Tag Archives: gay stuff

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…

goingtopieces1GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM

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.

HALLOWEEN: 25 YEARS OF TERRORhalloween251

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.

hisnamewasjasonHIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13TH

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.

neversleepagainNEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY

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

wrestlemaniacWRESTLEMANIAC

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 out 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.

Out of the closet, into a nightmare

nightmare_on_elm_street_2A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE

3 Stars  1985/18/82m

“The man of your dreams is back.”

Director: Jack Sholder / Writer: David Chaskin / Cast: Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, Hope Lange, Marshall Bell, Sydney Walsh, Robert Englund.

Body Count: 9-ish

Dire-logue: “Lisa, there’s a Jesse on the phone!”


Although often cited as the worst of the Elm Street franchise (a view I shared until a few years ago), Freddy’s Revenge, on a subtextual level to say the least, is actually pretty good viewing. Plus the fact that it’s so superbly 80s, even the metallic shininess that adorns the titles!

*shing!*

*shing!*

Although there’s enough evidence that this sequel was rushed into production without a lot of thought, at least the creators tried to vary the theme rather than provide a retread of the original and things begin magnificently with a creepy dreamscape that could rival some of those in #1 for effectiveness. Fears of kidnap, social inadequacy, and hell are realised almost perfectly in the sequence, which introduces us to our final boy, Jesse…

elm2elm3

 

Jesse and his family have recently moved into 1428 Elm Street and their teenage son is in Nancy’s old room and already having nightmares about a burnt, claw-fingered guy who, it seems, is more interesting in getting Jesse to do his bidding rather than just slashing him to death.

Jesse soon becomes torn between what’s real and what’s in his head and his parents naturally blame it all on drugs but then some murders occur: first his high school’s nasty gym coach in an exceptionally sexual manner (we’ll come on to that later), then his buddy Grady and some poor schmucks invited to love-interest Lisa’s pool party.

Lisa demonstrating what happens if you look like Meryl Streep and dress like Tiffany

Lisa demonstrating what happens if you look like Meryl Streep and dress like Tiffany

There’s no dream-stalking in Freddy’s Revenge, at least none that’s as clear cut as the other films. No, “oh shit, I’m asleep!” Only Jesse needs to stay awake and sometimes that doesn’t appear to work as Freddy cuts his way out to wreak havoc whenever he feels like it.

Elm Street 2 has a reputation as ‘the gay film’ in the series. Why? Well, from electing an effeminate boy as the lead who whines to Lisa that “he’s [Freddy] trying to get inside my body,” is a good start. Then there’s Nancy’s diary that quite literally comes out of the closet with insights. The aforementioned gym teech is into S&M and catches Jesse in a downtown gay bar before escorting him back to school where the coach is then tied to the showers, stripped, whipped and slashed by Freddy before the showers spurt blood in a bizarre ejaculative gesture. It’s worth noting that furiously chewing gum has never succeeded in making ghostly things depart for future reference.

elm4Jesse – it’s in the name! – shrieks in a high-pitched voice much of the time before Freddy literally comes out of him to take over and it eventually takes Lisa’s kiss to save the day. In effect, heterosexuality is what claims victory, re-repressing Freddy into the background and out of harms way.

There are those who criticise the film for being a ‘gay pride parade’ but it couldn’t be more the other way if it tried. 80s America wasn’t really much of a ticker tape parade for homosexuality at the best of times and the film paints quite a marginalised portrait: the thing that lurks inside trying to take over is evil and must be repressed. Quite the celebratory message indeed.

elm6elm7

 

Is it worth pointing out the irony of these people who moan about diverse sexuality being explored in a film series where the central character is a child molester? I’d bet they’re the same ones who whinge when there are no tits on display. It’s OK, look, there’s an undead kiddie-fiddler instead!

Anyway, back in the black and white world of horror cinema, Freddy’s Revenge fails on several levels: there are only two ‘proper’ murders, although both are good, not enough of the skipping-rope chant, the acting is all over the place and Patton doesn’t make much of a sympathetic hero and it’s really Meryl Streep-a-like Myers who does the legwork. Freddy though, looks great and at his scariest with a sort of moist quality to his skin (ew!) and the final shock is amusing.

Why be scared of Freddy when there's a giant poster of Limahl over your bed!?

Why be scared of Freddy when there’s a giant poster of Limahl over your bed!?

Who knows what writer Chaskin was trying to achieve here? Parts of it work and parts don’t, but it all looks well made and it’s certainly different and betters – at least - parts 5 and Freddy’s Dead.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jack Sholder edited The Burning and directed Alone in the Dark; Christie Clark (Jesse’s little sister) was later in Children of the Corn II; Marshall Bell was in Identity; Clu Gulager was in The Initiation; Englund appeared in Behind the Mask, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera and Urban Legend.

Death is just a click away

imurdersiMURDERS

2 Stars  2008/15/99m

“You don’t know who you’re talking to…”

Director: Robbie Bryan / Writers: Robbie Bryan & Kenneth Del Vecchio / Cast: Terri Colombino, Frank Grillo, William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Tony Todd, Joanne Baron, Charles Durning, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Billy Dee Williams, Brooke Lewis, Miranda Kwok, Christie Botelho, Dan Grimaldi.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “It’s difficult to put the milk back in the carton when you’ve already had the cereal.”


Look at that cast roster! Forsythe. Todd. Anwar. Durning. How could this film fail, you might ask? And yet…

iMurders is a strange one. It’s a film that borders several genres and has so many criss-crossed mystery plot threads that the writer’s of Lost would be envious. There’s a lot to resolve in just 99 minutes and things would likely work out better were this a mini-series like Harper’s Island.

Things begin usually enough with a woman returning home to find a blonde riding her husband’s lap. Faces are obscured and we flick to the exterior as voices are raised and a gunshot sounds.

Ten months later, Colombino’s pretty singleton, Sandra, moves into a new apartment and quickly connects back on to ‘FaceSpace’, the social networking site she’s obsessed with. FaceSpace. I think I hear you groaning!

imurders2

A group of eight super-friends meet religiously for online chats, during which LA FX artist Mark sets them a contest, the winner of which will be rewarded with some movie memorabilia. However, during their chat, Mark cops a powerdrill in the back of his head, which the others, watching over cams, believe is just trickery in accord with his Halloween-themed task…

Sandra becomes romantically involved with brooding ex-cop neighbour Joe, whose sister is an FBI Agent looking into both the chatroom murders and Billy Dee Williams’ crooked lawyer, who sets up attacks on people and then sues for them. His latest client, Anwar (the trigger-happy Fi from TV’s excellent Burn Notice), is a model whose face has been permanently scarred after she was attacked by a knife-toting loon in a nightclub. Consequently, she spends the entire film with a giant square band-aid stuck to her cheek.

Elsewhere, Forsythe is a philandering college professor trying to hide his ways from his missus and discourage an amorous co-worker. Durning is a shrink with a bizarre young client who babbles incoherently about the number 666, the chatroom and her dead lesbian lover, which allows, yet again, for a sleazy girl-on-girl scene.

Another murder occurs and brooding cop’s FBI sis and Agent Tony Todd (!) – for once neither a hook-handed urban legend or a death savvy mortician – sweep in and arrest bad lawyer and 666-girl and discover another of the chatters slain. As the script steers us towards suspecting Sandra of the killings, we think twice and realise that the killer is most likely that other person who’s always there, loitering…

imurders3

“I hear if you chant “iMurders” 5 times in front of your screen…absolutely nothing of interest happens…”

iMurders is a good looking production. I mean, if the director could get that cast, then he obviously knows how to call in favours. Its ambition is what uploads a virus into it; the top-heavy plot structure is simply way too much for the film to adequately cope with. In addition to this there are too many characters and the killer only manages to knock off a dismal three of the eight chatroom members. The token gay character is done away with first and the murders are too tame for a slasher flick and too brutal for a TV movie. CTRL+ALT+DEL out of this one.

Blurbs-of-interest: the music was composed by no other than Harry Manfredini, who scored nine of the Friday the 13th films; Anwar was also in Crazy Eights; Forsythe was in Hack! and the Halloween remake; Dan Grimaldi was in Don’t Go in the House; Todd was also in Final Destination‘s 1, 2 and 5, Hatchet (and its sequel), Jack the Reaper and Scarecrow Slayer; Charles Durning was in both of the When a Stranger Calls films plus Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

Ain’t nothin’ like the reality thing

killermovieKILLER MOVIE

3.5 Stars  2008/93m

“Fear reality.”

Director/Writer: Jeff Fisher / Cast: Paul Wesley, Kaley Cuoco, Gloria Votsis, Jason London, Cyia Batten, Al Santos, Adriana DeMeo, Torrey DeVitto, Robert Buckley, Nestor Carbonell, Hal B. Klein, Andy Fischer-Price, Maitland McDonnell, Leighton Meester, Stephen Pelinski, Bruce Bohne, J.C. Chasez.

Body Count: 11

Dire-logue: “A woodshop is a dangerous place…these things just sometimes happen.”


A TV crew are making a documentary about a hockey team who, after 100 years of failure, look set to make the state playoffs. When the director (JC Chasez from N Sync) is fired by bitchy producer Lee, recently out of work and dumped stand-in Jake is summoned by schmaltzy agent-to-the-stars Seaton (Nestor Carbonell, who plays the guy who never ages in Lost).

Jake is packed off to White Plains, North Dakota, with his dog Bongo to pick up where things were left, which coincides with the murder of a local girl, though as always is the case, the locals are told it’s just an accident. The kind of accident one has when driving a quad bike into a piece of wire suspended between two trees… Bitchy Lee informs Jake that the hockey show is just a front and that the real story is about the series of ‘accidents’ that plague the township. Dead chick’s dad has just been released from prison and is thus suspect number one.

killer-movie

Shot as the far better sounding Dead of Winter, Killer Movie functions differently to your usual slasher pic, using interviews with the crew members to fill in gaps rather than have them awkwardly acted out. This informs us that things are about to get worse with the arrival of Blanca Champion, a Hilton-like ‘actress’ – played by Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory - who wants to be taken seriously in her next role as a TV producer and so signs on as an assistant for the documentary. Meanwhile, bitchy Lee is seducing nubile PA Phoebe, the sound guy and Blanca’s male assistant are both lusting after her and Jake only finds sanity with Kier (can’t remember what her job was) and camera guy Luke.

There are a lot of characters to deal with, including some locals: dead chick’s boyfriend, who is the hockey team star, his dad, who doubles as the coach, a bimbo cheerleader, the bolshy cheerleading coach, some more crew members and finally the killer to trim the roster and make it easier to manage things.

killermovie2

Hooded and masked, the loon begins offing the crew – all the while making his own reality show – and some of the locals one by one, usually pretty gorelessly, although there’s a neat hand-loss moment and lots of bodies are found missing heads, with slashed throats et cetera. As numbers shrink, Jake and the smart ones become wise to what’s more than likely to be going on and try to round everyone up to escape, leaving ditzy Blanca alone at the school… “Come with us or stay here” / “both those choices suck!”

With a decent whodunit subplot, Killer Movie is, for the first two thirds, an engaging and well made film, with an emphasis on the authenticity of the production and stocking it with likeable characters (unless intentionally otherwise), marred only by Blanca’s comic relief, which is too off the wall to mesh well, especially when she faces off with the killer and also the pointless lesbianism, which is becoming annoyingly frequent – would they ever show two guys making out?

killer moviedead of winter

Things begin to fall to pieces once the fiend is unmasked: it took me several minutes to even recognise the schmuck and the motive provided made little to no sense when you think back to some of the earlier killings… This doesn’t ruin the film so much as it stops it becoming a hidden gem, which is a shame as it does so well for the most part. There’s some good dialogue, the stalking scenes are reminiscent of old Friday the 13th‘s and the soundtrack is well selected (especially Benjamin Bates’ credits song Two Flies.) Originally intended for a theatrical release, things fell through and it ended up going to DVD instead but uber-observant slasher connoisseurs should be able to pick out the many familiar faces as noted in the blurbs…

…of-interest: Kaley Cuoco was in The Hollow; Gloria Votsis was in Train; Cyia Batten was in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning; Al Santos was in Jeepers Creepers II; Torrey DeVitto was in I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer; Robert Buckley was in When a Killer Calls; Jason London was in Mask Maker.

1 6 7 8 9