stalked and slain by a vengeful mystery killer. Unless you happen to be Ryan Murphy. If you’re Ryan Murphy you create a set of obnoxious, nasty, bitchy girls as the centrepiece of your little slasher universe while the audience enjoys the anticipation of watching them die later. And you kill precisely none of them.

For all the masses of hype Scream Queens threw up all around itself like a bulimic sorority girl – Nick Jonas! Ariana Grande! Random fashion blogger girl! – after 13 loooong weeks of enduring little more than a parade of acid-tongued put-downs, the series fizzled out with a damp squib of a finale that was akin to promising a child an Xbox 360 for Christmas and giving them a box with some cat shit in it.

sq3I watched Glee for awhile and, for awhile, it was fun. Pristine acapella arrangements of great songs that slowly began to morph into bland, straight-up cover versions, just as Scream Queens might have begun its life in script-form as an ode to all things stalk n’ slashy. I know Murphy is at the very least capable of decent horror scribblings thanks to the early seasons of American Horror Story and his dealings with The Town That Dreaded Sundown. But for all the “I was obsessed with slasher films” rhetoric, you’d think he watched Sorority Row and half of a Halloween sequel and thought “I can do that.”

Emma Roberts leads the cast as the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority president, Chanel Oberlin, no more than a retread of her role as a bitchy actress in American Horror Story: Coven. She spends much of her screentime calling her sisters sluts, whores, or gashes, making borderline racist comments and reminding us how rich she is. This type of character is supposed to die. The inexplicable supposition that gay men adore this type of high-society, entitled thing has always eluded me, but Murphy and co. aren’t able to write interesting ‘nice’ folks anyway.

Twenty years (never nineteen, never twenty-one) after a girl dies during childbirth at the  sorority, the hardass Dean (Jamie Lee Curtis, a bright spot) goes to war with Chanel and alters the charter to allow anybody to pledge the house, leaving them with just a handful of misfits rather than the usual tide of label-loving, anorexic, bitches who hate everybody. Said group includes Lea Michele’s back-brace wearing weirdo, a candle vlogger, another girl known as Predatory Lez for several episodes, plus the cut-n-dried homespun heroine, Grace.

sq1Coinciding with this, a psychotic killer wearing the school’s mascot uniform – a Red Devil – begins targeting all those associated with the sorority. The ensuing twelve episodes should play along the mystery theme as Grace tries to solve the mystery while Murphy would skewer slasher tropes and rapid fire bitchy girl dialogue. It worked for the aforementioned Sorority Row because they bothered to KILL Leah Pipes, but, save for a few decent lines, it doesn’t work here.

With a murder-count of 20, the show notches up zero heart-pounding chase sequences. There are a few splashes of gore here and there but most of the kills are supposed to be funny rather than horrific. That nearly all the victims are ancillary characters and not the vile, entitled main roster is just salt in the bloody wound.

Were the project to be edited down to a 90-minute film, most of the top-tier cast members wouldn’t even feature as the central clique of bitchy girls spend more time commenting on fashion, body image, boyfriend prospects, or plotting against one another. By the eleventh episode, there have been at least three attempts to murder the person they suspect is the killer. There’s so little going on upstairs in this show that it’s forced to recycle the same material just to fill out its half-season quota.

scream-queens-jamie-lee-curtisEventually, several different characters are revealed to have committed murder at one point or another, at least two of them get away with it, while the production pinky-swore that there would only be four characters left standing for the say-it-ain’t-so summer camp set season two, there are in fact ten. It reeks of Murphy et al being too afraid to lose their cast members in case, god forbid, a second season is greenlit. It’s a slasher story, fucking grow a pair and kill someone other than the pizza guy, the replacement mascot, or any other one-episode arc extras!

Even the ‘good guys’ are made up of bland, barely drawn out bores who are too serious and not worth rooting for. Niecy Nash’s hopeless security guard rocks the boat with the best lines but is still marginalised and written as a dimwitted moron; Curtis chews up the barbed dialogue, easily outperforming her co-stars in the laughter stakes; and there’s a very good soundtrack to prop things up. Here though, the positives abruptly end.

How a so-called slasher tale could be so wimpy and gutless is a testament to some atrocious decision making. It’s like Jason restricting himself to murdering hitchhikers and rednecks around Crystal Lake but never bothering to hunt down the pot-smoking, sex-having camp counsellors!

This makes Scream – The TV Series look like Scream – the movie.

scream-queens-red-devilBlurbs-of-interest: JLC’s slasher credentials go from Halloween, Halloween II, Prom Night, Terror Train, Road Games, in the early years up to Halloween H20 and Halloween: Resurrection more recently; Emma Roberts was in Scream 4; Oliver Hudson was in the Black Christmas remake; Steven Culp made a brief appearance in the same episode as Jason Goes to Hell was name checked (incorrectly, I might add).

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