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All you can do is step back in time

campdazeCAMP DAZE

1.5 Stars  2005/95m

“The only way out is death.”

A.k.a. Camp Slaughter (DVD)

Director: Alex Pucci / Writers: Alex Pucci & Draven Gonzalez / Cast: Anika McFall, Joanna Suhl, Matt Dallas, Eric McIntire, Jon Fleming, Kyle Lupo, Miles Davis, Bethany Taylor, Ashley Gomes, Jessica Sonneborn, Jim Marlowe.

Body Count: 45+

Direlogue: “Backwoods…scary noises… Haven’t you heard of Jason?”

Idea. Excellent. Setting. Perfect. Costumes. Authentic. Execution. Uhh… Can I grab a hall pass?

On paper – or indeed the webpage – Camp Daze reads flawlessly: a quartet of teenagers driving to Maine find themselves stranded at kooky Camp Haiwatha, which is stranded in the summer of 1981, perpetually reliving the night when a psychopathic killer went on a bloody rampage. Fucking awesome.

As an homage to a certain groundbreaking summer camp slasher film, complete with a block-like title card smashing through a pain of glass before it was renamed Camp Slaughter for DVD, mixed with a Groundhog Day riff, this takes some amusing pot-shots at the most famous franchise in slasherama but ultimately chokes on its shoestring budget, which make it look unwatchably cheap and badly made. Y’know, worse than the films it apes.


Most of the film’s problems lie in the visual: careless edits and amateurish gore effects work don’t pack a punch and appear odd under the impressive orchestral score. Slot this in next to terrible acting and poorly conceived characters who suck the fun out of it all, with no real central figure to root for. The eventual sole survivor, Jen, is the sassy black girl who says ‘fuck’ a lot and keeps bringing up Jason, much to the confusion of the camp counsellors.

Even with the strange, not-quite-sure homoerotic undertones and a ballistic body count – possibly a sign of a poorly thought out script – nothing stands out and the obnoxious twist ending just induces rage at the laziness of the plot.

With a better collection of actors and shot with more care, this could’ve been a minor classic but it’s destined to become just one more post-millennial DTV slasher film that claimed it was recapturing the old school methods but failed miserably.

Blurb-of-interest: Jessica Sonneborn returned to camp in Bloody Bloody Bible Camp; director Pucci and actors Fleming and Taylor all contributed to Frat House Massacre.

Sister Psychosis

psychosisterPSYCHO SISTERS

2.5 Stars  1998/18/97m

“Stay together… Slay together!”

Directors: Pete Jacelone & Michael L. Raso / Writers: Pete Jacelone & James L. Edwards / Cast: Theresa Lynn, J.J. North, Anthony Bruno, Mac Winslow, John Knox, Nancy Alison, Edward Burrows, Michael Devin, Stacy Mathewson, Matthew Fisher.

Body Count: 28

Dire-logue 1: “These bikers have been killing all these kids and sacrificing their dorks to some kind of penis god!”

Dire-logue 2: “Just because I hate men does not mean I wanna munch carpet!”

A man confesses to his Mrs that he once raped somebody so she shoots him and then cuts off his dick before turning the gun on herself.

Their three daughters, Jane, Jackie and Janice, are later gang raped and Janice is killed by one of the assailants, sending her older sisters off to the asylum for X years.

Jane and Jackie are eventually released and pass their time by kidnapping and killing college-age boys and keeping their cocks in jars in a cupboard. All goes well until Jackie begins to develop feelings for some of the captives and, under the advice of the ghost of Janice, decides to give a chance to nice guy Todd, who she meets at the sperm bank where a sign reads: “We’re glad you came.”

Jane is less than happy about this and will do anything to ensure that the sisters who stay together, slay together. Meanwhile, local cops trying to solve the College Boy Slasher case (which, at the beginning of the film has amassed 35 victims!) and a group of greasy bikers are out to avenge the deaths of two of their own.

ps1Psycho Sisters is a rubbish film. Really, it sucks some big castrated cock – but I think it knows that. At the beginning I went in under the assumption-slash-fear that it was going to play it straight or attempt to make me laugh with crap Scary Movie-level comedy. Fortunately, it soon became an amusing so-bad-its-good film with the genuinely amusing moments, such as Jane abusing a neighbour who is aroused by being beaten by a woman (“what the hell is wrong with you!?”) and a scene where the girls can’t decide what weapon to pull out of Jane’s handbag to off a couple of horny bikers.

There’s a hack reporter who keeps calling the cops to inform them that they’ve solved the case and it’s the ghost of a sitcom character and Jane’s attempts to get the attention of a victim who can’t hear her are also pretty funny. Meanwhile, the bodycount goes ballistic, with a huge shootout between bikers and cops at the end and a foreseeable but fun twist ending.

Crap film is rarely this funny.

Crystal Lake revisited. Without the lake.


3.5 Stars  2009/18/82m

“These girls are so hot, a maniac killer must put them on ice.”

Director: Geoff Klein / Writers: Geoff Klein & Jeff Ross / Cast: Cindel Chartrand, Danielle Doetsch, Ivan Peric, Christina Sciortino, William Jarand, Caroline Faille, Jarek Gader, Kerri Taylor, Suzi Lorraine.

Body Count: 12

The very basic outlay of a slasher film is something so generically simple that there’s no shortage of camcorder toting idiots around who think they can make one with a gaggle of nubile hotties, some tits, some blood and a hulking retard for a killer. It’s little surprise most of these films suck. What most of these budding filmmakers seem to miss is that even the cheapest of the early 80s progenitors contained a degree of workmanship and talent, a genuine enthusiasm for the project and not just the chance to get half a dozen girls to strip under the illusion it’s art.

A film with the word ‘bikini’ in the title should really adhere to this parade of shitness and yet, even before I’d seen the box or the trailer for Bikini Girls on Ice, I had a feeling it would be different…and it is.bgoi1

What BGOI has that these other misfires lack is a splash of colour and functions as an apparent love letter to your average Friday the 13th sequel, something it resembles in tone and composition from time to time. The best analogy I can make is to that film itself – the scene where Marcie is stood in front of the sinks and the camera slowly approaches was what won me over. Bikini Girls reminds me of that scene.

An all-female college soccer team on their way to a charity bikini car wash break down at the abandoned garage where, just the night before, an unrelated bikini chick was murdered. With repairs to their bus likely to take some time, the group decides to have the car wash there, once in a while wandering off, calling out the name of someone they cannot find and falling victim to the greasy homicidal mechanic who resides out back and looks like Sawyer from Lost after a particularly bad run in with The Others.bgoi2

After some of the girls decide to leave, the remaining numbers quickly shrink until clear heroine Jenna and her friend are the only ones left and then it’s botched escape attempts and into the killer’s lair.

The girls are largely indistinguishable from one another and I identified them only via bikini-top colours: black boobs was the bitchy nasty one, blue boobs was Jenna’s BFF, yellow boobs and heart-pattern boobs were faux lesbians. There are a couple of horny guys chucked in, some French tourists, an old man who warns them they’re doomed if they stay, some sporadic sex between heart-pattern boobs and a patron and very little actual boobage – something many of the other reviews I read seemed peeved about. Were I not such a big ‘mo it might bug me too, I guess.


Anyway, why did it earn three n’ a half, uh, bigguns? I was more than likely overtly generous because it reminded me of how I felt about the early Jason films: the setting, lush colours, dumb behaviour that isn’t too idiotic, largely likeable characters and back to basics filmmaking that works. Slow tracking shots, fragmentation, claustrophobic meandering through shelves, hidey-holes, a full moon above. But mostly, no pretenses, it’s straight down the line, making the most of what it has rather than striving to appear as something more.

There’s always room for improvement: I’d have liked the killer to have worn a creepy mask and maybe have a motive and it was a little light on bloodletting, with most kills obscured by the camera placing or off-camera completely. These are minor flaws, it’s certainly no drier than the cut editions of Fridays we had here in the 80s.

bgoi5Ultimately it sounds like I’m championing it too much probably but it hit the spot for the most part: fun without being glib or downbeat, amusing without resorting to parody and sometimes tense without looking like every other DTV bodycount flick of the last ten years.

Ipso Facto – Documentaries of the Slasher Realm

Way back when I first experienced that wee-hours viewing of Friday the 13th in my folks’ lounge and became enchanted with the idea of ski-masked madmen slaying promiscuous teenagers, there were only a couple of academic texts around; no almanacs, film guides or documentaries. The only mention of slasher films in the books I had for my Film Theory degree was that they were “hate-women films!” (exclamation mark included).

After Scream and the contemporaries that were washed up in the tide it created, the genre became accessible once again and in our age of curiosity about things of yore that pre-dated the behind-the-curtain-ness of DVD, it wasn’t long before all the people who grew up on the golden age were old enough to write and even film their own love letters to the genre. That’s what Vegan Voorhees is about.

So, books beget DVD featurettes and eventually came the retrospective documentary features, released on anniversaries of eve’s of high profile “remakes” (that word again!!) here are four of the five I have. The fifth? It was a Channel 4 Mark Kermode thing that didn’t venture beyond the big franchises or have much to say about them…


4 Stars  2006/18/88m

Field Director: Jeff McQueen

The only one to have started life as a book, Adam Rockoff’s overview of the genre up until 1986 was never available in the UK so I can only judge by what’s on the screen, which, for all we know is advantageous because it’s a great hour and a half retrospective, chronicling the humble beginnings of human fascination with voyeurism of suffering, quickly on to Psycho, the Italian films of Bava et al, and going in-depth for Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom Night and A Nightmare on Elm Street, whilst giving nods to The Prowler (including at-the-time unavailable footage from the uncut version), Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me, Terror Train, The Slumber Party Massacre and Sleepaway Camp – at which point I would like to add that Felissa Rose is not only beautiful but makes good counterpoints when the legendary parental backlash over the Silent Night, Deadly Night commercials is explored.

Later chapters look at the late 80s/early 90s decline and then re-emergence with key cast members and directors dropping anecdotes and theorizing about the genre they contributed to. And it must also be said that while I can’t call myself a fan of Rob Zombie’s output, I quite like the man himself; he’s well-versed, articulate and, like Felissa, presents a good argument for horror in general. Amy Holden Jones also has a lot to say about unfounded criticism of the films by the Siskell and Ebert crowd – their unintentionally amusing TV diatribe is covered: “these movies hate the independence of women!”

Going to Pieces is best appreciated from a nostalgic point of view – it is genuinely nice to hear what some of the directors have to say, given that it’s a common myth that they only did it for the money or as a stepping stone to greater things, unaware that (for many of them) they were making the most notable films of their respective careers.

Betsy is still flabbergasted at the success of the film she thought was a piece of shit.

Betsy is still flabbergasted at the success of the film she thought was a piece of shit

Who else turns up: Armand Mastroianni, Paul Lynch, Herb Freed (“It was good – but it’s good that it was”), Lilyan Chauvin, Fred Walton.

Triv: some poor TV movie actress got ditched shortly before Prom Night began shooting when Simcom secured Jamie Lee Curtis. Bet there’s a few darts in that poster on someone’s wall somewhere… Elsewhere, Tom Savini states that he sees The Prowler‘s effects as his best work.


2006/18/84m  3 Stars

Director: Stefan Hutchison / Writers: Stefan Hutchison & Anthony Masi

On to the big boys we go with the first icon-centric love-in, filmed around the titular covention that celebrated a quarter-of-a-century since the (screen)birth of one Michael Myers in – more importantly the year of my birth – 1978.

Despite covering my second favourite franchise, I was less impressed with this one that I was with the documentaries for Friday the 13th and Elm Street. Possibly because it came first, there’s little sense of structure or – dare I say it – effort that went into the other two and also Going to Pieces.

PJ Soles narrates, which is great, and there’s some convention-set talking heads with Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell amongst others but it feels a bit fleeting, like a local TV news crew dropped in to grab a quick word. Meanwhile, Jamie Lee Curtis appears only in archive interview footage. Late series mainstay Mustapha Akkad takes the reigns from John Carpenter and Debra Hill after Halloween III is all but apologised for and, in turn, makes public his regret that Halloween 5 was rushed into production too soon.

There’s some insight and box office blah, interviews with some fairly unhinged fans (one of whom goes so far as to ape Soles’ “see anything you like?” moment for the camera – and then wins a contest to appear in what was then known as Halloween 9) and Marianne Hagan laments the troubles that plagued Halloween 6 but it all stops short of Rob Zombie’s redux, which would have made for some interesting insights from fans and series alumni alike.

Attention-holding enough for what felt more like a few DVD featurettes strung together to flog that thousandth reissue of the original, which was included in the 2-disc pack.

pjsolesWho else turns up: Brian Andrews, Tom Atkins, J.C. Brandy, Jeff Burr, John Carl Buechler, Jason Paul Collum, Charles Cyphers, Chris Durand, Gloria Gifford, Sasha Jenson, Nancy Loomis, Brad Loree, Kim Newman, Rick Rosenthal, Don Shanks, Beau Starr, Tommy Lee Wallace, George P. Wilbur.

Triv: Rick Rosenthal says he shot the hot-tub murder scene from Halloween II in a thong! Marianne Hagan talks about the test screenings for Halloween 6, where an ‘articulate 14-year-old’s’ opinion that “the ending sucked” ensured re-shoots for two thirds of the film! Rob Zombie goes on to detest the process, commenting that when he was 14 nobody gave a shit what he thought about re-editing Jaws! Danielle Harris had a creepy stalker. There were multiple masks used in H20 as various big-wigs cyclically disapproved of them.


3.5 Stars  2009/90m

Director: Daniel Farrands / Writers: Anthony Masi & Thommy Hutson

Released to cash-in on the impending Friday the 13th “reboot” and shown on TV in the US – and strangely released in the UK in April 2010 – like, thanks now

There’s more in common with Going to Pieces than the Halloween doc, as Tom Savini presents a segmented skate through the merry history of Camp Crystal Lake, starting with a superfast overview of films 1-11, appreciating Jason’s greatest hits, the score, the mask, pretty much everything you learnt from Peter Bracke’s Crystal Lake Memories book with a little less cast interaction, although Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King and (swoon) Amy Steel appear so who cares about the rest? The lovely Felissa appears once again out of mutual respect for a fellow summer camp slayer and everyone attempts to replicate the ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma sound with varying degrees of accuracy.

Several horror bloggers get screentime to admire the best of Big J but there’s even less technical information here than in the Halloween doc, as if the whole project was dumbed down to suck in airheaded fanboys who only care about the method by which various teenagers are disposed of.

The ever-beautiful Kevin Spirtas appears...

The ever-beautiful Kevin Spirtas appears…

That said, Friday is the brand I champion the most. It’s organically the classic slasher series, despite its commercial and critical failures throughout the years, it’s like the kid you love just a little more than your other two, who might be smarter and better turned out, but Friday the 13th needs only to don that puppy dog expression and I’m sold.

The second disc includes extended interviews, fan films and the like. Was VeVo asked to contribute? No. *sulks*

...And Stu Charno even beginning to resemble Jason from Part 2

Who else turns up: Diane Almeida, Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Diana Barrows, Richard Brooker, John Carl Buechler, Chuck Campbell, Gloria Charles, Jensen Daggett, Steve Dash, Darcy DeMoss, Todd Farmer, John Furey, Warrington Gillette, CJ Graham, Seth Green (!), Kane Hodder, James Isaac, David Kagen, Elizabeth Kaitan, Ken Kirzinger, Paul Kratka, Adam Marcus, Tom McLoughlin, Lawrence Monoson, Camilla & Carey More, Lar Park Lincoln, Catherine Parks, Amanda Righetti, Shavar Ross, John Shepherd, Danny Steinmann, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Russell Todd, Debisue Voorhees, Ted White, Larry Zerner.

Triv: Darcy DeMoss’ murder scene was actually filmed underwater.


2010/239m  4 Stars

Directors: Daniel Farrands & Andrew Kasch / Writer: Thommy Hutson

Back in the 80s, Roger Ebert said in his review of Elm Street 3 that the Krueger franchise was like a high-rent version of the Friday the 13th saga… Never more is that represented than here in this staggering FOUR HOUR retrospective of the eight Freddy films prior to the 2010 remake.

Narrated by the wonderful Heather Langenkampenschultzenburger and punctuated by stop-motion interludes, each and every film, plus that horrendous TV series, is explored to maximum effect, uniting nearly all the principal cast members who reflect on their time on set, what they thought of the films and the appeal of Freddy himself. Plus the riddle of Elm Street 2‘s notorious gay subtext is finally resolved – yes, it was intended to be a low-key theme, although it seemed most of those involved did not notice at the time.

Wes Craven and Robert Shaye talk freely about their dispute over the sequel rights and, on the second disc, the present cast members regurgitate memorable lines that recreates the saga from beginning to end and there’s a set visit which takes us to 1428 Elm Street, Nancy’s school and Tina’s house amongst others as well as extended interviews that cast a grim shadow over the then-incoming remake.

Comparatively, this grandiose slab of nostalgia wins hands down for sheer effort to please the fans, but could you watch it more than once? It took me three sittings just to get through it.

Ain't gonna sleep no more, no more

Ain’t gonna sleep no more, no more

Who else turns up: It would actually be easier to say who didn’t participate – almost every main cast member is interviewed, the only obvious exception to me being Ronee Blakely, who avoided it all by getting good and loaded.

Triv: For Jennifer’s TV-nightmare in Dream Warriors, Dick Cavett was allowed to choose his interviewee and so picked Zsa Zsa Gabor, citing her as the dumbest person he’d ever met, who he’d never have on his show and who he’d gleefully see slashed by Freddy.

All this shows that we are much indebted to Daniel Farrands, Thommy Hutson and Anthony Masi for all they’ve put into three out of four of these documentaries and Jeff Katz for appearing in, quite possibly, all of them, symbolic of their love and respect for a genre most people couldn’t have cared less about. We love you.

Wrestling for the brainless and faceless


2.5 Stars  2006/18/73m

“Let the face off begin.”

Director/Writer: Jesse Baget / Cast: Rey Misterio, Leyla Milani, Jeremy Radin, Adam Huss, Margaret Scarborough, Catherine Wreford, Zack Bennett.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Hasta la vista…you fuck!”

Six teenagers driving through a Mexican scape that looks suspiciously like California take one of those classic film wrong turns on their way to a beach where they intend to shoot a porno on a camcorder and end up in La Sangra De Dios, a ghost town inhabited solely by lobotomised wrestler El Mascarado who, in spite of the solitude, rigidly sticks to the rules of south-of-the-border wrestling: that your opponent is permanently retired upon the removal of his mask. Or, in the case of lost teenagers, removal of the face will do fine.

After a start is indistinguishable from a sombrero full of other ‘comedy’ slashers, with heavy injections of skin and girl-on-girl action, the killing ushers in a quite enjoyable slasher opus that remains loyal to the genre cliches for the most part, whittling down the players until the surprisingly capable final girl embarks on a quest of vengeance against the killer.

Just how much do you want to escape in one piece?

Just how much do you want to escape in one piece?

Played by Mexican champ Misterio and under six feet tall, our loon looks far more imposing than the hulking American WWE wrestlers who have ventured into the body count genre.

Clocking in at a comfortable 73 minutes, nothing gets boring and Wrestlemaniac plays like a gored-up version of Scooby Doo and ends with the sentiment ‘keep it simple’, a mantra which has served the film quite well.

Blurb-of-interest: Catherine Wreford was in The Butcher.

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