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Children: Still evil.

mikey 1992

MIKEY

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

HAPPY DEATH DAY

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

cub

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.

Something about Shrooms…?

one way trip 3d 2011

ONE WAY TRIP

2 Stars  2011/86m

“They wanted the ultimate kick – they got it.”

Director: Markus Welter / Writers: Matthias Bauer & Bastian Zach / Cast: Sabrina Reiter, Matthias Britschgi, Simon Kaser, Harry Lampl, Melanie Winiger, Herbert Lesier, Isabelle Barth, Tanja Raunig, Aaron Hitz, Martin Loos.

Body Count: 7


Bluntly, if you’ve seen Shrooms, you’ve seen this. But this one has 3D. And is all in German.

Yeah, that’s right… despite the title (no regional title) and all the credits being in English, since its production in 2011, nobody has bothered cobbling together a subtitle track for One Way Trip, so I had to fall back on my remedial German skills to try and follow the plot. Not too difficult as it turned out. Beware spoilers

Six young adults drive their gorgeous VW T2 – for the first time ever, the same colour scheme as mine!!! – into the Swiss forests to look for a seasonal mushroom with hallucinogenic properties. On route they encounter a particularly unpleasant farmer, shooting wildlife, and his starey daughter, get a flat, and pick up a stranded couple at the garage. Why they were stranded I don’t know, my translation skills failed me.

one way trip 2011

Tents up, shrooms located, the group enjoy their respective trips until Timo is attacked or injured (hard to tell) and needs medical attention. Oh look, a storm is coming in too! Evidently phones don’t work and the drive back to help is further than the farm they locate on their map, so they trek through the rain there.

Nobody is home, so the group sets up in the creepy old house until the nasty old farmer from before pops up. Meanwhile, the usual reasons to go outside crop up and it’s not long before people start dying at the hands of the scarred daughter: One guy is suspended upside down by chains, gagged, has hosiery pulled over his face and then knifed in the eye, there’s a decapitation, a fall on to an iron fence, burning, blades in the back…

Obvious final girl Valerie appears to be the last dame standing, although a couple of the others have just vanished, and she fights with Psycho Farmer in some outside pit.

one way trip 2011

Then we get the twist. Pretty much the same twist as Shrooms, albeit involving more folks. Perhaps some dialogue would’ve made things more obvious, but I was pretty sure that about half the party tripped out to the extent they decided to kill everyone and, well, that’s all folks.

Well made – though the obv. 3D shots are infrequent – with some nice scenery early on, above average production merits and a good chase scene, but it seemed to reach its climax so suddenly I half expected a twenty minute in-hospital epilogue. Perhaps I should re-learn German and watch it again. The most common criticism in other reviews is that the cast all speak the ‘generic’ form of German, rather than dialects more common to the area where the characters are supposed to hail from.

Blurb-of-interest: Sabrina Reiter was also the lead in Dead in 3 Days.

“Come to Brazil!!!1!11!!”

turistas 2006

TURISTAS

3 Stars  2006/18/90m

“Go home.”

A.k.a. Paradise Lost

Director: John Stockwell / Writer: Michael Arlen Ross / Cast: Josh Duhumel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew, Max Brown, Beau Garrett, Agles Steib, Miguel Lunardi.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Hello mate, here’s your dead nephew and, by the way, you’re out of Scotch.”


I went off backpacking the year Turistas came out, five months starting in Bangkok, into Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, India, Nepal, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I picked up this film at one of those DVD outlets in Kathmandu and before I got chance to watch it, had a conversation with some Australian girls who’d just watched Hostel before coming away on their gap year trip. A few spoilers follow.

This tamer, xenophobic rip-off of Hostel is, at least, notable for its beautiful scenery, and was filmed entirely on location in Brazil, where teen backpacking gal-pals Bea and Amy are chaperoned by Bea’s tightly-wound older brother Alex on their trip.

On a particularly frantic bus ride to their next destination, Alex’s concern for the welfare of all aboard is proven right when the vehicle skids off the road and teeters of the side of a steep drop. Everyone flees just in time as the bus rolls down. It’s almost Final Destination worthy. Recovering their luggage etc., the trio befriend solo Australian backpacker Pru, who speaks enough Portuguese to glean that the replacement bus is 10 hours away, and British buddies Finn and Liam.

turistas 2006

The group find their way to a beautiful beach bar, lark around in the ocean, try new drinks, play soccer with the kids, and party the night away, waking in the morning to find all of their stuff has been stolen, including shoes, and the Swedish couple they’d been chatting to are also gone. We already know the barmaid called a mystery number and told the person at the other end she had eight gringos in. We also know the Swedes are dead, taken away by a group of hired guns.

Stranded with nothing but the clothes they’re in, the group walks into the local town where they meet up with Kiko, who was asking them personal questions the previous evening. He volunteers to guide them to a house in the jungle where they can get the assistance they need, in lieu of the police station they can’t find.

turistas 2006

On route, they stop for a dip in beautiful water and Kiko shows them some partially submerged caves, which will come in handy later, but he then cracks his head open showing off his diving skills, leaving the group to take him the rest of the way to the house, despite his feeble protests against going.

At the house, they stitch Kiko together and find lots of international medication, passports, and various belongings and eventually bed down before being woken by the arrival of a helicopter in the night. Scary men come in and they’re soon caged up outside, while lead bad guy Zamora takes Amy and Finn away to harvest their organs in ‘payment’ for rich Americans coming to Brazil for years when they can’t be fucked to wait for legitimate donors back home.

Outside, the others manage to free themselves and stage a prison break, killing one of the guards and saving a sedated Finn from the operating table and then making a run for it into the forest with a remorseful Kiko’s help.

turistas 2006

More of the group die (usually by gunfire) and the final few have to recall their sub-aquatic tour to find a way out. The underwater scenes are beautifully shot but the sequence drags on until the predictable showdown with the Big Bad.

Turistas doesn’t have Hostel‘s bloodlust or Wolf Creek‘s unrelenting sense of hopelessness, thanks in part to the singular operating scene being practical rather than stabby or gory, but this also impacts the threat to the other characters. We only see one girl on the table, the one who showed her boobs and had the least lines, and most other people are killed off camera, shot, or, in one case, get a skewer in the eye. Ouch.

Much fuss was made of the representation of Brazil and its citizens, for which lead actor Duhamel apologised on TV (and the film tanked in the US anyway). However, aside from these lazy stereotypes, the backpackers barely do any better: The Swedish couple utter about four lines before they’re killed, the British guys are textbook football hooligan types who only want sex and beer and sound like they work on a Camden market stall, leaving boring siblings Alex and Bea (you know they’ll survive) and Pru, who comes off the best thanks to Melissa George’s appeal, although in the original script she too was to die because, you know, only American lives matter.

turistas 2006

This was the most annoying facet of Turistas, its inherent laziness when it came to characters, almost none of whom elicit any sympathy, just look great in skimpy clothing, but it scrapes a pass for its scenic backdrops, which make for a pleasant diversion from the usual farm or abandoned building. Most importantly, don’t let it put you off travelling, I’ve encountered more dodgy situations in the western nations than I ever have abroad.

Blurbs-of-interest: Desmond Askew was in No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker and The Hills Have Eyes remake.

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