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The Joke’s on You

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APRIL FOOL’S DAY

1 Stars  2008/15/88m

“She has a killer party planned.”

Directors: The Butcher Brothers / Writers: Michael Wigart & The Butcher Brothers / Cast: Taylor Cole, Josh Henderson, Scout Taylor-Compton, Joe Egender, Joseph McKelheer, Samuel Child, Jennifer Siebel, Sabrina Aldridge.

Bodycount: …is any of it real?

Dire-logue: “This is supposed to celebrate someone coming out, not going out!”


Snotty rich sibs Desiree and Blaine hold a coming-out party for Scout Taylor-Compton’s high-society debutante, which is ruined when an April Fool’s prank on Desiree’s rival, Milan (!), ends up with the poor girl toppling over a mezzanine to land atop a grand piano and totally dying.

One year later to the day, those involved in the joke are summoned to Milan’s graveside where they are confronted with a letter, supposedly from the dead girl, stating that they will each die throughout the course of the day unless the person responsible turns themselves in to the police.

Is it/isn’t it a joke dialogue ensues and, true to her word, the group begin perishing in bizarre ‘accidents’ until numbers are whittled down to the final three and a couple of twists are glued to the end for those dim-bulbed enough to misunderstand the concept of prank-themed slasher films.

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By far the worst of the remake scrum, AFD ’08, ignores everything that made the ’86 original so much fun and turns it into a cynical after-school drama production with the most unlikeable characters you could imagine. Ponsing around in their shiny cars and designer clothes, we want these bastards dead! It’s got far more in common with Cruel Intentions than any horror movie, has no heart or soul, no sense of fun, no blood, no suspense – it’s simply devoid of merit. And the twist is simply groanworthy. I wanted to attack my TV screen with a hammer at the end of this.

Scout Taylor-Compton is surely becoming some sort of slasher-remake jinx after trying to fill Jamie Lee Curtis’ shoes for Rob Zombie’s depressing Halloween redux. An obnoxious, insulting film if ever there was. The joke is most certainly on the audience.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D

mybloodyvalentine3dMY BLOODY VALENTINE

3 Stars  2009/18/101m

“Nothing says date movie like a 3D ride to hell!”

Director: Patrick Lussier / Writers: Todd Farmer & Zane Smith / Cast: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe, Megan Boone, Edi Gathegi, Betsy Rue.

Body Count: I counted 18


One thing’s for sure – it ain’t 1981 anymore!

And so, Hollywood’s latest candidate for a rinse n’ makeover arrives. A bit of a cult classic, the original is reportedly Quentin Tarantino’s favourite slasher flick. Strangely, it’s about the only film he hasn’t ripped off yet…

As the plot of a masked-miner offing partying youngsters at his place of work wasn’t likely to pull ‘em in these days, those crazy folks at Lionsgate decided to make this a 3D experience! Cool, huh? There hasn’t been a theatrical 3D slasher flick since, oooh, Freddy’s Dead back in ’91? Wise decision in the current climate. Unwise was hiring Todd Farmer to scribe the thing. Now, while I’m sure Farmer is a nice chap (he plays the trucker FYI), he did write Jason X and the watered-down ghostfest that was The Messengers. His intentions might be good – play things back to their roots: gore, full-frontal nudity – but his script doesn’t make a whole lotta sense…

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The walking oil-painting that is Jensen Ackles is Tom Hanniger (they kept some of the original names – yay!), who is apparently to blame for an accident at his pop’s mine that causes a cave-in and strands six of the men in the rubble. When they pull out the lone survivor, Harry Warden, they discover he slaughtered the other five in order to stay alive. Shortly after, Harry wakes from his coma and murders 22 people, finishing at the mine where a group of employees and their babes are partying.

Ten years later, Tom returns to town to finish up selling the mine and runs into his ex Sarah, now married to old buddy Axel, who is now the Sheriff and doing Sarah’s grocey store employee Megan ‘in secret’. Miner-murders quickly begin with an unfortunate nude lady and Farmer’s trucker, escalating to people associated with the mine. Victims are chiefly done in with a rusty old pick-axe, gorily most of the time and with sod-all sympathy from anyone.

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Unlike the original film, the slayings occur in town over a few days surrounding Valentine’s Day, victims’ hearts showing up in candy boxes again, with a subplot thrown in to explain what became of Harry Warden to ‘tie-up’ questions the audience may have. Eventually, all roads lead back to the closed-off section of the mine and the identity of the killer is shoddily revealed. It’s a disappointing revelation that shows the studio’s primary concern was for the 3D effects. I imagine somebody turned around and slapped their forehead, exclaiming: ‘Shit! We have no motive and those flashbacks do nothing to clear it up…and how did the killer know where _____’s _____ was if only _____ knew!?’ There’s nothing that makes you sit back and think ‘oh yeah, I should’ve noticed that!’ It’s completely out of leftfield, yanking the film’s shoelaces undone so that it trips over itself in the middle of a crowded supermarket.

This minor (har-de-har-har!) complaint aside, MBV ’09 is a fun romp with lots of grue and chases thrown in, even if half the audience did grown when character’s decided to run through the woods into a delapidated house rather than stay on the road and risk the possibility of flagging down help. But this is a slasher movie – common sense has no place here.

Slightly off-topic, why do killers always choose to return years after in multiples of five? Couldn’t it have been nine or eleven years for once, ay?

Next month: Friday the 13th redux. Shudder.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in Maniac Cop; Jaime King was also the heroine in The Tripper; Kerr Smith cheated death in the original Final Destination. But not for long… Betsy Rue turned up in Halloween II (2009) and Groupie.

It’s The Breakfast Club, ayyy?

STUDY HELL

1 Stars  2004/87m

“School’s out forever.”

Director: Mark McNabb / Writer: Jeff McArthur / Cast: Lindsay Dell, Brian Austin Jr., Steve McDougall, Shaylyn Doyle, Ryan Fisher, Michael Henry, Paul Pinel, Karen Dunn.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “The cool kids look at me as a geek, the geeks kinda see me as too mainstream, so I’m stuck in the middle.”


Everyone should love The Breakfast Club, it’s the essential brat-pack flick. Molly Ringwald’s in it for frack’s sake! I’m sure some who saw it back in the day wished the cast would bite it Jason-style. Well, their wishes have been answered and they only had to wait 20 years!

OK I’m lying. Sort of. Molly Ringwald did do a slasher film though. So did Judd Nelson. And Ally Sheedy had already been in Deadly Lessons a couple of years earlier. Instead of these has-beens starlets of the past, we’re given five ‘updated’ versions of them. The likenesses are uncanny as you can see from the trailer…

But wait a minute…this isn’t Shermer, Illinois… What’s with their accents? They’re saying ‘abowt’ and ‘ay?’ Are they- are they Canadian? Actually it’s about the only memorable thing here, I like the Canadian twang; it’s a nice combo of American and Australian soundages, ask my Vancouverianian friend August.

Anyway, with detention in full swing and the same assignment handed out by dorky looking teech Mr Keller, ’tis he who rapidly descends into madness and decides the wayward students must DIE! DIE! DIE! We want this too, as they’re very annoying and cannot act very well.

There’s a rubbish explanation courtesy of the janitor (who ain’t no John Kapelos!) to do with ‘Nam and murdered cheerleaders. The athlete, princess, geek and ‘criminal’ (yes, he’s the bespectacled one) all bite it, leaving the Sheedy-clone to face off with the killer. Some weird-ass twist is sellotaped on to the end, which, when added to the rubbish FX work, divided by the sub-drama class acting, multiplied to the power of shit equals one waste of the six or so hours it took me to stream this flick. And I was sick that day. And I missed  Murder She Wrote to watch it. Boo@Study Hell.

Singular blurb-of-interest-that-should-be-taken-as-a-heeding: many of the cast and crew also produced Dark Fields, which couldn’t possibly suck as hard as this…could it?

FINAL EXAM

FINAL EXAM

3 Stars  1981/87m

“Some may pass the test…God help the rest.”

Director/Writer: Jimmy Huston / Cast: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, Ralph Brown, Deanna Robbins, Sherry Willis-Burch, John Fallon, Terry W. Farren, Timothy L. Raynor, Jerry Rushing.

Body Count: 11

First-rate Fatality: A garrotting by weight machine cables.

Dire-logue: “It’s happening! The psychopaths are here!”


Awww… Final Exam. It’s the slasher film equivalent of that dim-bulbed kid at school, who wasn’t very good at anything, but was always nice. Some chose to ridicule them, while others looked upon them with a mix of sympathy and fondness. Such is Jimmy Huston’s cutesy little clone of Halloween, anything but the darling of horror fans, but there’s no denying the love that some slasher aficionados have for it – me included.

Being a slug of a movie, ‘events’ begin with that staple fixture of teen horror: the double-slaying of a parking couple, who are entangled in some campus romance. Along comes a shady maniac who slices through their soft top and pulls the guy out of the driver’s seat and knifes him to death on the bonnet of the car, while his squealy never-to-be conquest watches in what the actress intended to look like terror. Her death is off-screen, but we know she bites it as the ‘action’ shifts to nearby Lanier College where the murder is reported by one of our central characters, Radish (see below).

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So it’s the last few days of the semester and the campus is all but deserted. The remaining students are busy packing or studying for their finals, among them our pretty and likeable heroine Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi in her only role, like, ever), who has concerns over being boring in comparison to her bombshell roommate Lisa. Lisa, meanwhile, is carrying on with a married professor and intends to cram in one last ‘biology tutorial’ before she leaves to return to ‘the city’ (funny how they never mention which cities they come from in these flicks – see also Friday the 13th Part 2). Ditzy Janet (Sherry Willis-Burch who later turned up in fab Canadian possession slasher Killer Party) has been ‘pinned’ by frat pledge Gary, and takes this to mean they’re in love and have to spend every minute together, while he is being tormented by his frat brothers, neanderthalic Wildman and walking-bouffant president Mark, who want him to steal a test paper for them.

Last but by no means least is Radish, Courtney’s friend who rings so many bells on the gaydar that you’ll develop tinnitus. He’s short, he’s camp, and he minces around spouting factoids about the likes of Charles Whitman, a subject of which his knowledge serves him well when a black van cruises on to campus and opens fire. It turns out to be a prank, much to the chagrin of the local sheriff who later ignores an emergency call from Radish when the horror proper is discovered and we get to see him break into the gayest of gay sprints as he flounces off to warn Courtney.

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So anyway, exams are sat, test papers stolen, romances gabbed about and a slow-striding stranger appears behind bushes and watching students through doors and stuff. As darkness sets in, some sixty minutes after the initial double-killing, those foolish enough to be wandering the campus alone fall victim to a string of mostly off-screen deaths. The knife-toting nutter – alas, no mask – indiscriminately does away with Gary, Janet, Wildman, Mark, Lisa, and a couple of silent extras, until only Courtney is left. With an shot of Jamie Lee adrenalin, Courtney runs and hides from the rather dorky looking killer, culminating in a showdown at the campus tower before a satisfactory ‘yes, it’s over’ ending that leaves no room for Final Exam 2: You Fail.

The appeal of Final Exam for me lies in it’s purity. It’s cheap and cheesy, with no pretensions or gimmicks – straight down the line killer-kills-kids stuff. Its shortcomings around pace and lack of bloodshed are joined by the uninteresting killer. Strangely, there’s a possible motive crowbarred into an earlier conversation, when Courtney relays that a girl threw herself from the campus tower sometime previously because she didn’t get into her chosen sorority. There was I expecting a speech from her dad/brother/boyfriend about avenging the death but nothin’ comes out of this dude’s mouth at all until his final meeting with Courtney’s unleashed warrior princess – spoiled by the old UK video box (right).

Sadly, this is the type of film that will be forgotten in years to come, appearing on lists with a bunch of other also-rans with nothing to recommend it to the casual viewer. For the other twelve of us, Code Red are working on a DVD remaster due out across the pond in late September 2008! No news on any extras yet but the distributor managed to reunite some of the cast and crew (including Cecile and Joel Rice, who played the cult figure of Radish) so there’s hope on the horizon for good times with this one.

Yay!!!

Yay!!!

Blurbs-of-interest: Wanna know what happened to Lisa’s curly-haired professor-cum-lover? Apparently, the budget was such that some of the actors and bit-parters’ original raison d’etre’s had to be curtailed. Hopefully there’ll be a more thorough explanation on the DVD.

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