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Loser Kills All

cruel world 2005


2 Stars  2005/85m

“On this show, you get voted killed off.”

Director: Kelsey T. Howard / Writers: Ed Hansen, Paul Lawrence & Paul T. Murray / Cast: Edward Furlong, Daniel Franzese, Laura Ramsey, Andrew Keegan, Susan Ward, Joel Michaely, Nate Parker, Nicole Bilderback, Aimee Garcia, Brian Geraghty, Sanoe Lake, Jaime Pressly, Sam Page.

Body Count: 10

Reality TV reject Furlong is so incensed by his national humiliation that he decides to produce his own show, housing nine college kids and giving them a series of bizarre tasks to carry out, which either see them eliminated or ‘sent home’. And by ‘sent home’ we mean the Angela Baker definition thereof.

He starts by murdering the woman who rejected him on a show called Lovers Lane. This is much-emblazoned star Jaime Pressly. I’m not really sure what she’s famous for, but the artwork makes a big deal out of her sub-Barrymore role in this.

Four guys and five girls enter the house – all of them walking stereotypes of the laziest kind: The fiery Latino girl, southern belle, bitchy backstabbing (literally) gay, slow-but-kind Utah farmboy… After a task pushes her too far, one girl opts to quit and is kicked into the pool and drowned; Another is voted out, driven away, and buried alive; A third chased by Furlong’s hulking, mentally-challenged brother (Franzese, who was in Mean Girls around the same time) and is locked in a shed, never to be heard from again.

cruel world 2005

Eventually, the dwindling contestants catch on, find bodies, and are forced into further challenges: Two guys have a caged fight to the death, then they’re made to stand on cones for hours on end… All very Survivor.

Cruel World has some good ideas but lacks the budget or creative team to see them through. Is it satirical? OK, so where’s the wit and barb? Is it horror? OK, why are most of the kills so dry? In its inability to choose what it wants (hey! maybe that’s a super-clever reference to the rejection of the killer!!) it ends up a mess. There is a well done decapitation of a contestant who escapes, and many of the actors went on to better things, but like any reality has-been it’s almost instantly forgettable and no more deserving of your time than My Little Eye, Kolobos, Voyeur.com

Blurbs-of-interest: Laura Ramsey was in Venom; Aimee Garcia was in 7eventy 5ive; Brian Geraghty was in the 2010 Open House.

Los Chicos Cero

trampa infernal hell's trap 1989


3 Stars  1989/77m

A.k.a. Hell’s Trap

Director/Writer: Pedro Galindo III / Writer: Santiago Galindo / Cast: Pedro Fernandez, Edith Gonzalez, Toño Mauri, Charley Valentino, Armando Galvan, Marisol Santa Cruz, Adriana Vega, Alfredo Gutierrez, Alberto Mejia Baron ‘Alfin’.

Body Count: 7

Prior to this, the only other Mexican slasher film I’d seen was Don’t Panic, directed by Rubèn Galindo, Pedro’s grandson, way back in the mid-90s. Suckfest.

Fortunately, Trampa Infernal - ‘Hell Trap’ – is a far more interesting little cut n’ shut of The Zero Boys and The Final Terror, with a bit of Elm Street thrown in.

I can read and speak enough Spanish to get by, but the tempo at which it’s spoken often leaves me lagging, so I was happy to find that I could translate the subtitles on the video into English, presenting me with some awesome stuff about Aimee Teegarden, one million peso horses, Barack Obama, and all manner of confused sentences of the “scattered rainfall has admitted that very good principle and raped the last video viaduct” quality. Amazing.

trampa infernal 1989

It mattered not, the subs were just about decipherable enough to work out the basic plot: Big-haired Nacho (!) and Mauricio are paint-ball enemies. Yeah, that’s a thing. So pissed is Mauricio that Nacho beats him during their last round, he challenges him to a hunt-off: A bear that has slain a few hunters in the woods is the target – first to kill it has the biggest balls ever, etc. Nacho’s girlfriend Alejandra is against it, but goes anyway, as does his tubby pal Charly, and Mauricio’s buddy, plus their ditzy girlfriends.

Naturally it soon transpires there is no bear, but an insane war-vet who wears a mask not a million miles removed from Michael Myers’, and stalks the woods with a razor-fingered glove (!!), guns, and other teen-obliterating items.

trampa infernal 1989

The subtitles ceased to exist once the teens reached the forest, but it was pretty simple to follow that they started getting wasted – ditzy girls first – and then when escape proved futile, fought back, numbers dwindle more and so on and so forth, until the predictable ones are left to save themselves and stop the killer, who it seems is named Jesse? Ooh, frightening.

In spite of its dire lack of originality, there’s still some good stuff going on here. Bad-ass opening credits come with a mock ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma sound effect; The murder in the truck is well done and quite brutal; And you can’t help but laugh as a girl wanders about the trees yelling ‘Nacho’ over and over. Plus clocking in at 77 minutes means it doesn’t get boring.

trampa infernal 1989

I doubt I’ll remember much of this one in a decade, but as far as pass-time A-Teamy Mexi-horror goes, this is a fun romp.

Children: Still evil.

mikey 1992


2 Stars  1992/92m

“Remember – Jason and Freddy were kids once, too.”

Director: Dennis Dimster-Denk / Writer: Jonathan Glassner / Cast: Josie Bissett, Brian Bonsall, Ashley Laurence, Mimi Craven, John Diehl, Whitby Hertford, Lyman Ward, David Rogge, Mark Venturini.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Psychotic? So now we have Ted Bundy Jr., is that it?”

I love this artwork, total Hand That Rocks the Cradle weave-snatcher.

Mikey holds the moderately interesting status of being one of very few films still banned in the UK. That is to say, it was originally rejected in 1993 due to a case of two ten-year-old boys abducting and murdering a toddler and simply never resubmitted for release.

It matters not, seen The Stepfather and any of the early-90s psycho nanny/neighbour/roommate flick and you’ve seen Mikey, which has the unremarkable caveat of the loony toon being a nine-year-old serial adoptee. I’ll say it early, The Good Son did it way better.

The Stepfather seems to provide the template here, as things begin with Mikey, dissatisfied with his family’s attitude towards discipline, drowns his little sister, electrocutes mom in the tub, and sets up a Home Alone stunt to send dad through a glass window before finishing him off with a baseball bat. He then hides in the closet and turns on the tears when the cops come.

mikey 1992 brian bonsall

Mikey is re-adopted by Neil and Rachel Trenton in Arizona, enrolled in school, and develops a crush on his classmate/neighbour’s big sister, Jessie.

The first adult to suspect all isn’t right is his teacher, Miss Gilder, who takes his violent drawings to the principal, catches him in several lies and concludes he’s a sociopath in about four minutes.

Mikey frames Jessie’s boyfriend for the death of their cat and when she takes him back, he repeats the electrocution gag, prompting Miss Gilder to crowbar her way past the closed adoption to find out just where the little shit came from.

Outed as a maniac in the making, Mikey does away with the adults who pose a threat and somehow manages to set up a Happy Birthday to Me-esque tableau of three corpses around a dinner table. A tiny nine-year-old was able to drag, lift, and pose three corpses more than twice his size and weight. OK. Bet dad regrets teaching him archery.

mikey 1992 brian bonsall

As soon as the film began I knew how it would end, with the requisite HE’S STILL OUT THERE!!!! scene where a couple of new schmucks adopt the ‘amnesia-suffering child found wandering the highway’. So Hollywood shouldn’t revel in the death of a kid on screen, but c’mon, we had to grow tired of Macaulay Culkin and that Xerox from Problem Child, just shove the little fucker down a well.

Too derivative to be anything more than a passing interest, but at least Bonsall does well in the title role, equal parts manipulatively convincing and unhinged, even if the post-slasher dialogue is too hammy to pack a punch: “What’s your favourite movie?” / “Freddy Krueger, Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Blurbs-of-interest: Bonsall was famous for playing the youngest child in Family Ties, and going from infant to age five over one summer; Josie Bissett was in All-American Murder; Ashley Laurance was the final girl in several of the Hellraiser movies; Whitby Hertford played Alice’s son in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and was the kid Sam Neill yells at in Jurassic Park; Mimi Craven – Wes’s daughter – played a nurse in the original Elm Street; the late Mark Venturini was the angry dude who axed up Joey in Friday the 13th Part V.

Let’s go round again

happy death day 2017


3 Stars  2017/15/96m

Get up. Live your day. Get killed. Again.”

Director: Christopher Landon / Writer: Scott Lobdell / Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken, Caleb Spillyards, Blaine Kern III, Rob Mello.

Body Count: 8… kinda

It would be impossible to forego mentioning Groundhog Day in the same breath as Happy Death Day - ostensibly the same idea, but staple-gunned to a slasher-lite opus.

This film provided a rare opportunity for me to go to a horror movie with VeVo’s lover, who is largely against bloody violence for entertainment, but hates Bill Murray to the point where they could use this film to project those feelings on to and imagine it was him being murdered over and over again…

At Bayfield College, self-centered sorority girl Tree (short for Teresa) wakes up hungover in the dorm room of sweet-natured Carter, grabs her clothes and a Tylenol, and is outta there. She walks by a girl trying to sign her up for an environmental campaign, sprinklers soaking a couple, a frat boy keeling over, a needy ex, and gets home to her sorority, where the bitchy house president Danielle is quippy with her, and finally rejects her nice roommate’s attempt to give her a birthday cupcake.

happy death day 2017

Tree goes through her day, classes, getting naughty with her professor, and then heads off for a frat party. Alone. Down dark areas of the campus. In a short tunnel, Tree encounters a creepy music box playing ‘Happy Birthday’ and is attacked and killed by a loon in a baby-faced mask that matches the school mascot.

Then she wakes up in the dorm bed. As most of us probably would, Tree stumbles through the day writing it all off as deja vu. This time, she sees the music box and goes the other way, making it to the frat house, where it turns out the party is a surprise for her birthday and, this time, ventures off upstairs with a guy, who is murdered before she is attacked a second time and killed with a shattered bong.

happy death day 2017 jessica rothe

Then she wakes up again. And again. And again. Tree is knifed, struck with a baseball bat, drowned, and hit by a bus as she tries to work out who it is who’s after her and why. With Carter’s help – after she’s convinced him each morning – Tree knocks names off the list of suspects and goes about making reparations to her unruly life, reconnecting with her estranged Dad, apologising to her suffering roommate, and ending the affair with her teacher.

But who is trying to kill her and why? Happy Death Day‘s eventual revelation is a tad contrived, but at the same time I didn’t guess it correctly, so perhaps I’m just being picky. It helps that Tree’s resurrections aren’t unlimited – each time she wakes up she’s weaker than yesterday, so the clock is ticking on solving the mystery before she’s gone for good.

happy death day 2017 jessica rothe

While almost entirely bloodless (it was a PG-13 Stateside), what murders there are besides Tree’s happen mostly to schmucks who get in the way of the killer and are undone each new dawn, resulting in a ‘real’ murder count of, well, none. It’s still a slasher film of sorts, in the same way April Fool’s Day is, despite not being… kinda?

Katie Cassidy-a-like Rothe is great in the lead role – balancing comic timing with final girl aplomb and going from nasty victim-type to appreciative heroine over the runtime. Rachel Matthews as bitchy Danielle is also a hoot and gets most of the best lines.

happy death day 2017 jessica rothe

A fun diversion, checking most the boxes Camp Daze failed to, and a surprising box office success that will hopefully trailblaze the way for some more theatrical slasher flicks, although whether audiences will embrace straight-up stalk n’ slash over this kind of concept remains to be seen.

The 50 Best Foreign* Slasher Flicks: 30-21

Up n’ up…

See #50-41 here.
And #40-31 here.

30Invitation Only (Taiwan, 2009)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 5.0

invitation only 2009

A young chauffeur is handed an invite to a high society party by his client, who doesn’t want to go and tells the guy to pose as his cousin. It turns out he and four others have been invited to be tortured in front of a bunch of super-rich voyeurs because they’ve each done something wrong.

It’s Taiwan’s answer to Hostel, with some fun moments along the way, including a particularly grim scene where a corrupt political wannabe has his balls fried with jumper cables. Ouch.


29A Blade in the Dark (Italy, 1983)

VeVo: 2.5 Stars
IMDb: 6.0

a blade in the dark 1983

A young composer hired to score a horror film rents a villa where the previous tenant carved something of a reputation for herself. Seems any beautiful young women who happen by for a number of contrived reasons end up slashed to pieces by a mystery killer.

Lamberto Bava directed this rather minimalist entry in to the giallo canon but, bloody demises aside, it doesn’t offer much to remember it by.


28Nightmare (2000, South Korea)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 5.3

nightmare 2000

Two years after the suicide of a friend, a group of young folks are haunted and murdered by her ghost. Or are they? Deservedly ranking higher than the sub-par RecordNightmare borrows heavily from the likes of The Ring and The Grudge, but the creepy visual atmos more than makes up for several plot contrivances and a confusing structure.


27Absurd (Italy, 1981)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 5.3

absurd 1981

This sort-of sequel to The Grim Reaper (which I’ve seen but can’t remember) pretty much goes down the copy-Halloween route of babysitters stalked by a loon, in this case an invincible bearded dude whose ability to regenerate cells is the absurdity of the title. He’s being hunted by a priest, and shows up at a house to torment bed-ridden Katya, her severely punchable little brother, Willy, and any number of babysitters and passers-by.

A resident of the infamous Video Nasties list of the 1980s, the first two slayings are pretty strong on the gore front, I mean, bald guy’s head being forced into a saw blade. Ouch.


26Hell’s Ground (Pakistan, 2007)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 5.7

hell's ground 2007

Pakistan’s entry into the horror canon at least spares us the musical interludes of its Indian peers, and also throws toxic zombies into the mix as a vanload of youngsters on their way to a rock festival go too deep into the woods. They also fall victim to a burka-disguised, mace-swinging psycho. What a day.


25Cub (Belgium, 2014)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 5.9


A boy scout camp-out venture ventures too far into the Belgian forest, where the legend of a feral wooden-masked child turns out to be true. This crowd-funded flick interestingly opts to tell its tale largely from a child’s point of view, has impressive production values and some creepy moments, but ultimately retreads too-similar a path come the climactic scenes.


24Eyeball (Italy, 1975)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 5.9

eyeball 1975

Tourists in Barcelona are targeted by a rain-macked killer who plucks the eyes out of young women, including several of those in the tour group. As is usual in giallo pictures, all the men are suspects and all the women are in danger.

The eventual outcome is hilariously overblown, but I didn’t guess it.


23999-9999 (Thailand, 2002)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 5.1

999-9999 2002

Thailand’s attempt to ape Final Destination is a bit cheap in places, but ultimately an entertaining flick. After a girl is found skewered atop a flagpole, rumours abound that she called the mysterious 999-9999 hotline, which grants you anything you wish for – but with a cost.

Cue a group of pranksters asking for a Ferrari but then getting killed by a defective car wash, to lose weight and having their innards ripped out in a bizarre accident, or, in the weirdest scene, winning a space camp contest and being sucked into an anti-gravity chamber with several saw blades.


22Cold Prey III (Norway, 2010)

VeVo: 3.5 Stars
IMDb: 5.1

cold prey 3 2010

The film world’s obsession with trilogies is probably responsible for this prequel, which rewinds back into the mid-80s where seven young friends go on a summer’s camping trip in the mountains, where they disturb the homicidal Fjellmannen, who was defeated with irreversible finality in Cold Prey II.

While clearly a step down from the first two films, there’s still a lot to like here, peaking in the middle with a tension cranking chase through the woods and into an abandoned cottage, and nicely drawn out characters who, unlike recent American films, aren’t assholes we want to see skewered.


21Evil Dead Trap (Japan, 1988)

VeVo: 3 Stars
IMDb: 6.2

evil dead trap 1988

A precursor to the likes of Saw, the presenter of a late night TV show where viewers send it whacky videos receives one of a woman being gruesomely tortured and, to turn around their falling ratings, asks if she can take some colleagues to investigate the scene. Naturally, they are each caught in icky traps that skewer and bisect them, until only the presenter lady is left. All of this occurs in the first half of the movie, opening things up to some weird shit I’ve largely repressed but is nothing like any other slasher flick you’re likely to see. Avoid the sequel though.

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