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Scott Pilgrim vs Cinderhella and the Class of ’92

detention_poster2DETENTION

2.5 Stars  2011/15/89m

“Cancel your future.”

Director/Writer: Joseph Kahn / Writer: Mark Palermo / Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Shanley Caswell, Dane Cook, Spencer Locke, Aaron David Johnson, Parker Bagley, Alison Woods, Jonathan Park, Tiffany Boone, Travis Fleetwood, Marque Richardson.

Body Count: 16

Dire-logue: “It’s so obviously a conspiracy to get everyone to think I’m a total loser making pre-emptive mid-90s pop references.”


Oil and water. Sandals and socks. One Direction and a record deal. Some things just don’t work together. To that we can now add Scott Pilgrim-esque motion comic platitudes with a Scream meta slasher semi going on. Detention is weird.

What there is of a story begins with the murder of high school superbitch Taylor, who commentates to camera about, like, life n’ stuff, the many cliches of the Mean Girls generation with an OD of toxic wit before getting her throat slashed, then stabbed and tossed out the window. Seems one can, like, totally still scream in spite of a cut throat.

Grizzly Lake High loser Riley is soon attacked by the same killer, dressed as fictional slasher flick killer Cinderhella. Another murder follows and eight characters are given Saturday detention (sadly not in Shermer, Illinois). Riley and crush Clapton (Hutcherson, pre-Hunger Games), use a time machine inside the school’s Grizzly bear mascot, to go back to 1992 to stop the end of the world.

Effectively, the detention itself is irrelevant, beginning almost an hour through the film and meaning nothing in the grand scheme of things. Here, where we expect the nine teenagers to start getting whacked, the film branches off down its stupid time travel route. The slasher plot is lost in a loads of gags about body swapping, 90s fashion, music, and is brought back at the end to wrap things up, revealing the killer to be just who the arrows were pointing to and not bothering to offer a motive. Not a clear one anyway.

While the dialogue is axe-blade sharp, the insights into 90s culture (also curiously unexplained) are amusing (“Oasis were the best Beatles cover band”), it just doesn’t go anywhere. The time travel element appears from nowhere and for no discernible reason other than to serve as a basis for more 1992-woz-funny jokes.

Had this a fraction of the amount of Scream‘s attention to detail, it would’ve been approximately 64% better, but it’s like someone wrote a load of funny jokes about shit and decided a half-assed slasher opus would be a viable genre to staple them to, but nobody seemed to give a shit about making the slasher part of it any good… People die and then un-die, and much of the body count is made up of film-within-a-film (and sometimes within-a-film-within-a-film-within-a-film) slayings – only five people are offed in the narrative.

Extra points for featuring two men kissing (gasp!) and NOT punishing them for it for a change, and Parker Bagley’s appropriate eye-candiness. Growl.

The two-and-a-half-stars are 80% for the clever-dick script, which will date faster than, like, an X Factor winner’s single. Watch Detention again in ten years and see how much of it makes any sense. Or is remotely funny. See, unlike the of-the-moment gags, the killer-with-a-knife plot has remained the same for 30+ years, and that’s the part that should’ve been the focus of the exercise.

3 is Family

WRONG TURN 4: BLOODY BEGINNINGS

2.5 Stars  2011/18/94m

Director/Writer: Declan O’Brien / Cast: Jenny Pudavick, Tenika Davis, Kaitlyn Wong, Terra Vnesa, Victor Zinck Jr., Dean Armstrong, Ali Tataryn, Samantha Kendrick, Sean Skene, Daniel Skene, Scott Johnson.

Body Count: 14

Dire-logue: “Who are they?” / “The cannibal hillbillies my brother told me about – who else could it be!?”


In some ways, it’s really nice that the Wrong Turn franchise overcame the less-than-stellar box office receipts of the kick-ass original to become a sort of straight-to-DVD Friday the 13th of the noughties. The downside is that said kick-ass material from the 2003 original has eroded over time into the crass sort of cliches that burden too many teen horror flicks.

In fact, referring back to the 5 things I wish they’d stop doing in horror films thingy I wrote a while back, Wrong Turn 4 ticks four of the five boxes:

  • Asshole characters? Yes, even nominal final girl Kenia (!?) is a patronising cow who convinces her friends not to kill the trio of redneck freaks even after half their numbers have met gruesome endings.
  • Token lesbianism? Yes. After the requisite pre-credits shock, four of the nine main characters are introduced by way of orgy; a straight couple doing it in one bed while two buck-naked chicks are slobbering over one another about three feet away. Fuck off.
  • No survivors? WT4 is a prequel so you know there’s going to be a sucky ending for the last few people standing. In fact, it’s funny in a sort of splatstick kinda way.
  • Torture-porn lite? I’d give it half a mark, although those done in slowly and horribly are surprisingly male characters. See below where one schmuck is slowly ripped limb from limb while another is filleted and has said removed skin boiled and eaten by the inbreds.

The beginning takes place in 1974 (what’s up with that year?) where the three brothers are locked up in an institution. They break out, cause major carnage and flee. Twenty-nine years later – so a matter of months before the events of the original film – said asshole college kids on a winter break get lost in a snowstorm and end up taking shelter at the abandoned asylum.

The inbreds seem to still live there, so how and when did they relocate to the shack and gather up all those cars? It should’ve been set in the 90s or something. Missed opportunity.

That said, Bloody Beginnings is better than Wrong Turn 3, following a more common body count opus and the kills are grisly and inventive and don’t rely too much on CGI. The teens’ numbers dwindle until there are just four girls left, who attempt to fight back with mixed results but there are too many characters in the first place, many of whom are indistinguishable from one another.

It’s been said for years that Jason should have a snowbound adventure and it looks like the WT team have beaten him to it for the time being. Maybe in Wrong Turn 5 the hillbillies will take Manhattan?

Blurb-of-interest: O’Brien also directed Wrong Turn 3.

Ron Jeremy and the porno lesbian cheerleader massacre

ANDRE THE BUTCHER

2 Stars  2005/87m

A.k.a. Dead Meat

“No matter how you slice it… He’s pure terror.”

Director/Writer: Philip Cruz / Writer: James Hyde / Cast: Ron Jeremy, April Billingsley, Maury Sterling, Faye Canada, Heather Joy Budner, Justin Capaz, Liz Mullins, Alan Fessenden, Terry Mross, Gene Nash.

Body Count: 14

Dire-logue: “Could you please put aside your sexual identity issues for a minute and whip it out?”


A slasher flick with porno legend Ron Jeremy as a supernatural killer?

Three college cheerleaders and a guy cheerleader (?) driving around Florida on their way to a contest crash their car and end up at an abandoned house inhabited by a welding-mask-masked wacko who hacks people up, grinds their flesh down and eats it. Throw in a couple of escaped prisoners and the state cops who’re chasing them and there’s plenty of victims for the chop.

In spite of lowest-of-the-low production merits, Andre the Butcher isn’t such a bad flick once; T&A announced at the outset by an old man narrator is fairly minimal and the now requisite girl-on-girl scene is handled just that teeny bit more maturely than you might expect.

The final girl, Jasmine, is actually outed as a lesbian half way through. I know! A gay final girl at last! A sort of back up heroine arrives in the black police deputy. A lesbian and a black woman. What gives?

The characterisations aren’t exactly ocean deep but people turn out a little differently than it would appear. They’re generally sweet natured kids who don’t bitch and fight for a change and the prisoners are also packing a few surprises.

Andre the Butcher is full of sloppy gore and Jeremy is chucklesome as the loony toon but it’s not the kinda thing you’re ever going to watch more than once, so for a film that LOOKS like it’s going to be one 87-minute stereotype, you could waste your time far less interestingly.

Blurb-of-interest: Ron Jeremy played Jesus (!) in Bloody Bloody Bible Camp.

Erotic dancers. Trannies. Razor psycho. Canada.

AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

3 Stars  1981/87m

“Pray you never have one.”

Director: Don McBrearty / Writers: John Sheppard, John Gault & Steven Blake / Cast: Lawrence S. Day, Lora Staley, Tom Harvey, Neil Dainard, Michael Ironside, Lenore Zann, Larry Aubrey, Alexandra Paul, Mike Coperman, Claudia Udy, Page Fletcher.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Somebody tries to kill me, I get a little nervous.”


Good old Canada, making a film called American Nightmare. Who did they think they were fooling, eh? Well, me I guess but I was only 3 in 1981 so it wasn’t a difficult feat.

Anyway, this little known flick (produced by Prom Night directed Paul Lynch) has quite a lot going on for such a timid creature. Day is a pianist who goes looking for his missing (read: murdered) little sister in ‘the city’ after she left home a year earlier, became an erotic dancer-slash-hooker and, well, vanished.

Seems that a razor-wielding psycho has it in for the girls who dance at Club 2000. Nothing’s called Blah 2000 anymore, is it? Feels like we live so futuristically. High on the killer’s list is the beautiful Louise, who reluctantly joins forces with the out-of-towner, who more than proves he can take care of himself in the big bad city.

The real ‘American nightmare’ comes in the form of the tone; almost exclusively set in the sleazy world of pimps and pornography. The camera exploits its victims as society and, ultimately, the killer has – putting them on show for the voyeuristic pleasures of the slobbering men who come to the shows – and then brutally slaying them.

The film holds more than a hint of misogyny and homophobia to it as all the female characters are shown nude and the only male victim is a gay transvestite – dubbed the ‘degenerates’ of society. The only victims are the girls and the gay – not even the pimps and pervert motel owners fall victim to the razor.

Thankfully, once the mystery has agreeably unfolded, the ‘sleaze’ and ‘degeneration’ binds itself neatly to the so-thought upstanding members of the city who have deep involvement in the murders.

There’s an amusing scene where genre-regular Lenore Zann is stalked by the killer, who hisses her name – Tina – from the shadows, just as Freddy Krueger would do in a few years’ time.

A very interesting and unfortunately rare piece of horror with a cringetastically good twist and a cast of good soon-to-be’s, including future Baywatch hottie Alexandra Paul.

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Ironside was also in Visiting Hours, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, Children of the Corn: Revelation, Fallen Angels and Reeker; Zann was also in Visiting Hours and Happy Birthday to Me. The 2000 movie of the same name is not a remake.

Lightmares and Nighthouses

LIGHTHOUSE

 3.5 Stars  1999/15/91m

“The brightest light. Your darkest fears.”

A.k.a. Dead of Night (U.S.)

Director: Simon Hunter / Writers: Hunter & Graeme Scarfe / Cast: James Purefoy, Rachel Shelley, Chris Adamson, Paul Brooke, Don Warrington, Chris Dunne, Bob Goody, Pat Kelman, Pete McCabe.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “Two words can sum that up: Sick. Fuck.”


Some films should only be watched once. Such is the case with this leftover from 90s Horror Month, which I frankly ran out of time to review.

In typical British horror tradition, the UK was pretty much the last country to get the film despite producing the damn thing. I saw it about a decade ago after importing an American video copy and thought it was very good but, if memory serves, not likely to hold up on repeated viewings. Watching it t’other day, I was right.

Psycho member-of-public cutter-upper Leo Rook escapes from incarceration during a transfer on a prison ship, offing a couple of guards as he goes and then rows to a nearby lighthouse-isle, slays the keepers and disables the lighthouse, which subsequently causes the ship to hit nearby rocks and sink.

A gaggle of survivors make it to the isle and hobble to the lighthouse where the remaining guards try to keep hold of their power before the group realise that something ain’t right. Attempts to fix lights, generators and radios are all thwarted by Rook, who likes to collect the severed heads of his victims. Eventually, the prison staff and shrinkologist Kirsty (Shelley) admit to the others who was on board and who might’ve escaped and who might be killing everyone. That’s the same person for all three of those categories, by the way.

Lighthouse excels visually and some scenes are precursors to the likes of Haute Tension: sequences where victims know the killer is close by and hide themselves away in tiny spaces while the music is muted and nobody is sure if Rook knows they’re there. Lots of work is done with reflections in puddles and weather beaten windows and shots are angled to maximise the claustrophobic feel of a scene or, elsewhere, making the interior of the building appear like a swirling nightmare. Another great scene involves two prisoners shackled together, one of whom is unconscious while the other decides between spending ages attacking their chains with an axe or hacking through something easier as the killer approaches…

There’s a weird and off putting flashback that links Rook to Kirsty that’s never wholly explain and made fuzzy by strange editing as the film lumbers awkwardly towards it’s overwrought climax, which unfortunately scrutinises the setpieces into looking a bit staged and cheap. There’s no prizes for picking who’ll live and who won’t but the cast is dotted with familiar faces, most of whom (nearly all the victims here are male) die quite gruesomely by the killer’s handy machete.

One of the better British slasher efforts hampered possibly by it’s almost-high-art-but-not approach to a generic opus; parts of it that look beautiful juxtapose clumsily with low-end effects work, but if you can see your way to ignoring that, there are some gripping situations to level the playing field and Lighthouse is definitely worth seeing for a touch of classiness.

Strangely, someone asked me if I thought the film was gay. Gay? Well, a load of men – some shackled together – scramble to salvation on an island with a big phallic penisey lighthouse. But no, I don’t think it’s some big cock metaphor.

Blurb-of-interest: Rachel Shelley was in The Children.

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