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Realty Bites. And stabs. And slashes.

open house 1987

OPEN HOUSE

1.5 Stars  1987/18/91m

“Now it’s open season for murder.”

A.k.a. Multiple Listings (!?)

Director/Writer: Jag Mundhra / Writer: David Mickey Evans / Cast: Joseph Bottoms, Adrienne Barbeau, Barry Hope, Robert Milano, Rudy Ramos, Darwyn Swalve, Page Moseley, Lee Moore.

Body Count: 9


“See the thriller of the year on home video.” Right.

A pretty good opening is not enough to salvage this badly scripted and cut together crap with a dog-food-eating killer murdering real estate ‘bitches’ and their clients around Los Angeles. Why? You wouldn’t believe how desperate the motive turns out to be.

Bottoms is a critically-maligned radio psychologist who receives calls from an opinionated aggressor who thinks the victims deserved all they got. His girlfriend – Adrienne Barbeau, why is she in this?? – the owner of the city’s most successful real estate agency. Gasp.

There’s dumb behaviour a-plenty, like a pair of early victims cowering in the corner of a bathroom that has a visible escape route, and there’s s stupid subplot about a rival firm trying to kill Adrienne’s business. If this is supposed to serve as a red herring then it fails even to get off the blocks.

open house adrienne barbeau 1987

It’s as if the writers rearranged their blind twists as they went along. The killer, whose face is kept off screen until the last few minutes, turns out to be who everyone in the cast thought it was, obliterating any trace of mystery they’d tried to construct.

There’s also the needless misogynistic vein: Most of the fatalities are women but the killer has no reason for targeting a specific gender, leaving a sense of “women shouldn’t have successful careers” emanating from it.

A rotten score irritates throughout like some cheesy soap opera and the end stoops to ripping off When a Stranger Calls without any shame. This flick comes from a bad neighbourhood and should stay there festering.

Blurbs-of-interest: Mundhra directed the equally lame Hack-O-Lantern; Page Moseley was also in Edge of the Axe.

“Scream 4″

final stab 2001FINAL STAB

3 Stars  2001/18/78m

“Last one alive wins.”

A.k.a. Final ScreamScream 4

Director/Writer: David DeCoteau / Writer: Matthew Jason Walsh / Cast: Melissa Renee Martin, Jamie Gannon, Erinn Carter, Chris Boyd, Bradley Stryker, Laila Reece Landon, Forrest Cochran, Michael Lutz, Donnie Eichar, Scott Hudson, Brannon Gould, Britt Soderberg.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Why don’t you go find a phone, some help at a nearby farmhouse, or a fucking tampon?”


I wrung some enjoyment from this cheapo cash-in that was marketed as Scream 4 in some territories.

Trash director DeCoteau takes on the post-modern slasher trend that has more in common with April Fool’s Day than it does Wes Craven’s films, putting rich college kids in an abandoned mansion with a bloody history.

Kristen (Carter), the self-confessed “Queen bitch of deception” plans on driving her estranged-sister’s unhinged boyfriend off the deep end by staging a murder mystery evening. Expectedly, her plans are hijacked by a real killer – identically dressed, of course – starts to do away with the players one by one.

The usual cliches come thick n’ fast, most repeated the victims assuming the killer is the actor employed by Kristen (who was a Skeet Ulrich-a-like!) and the olde thinking bodies are their buds playing dead.

DeCoteau inserts his signature homoerotic sequences, with one guy parading about in a pair of very small, very tight shorts, and a secret fling between two of the ‘straight’ male characters. Nearly all victims are cute college guys, while the largely empowered female roles are occupied by Kristen, her naive sis Angela, a the shallow, dopey other girl/victim.

Mucho film title dropping and a motive that amounts to “I like horror movies” are where the Scream comparisons start and end, with a few explanations as to the ‘rules’, but ultimately it’s a cheaper, less amusing Cut, but a fun one if you catch it in the right mood.

Blurbs-of-interest: Brannon Gould was in Maniacal; DeCoteau’s other slasher credit is Dreamaniac.

Love is pain

prom night iii last kiss 1989PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS

3.5 Stars  1990/18/96m

“Alex thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. He’s half right.”

Directors: Ron Oliver & Peter Simpson / Writer: Ron Oliver / Cast: Tim Conlon, Cyndy Preston, Courtney Taylor, David Stratton, Jeremy Ratchford, Dylan Neal, Brock Simpson, Juno Mills Cockell.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “Experts agree his psychotic killing spree could be the result of bad dietary habits, rock n’ roll lyrics, and too many horror movies.”


Despite being as far removed from the original 1980 film as humanly possible, this second outing for prom queen from hell Mary Lou Maloney (now played by Taylor) actually ranks as a witty and often hilarious Elm Street Xerox.

After escaping from hell once again, Mary Lou sets her sights on high school Mr Average Alex Grey, who complains to his brainiac girlfriend, Sarah, that he’s average height, with average shoe size, and will most likely live on a street named after a tree (Elm Street, perhaps?) This feeling is compounded by his guidance counsellor telling him he’ll never get into med school.

But then it’s a case of Hello Mary Lou, Goodbye Heart. Or rather, goodbye various staff and students, as she goes to the zany place of psycho in love and begins offing anybody who threatens his success of their deranged love affair. Krueger-inspired sequences include killer ice creams, a blender in the mouth, exploding pacemaker, a battery acid bath, and the football toss from hell.

prom night 3 1990

As ever in these man-falls-for-demon-woman opuses, Alex eventually realises Mary Lou’s predilection for murder is a road to hell and tries to rid himself of her and get back with Sarah, but ML won’t give up easily and sets about framing Alex for murder after bodies buried on the football field are unearthed, and turning up everywhere to remind him of her power.

It wouldn’t be a Prom Night without a prom, though it’s almost an afterthought as Alex breaks out (and kidnaps a cop played by series-regular Brock Simpson) to rescue Sarah, which culminates in both of them taking on Mary Lou in hell. Out to save her man, Sarah encounters zombies, and the jukebox from hell, which fires 45s at lethal speed.

The incidental music from the original creeps in during one scene, which provides a brief echo of the central death-at-the-prom motif as a victim-to-be totters naively away from supervision to investigate a strange sound.

prom night 3 1990

The Last Kiss succeeds where the previous film faltered with a mix of sarcastic and goofball comedy, Conlon’s appealing Bruce Campbell-esque charisma, a good dose of 50s nostalgia and tunes, and the establishment of Mary Lou as a fitting female counterpart to Freddy. The film went to video outside of Canada and the storyline was abandoned for a return to slasher fundamentals for Prom Night IV two years later, but by the 90s things were looking bad even for Freddy, so it’s likely for the best they laid Mary Lou to rest hereafter.

Blurb-of-interest: Courtney Taylor was in 1999 cheapo flick Camp Blood.

“You piss me off!”

fall down dead 2007FALL DOWN DEAD

2 Stars  2007/94m

“Seven strangers. Trapped. Hunted. Carved.”

Director: Jon Keeyes / Writer: Roy Sallows / Cast: Dominique Swain, Muhmet Günsür, Udo Kier, David Carradine, R. Keith Harris, Monica Dean, Austin James, Karine Darrah.

Body Count: 8


In 2006-07 I went backpacking around Asia for six months and, with a lot of time on buses, waiting at train stations etc., devoured an awful lotta books, trading them in at backpacker stops and hostels. I was particularly into James Patterson’s Alex Cross series at the time, finishing a book in about three days usually.

However, anyone who has read this series will surely attest that the awesome beginnings of Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls soon descended into my-first-psycho-thriller crap Double Cross and The Big Bad Wolf. (Mary Mary was the last one I got any mileage out of).

Anyway, the serial-murder-by-numbers nonsense this once great series has become is like a blueprint for Fall Down Dead, a film so dated I could swear somebody found an unsold giallo script from 1978 in a drawer and filmed it without bothering to bring it up to date.

The Picasso Killer is busy slashing up the women of some nameless big city, which is also victim to recurring power outages. He removes parts of their skin or whatever and uses it in his art, blah blah blah. One night, forward-thinking waitress Christie is assaulted by a homeless guy and does what all victims should: She runs into a dark alley.

fall down dead 2007

There, she finds a woman dying of razor wounds and is accosted by the Picasso Killer, eventually getting a security guard at the Hitchcock Building to let her in. A couple of detectives show up just as another blackout occurs, knocking out the phones and lights, essentially locking them in, plus a couple of office workers having after-hours nudie time, and a cleaner, inside the building. With the killer. On Christmas Eve.

Fall Down Dead is one of those late night cable affairs where you can pick out who will die and in what order from the moment they grace the screen. Somehow it made it to a theatrical release in certain parts of the world! Areas where they still think Patterson is anything but a marketing brand in the guise of a serious writer, I guess.

Suffice to say, Picasso slashes or shoots (aww…) his way through everyone who isn’t Christie or the down-on-his-luck cop until it’s a cat and mouse game.

Kier’s accent and would’ve-been-scary-pre-Lecter performance saves things from total meltdown, but just about everything else should warrant a title change to Fail Down Dead: Swain, who began her career in the title role of Lolita, and then Face/Off, is cookie-cutter single-mom-working-as-waitress stuff, but the script is so steeped in its mandated view of gender politics that she can’t fire a gun and needs a man to save her at every turn.

fall down dead 2007

The other characters are just as contrived, from the troubled cop, to the happy cop, the Latino cleaner who clutches her rosary beads and whines instead of kicking the killer in the balls and running for it, David Carradine’s crotchety nightwatchman, and the sex-couple with as much depth as a petrie dish. They also come complete with Captain Obvious dialogue: “I can’t believe the power went off – now I have to walk down all those flights of stairs.”

Kier’s theatrics towards the end are amusing (“You piss me off!” he growls when Christie won’t just surrender and let him slash to to ribbons), but sadly even he can’t resuscitate this lost cause.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kier was also in Pray for Morning and (apparently, but I didn’t notice) Rob Zombie’s Halloween plus The Editor; Carradine was in Children of the Corn VDetention, and Trick or Treats; Jon Keeyes also directed American Nightmare.

Mortu- no wait… Funeral Home!

funeral home 1980

FUNERAL HOME

2 Stars  1980/93m

A.k.a. Cries in the Night

“Some things never rest in peace.”

Director: William Fruet / Writer: Ida Nelson / Cast: Kay Hawtry, Lesleh Donaldson, Barry Morse, Dean Garbett, Stephen Miller, Alfred Humphries, Peggy Mahon, Harvey Atkin, Jack Van Evera.

Body Count: 4


Excuse me if I confuse this with Mortuary

Psycho rip-offs don’t come much more blatant than this tame Canadian stalker, an early film for William Fruet, who later directed several episodes of the Friday the 13th TV series, as well as underrated campus horror Killer Party.

Goodie-goodie teen Heather (Donaldson) goes to visit Grandma for the summer and help her out at her guesthouse, previously a funeral parlour occupied by the grandmother and her late husband. Heather thinks she can hear voices coming from the cellar, where she has been forbidden to ever go.

When a businessman and his mistress check in but refuse to leave when asked, their car (with them inside) is shunted into a local quarry by a mystery truck. Then Mr Davis is murdered after confessing he’s in the area looking for his missing wife, who was reportedly having an affair with the late undertaker, who also disappeared some time earlier. Heather becomes more and more paranoid that there is somebody living under the house and eventually, spurned on by her love interest, snoops where she shouldn’t…

Material lifted from Hitchcock’s masterpiece is prevalent: the location, the cellar, even the killer’s twisted logic when eventually revealed and it’s clear that it was made primarily in response to Halloween rather than Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, slack pacing for the first two thirds makes it a bit of a chore to sit through, although it’s nice to see a few faces from other genre films dotted amongst the minimal cast.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lesleh Donaldson was also in Curtains and Happy Birthday to Me; Jack van Evera and Alf Humphries were both in My Bloody Valentine; Harvey Atkin was in Visiting Hours; Stephen Miller was in Matinee and The Stepfather.

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