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Mirror Man

boogey man 1980

THE BOOGEY MAN

3 Stars  1980/82m

“The most terrifying nightmare of childhood is about to return!”

Director/Writer: Ulli Lommel / Cast: Suzanna Love, Ron James, John Carradine, Nicholas Love, Felicite Morgan, Bill Rayburn, Llewelyn Thomas, Raymond Boyden.

Body Count: 9


This weird as fuck film, and resident of the British Video Nasty list, begins with a westward steadicam pan to reveal a white house while a piano tinkers. For a second, you might well think you’re watching Halloween instead, but as the camera floats closer, you realise it’s one of the first of a zillion rip-offs.

Two small children watch at the window as their mom gets it on with a guy in a wifebeater who wears a stocking over his head like any garden variety rapist. She shoos the children away and the wifebeater guy ties the boy to his bed. While mom and wifebeater get it on, a child’s hand grabs a big knife and we float down the corridor with it in shot. But it’s the little sister, come to cut her brother free. Of course, big bro then takes the knife and stabs wifebeater to death with it. Credits please.

boogey man 1980

Twenty years later (never nineteen, never twenty-one), the siblings Lacey and Willy live with their aunt at her farm. Lacey is married with a sprog, but Willy is mute and brimming with trauma still. When they receive a letter from Mom asking to see them one more time, Lacey goes a bit mental and her husband carts her off to the shrink, John Carradine (who shot all his scenes in one day). Doc suggests that she go back to the house where it happened for closure.

This has all taken a long boring time to happen, so something good needs to happen soon, Boogey Man, or you’re going to look as boring as your 2005 namesake.

Mercifully, it does. Touring the house with the permission of the three young siblings living there, Lacey finds that the bedroom where the murder happened has the same mirror on the wall and, in the film’s only genuinely creepy moment, she can see wifebeater man in the reflection, stocking still over his face, watching her back… sitting up… getting of the bed… coming for her…

boogey man 1980

What’s scarier – the ghost or that vile curtain?

So she smashes the mirror with a chair.

While this is probably what most of us would’ve done too, unbeknownst to Lacey, the mirror is now cursed and various splinters and shards of it contain the eeeeevil of THE BOOGEY MAN! Who is he though? Wifebeater dude? No one ever explains.

After they leave with the remains of the mirror, a piece of the glass left behind on the carpet glows and throbs and the invisible killer stalks the three siblings, making one of the girls stab herself in the neck with scissors (after cutting open her top, perv!), slams the window down on her annoying little brother, and I can’t remember what happened to the other girl. Obviously nothing interesting.

boogey2

Back at the house – the fucking Amityville house! – weird things begin to happen. Willy is all freaked out by the mirror, and little bits of it fall off here and there. One piece gets stuck to Lacey’s son’s shoe so that when they go fishing later, the sun bounces off it across the water to a quartet of sexy teens having a picnic on the other shore. Mucho POV work occurs as the Boogeyman invisibly stalks and kills a couple of them in an amusing, proto-Final Destination way.

Lacey is attacked by the invisible man, who rips her clothes, and husband guy finally agrees that shit ain’t right, but by then it’s too late for the aunt and uncle and a priest is summond to the house in a sloppy Exorcist finale with a crucifix, lots of bleeding, and the mirror eventually being lobbed down a well – AS IF THAT’LL STOP IT!

boogey man 1980

Everyone and their grandma knows that shards of it will survive for the inevitable sequels, neither of which I’ve seen, but have sub-2.0 ratings on IMDb and one, or possibly both, is chiefly made up of footage from this film, a la Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2.

Despite it’s ornate weirdness, unsatisfying end and Halloween pilfering, The Boogey Man at least tried to approach the genre from another perspective with the supernatural element shoehorned into proceedings, rather than another guy in a mask. Parts of it work, other parts fail harder than a Donald Trump spellchecker.

This is one film that actually would benefit from a remake, perhaps incorporating themes of the similarly-plotted Oculus.

boogey man 1980

Blurbs-of-interest: Suzanne Love and Lommel (married at the time) returned for the first sequel; Nicholas Love was in Fatal Games; John Carradine was in Silent Night Bloody Night.

A Nagel Family Presentation

clowntown 2016 dvd

CLOWNTOWN

2 Stars  2016/18/82m

“Your fears live here.”

Director: Tom Nagel / Writer: Jeff Miller / Cast: Brian Nagel, Lauren Elise, Andrew Staton, Katie Keene, Jeff Denton, Greg Violand, Maryanne Nagel, Tom Nagel, Kaitlyn Sapp, David Greathouse, Chris Hahn, Ryan Pilz, Beki Ingram, Alan Tuskes, Christopher Lawrence Chapman.

Body Count: 13


So the credits roll and there are four Nagels in the cast, executive production, production, direction… Keep it in the family, I guess, which works out well for this combo of Wrong Turn and any of the 90s Children of the Corn sequels.

A nubile young babysitter is slain by one of her charges, dressed as a clown, at the Strode house. Fifteen years later – never fourteen, never sixteen – two couples on their way to a concert are derailed when the promise of the return of a lost phone takes them into the abandoned town of Clinton (yes, I rolled my eyes too), where they wait around until deciding to move on and finding their car is dead.

Some wandering later, they are set upon by a group of weirdos all made up like clowns who attack with various implements and chased around until one of the girls is abducted and an old man rescues them. He tells them that a train crash on the night of the babysitter murder killed the town, people packed up and left, and the clown murders began, fronted by the grown up kids from the preface.

clowntown 2016 lauren elise

Mucho running and screaming ensues, fighting, people are captured n’ stuff… nominal hero Brad saves the day because the girls are incapable of much beyond shrieking, and almost everything you think will probably happen next happens next.

Teebs, ClownTown isn’t dreadful. It looks alright, the acting gets by, there are a couple of almost-eerie shots and situations, but it suffers most from being way too predictable: A garbage truck appears at one point and I knew that someone would end up squished by the campactor; I knew who would survive – villains included – and who would stagger on to screen for the final shot; I knew that Brad would spring into the frame and put his hand over his girlfriend’s mouth to stop her screaming. I knew too much.

clowntown 2016

ClownTown brought to mind recent fishermen-of-death Xerox The Watermen in both approach and quality (i.e. not completely DOA but you’d struggle to pick it out of a lineup).

Blurbs-of-interest: Director Nagel acted in Jolly Roger and The Butcher; Chris Hahn was in Axe Giant.

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: Harvest of Fear & The Path of Evil

I picked this pair of cheapies up in Bali about a decade ago (!) and the discs were warped in a strange way that no others were and would only play on one DVD player, which I no longer have. Oh well, good job they sucked.

*

harvest of fear 2004 dvd

HARVEST OF FEAR

2 Stars  2004/87m

“Killing is in the air.”

Director: Brad Goodman / Writers: Ted Pfeifer & Chris Pfeifer / Cast: Ryan Deal, Carrie Finklea, Justin Ament, Don Alder, Thomas Nabhan, Curt Hanson, Tobias Anderson, Ted Pfeifer, Ina Strauss, Kristen Luman.

Body Count: 18

Laughter Lines: “Although there have been nine murders, we’re not ready to say any of this is connected.”


Another garden variety Friday the 13th Xerox made for the horror shelf at the DVD store, this time concerning murders in the small Oregon town of Devil’s Lake (of course…), which are identical to crimes that happened two decades earlier.

Medical intern Billy and his object of lust, Stacey, attempt to investigate the crimes that the local cops are too dumb to link either to one another or the earlier murders (see Laughter Lines) but also ignore the stalking behaviour of Stacey’s temperamental ex-boyfriend, Jake.

Meanwhile, college kids following ye olde tradition of getting drunk and having sex are being slashed to ribbons by a masked fiend. Never mind that their friends are dead, they decide they’re safe enough to continue partying until they meet inevitable sticky ends. On no less than three separate occasions, couples wander into dark deserted areas and then split up on the understanding that one of them will “be right back”.

Elsewhere, the film adheres to even the most outdated of cliches, including the old man who nobody listens to, and there’s even a hick-accented narrator book ending the film with a summary of events.

The writers (one of whom plays a deputy) have obviously tried to furnish their tale with twists and a litter of potential suspects, and the identity of the killer proves to be a little beyond the expected, but the actors and the dialogue their saddled with doesn’t stack up and the whole thing has an amateur night feel to it.

*

THE PATH OF EVIL the path of evil 2005

1.5 Stars  2005/113m

“After 20 years… the serial killer has returned.”

 Director/Writer: Brad Goodman / Writers: Justin Ament & Ted Pfeifer / Cast: Justin Ament, Ryan Deal, Carrie Finklea, Don Alder, Katie O’Grady, Thomas Nabhan, Brad Goodman, Ted Pfeifer, Curt Hanson.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Devil’s Lake, contrary to its name, is not an evil place.”


Credit for reassembling the surviving cast members from the first film - and even resurrecting a couple of them from the dead! Here endeth the good.

The tables are turned as far as the plot goes, this time focusing on Jake (Ament), the asshole ex-boyfriend from before, as he recuperates from his wounds and tries to win back indecisive girlfriend Stacey, and work out who is behind the renewed spate of killings, six months on from the events of Harvest of Fear.

Difficult enough to digest that Jake is now supposed to be the sympathetic hero and already knowing the probable identity of the killer, the whole project is fleshed out to an excruciating length with scenes of a criminology student writing a paper on the convicted killer.

Ultimately, this subplot has no bearing on the outcome, which not only feels twice as long but also twice as boring as the first time around, grinding on relentlessly for almost two hours and withholding much of the killing until the end, though mercifully all the major players are done away with, erasing hope for a third go-round – although death didn’t stop them before.

Blurbs-of-interest: Carrie Finklea was in Simon Says; Tobias Anderson was in Destroyer.

Fashion Fatale

sorority house massacre 1986 cover

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE

2 Stars  1986/18/86m …or 74m

“Who’ll survive the final exam?”

Director/Writer: Carol Frank / Cast: Angela O’Neill, Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio, John C. Russell, Joe Nassi, Marcus Vaughter, Vinnie Bilancio, Gillian Frank.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “What’s with Beth?” / “Her aunt died.” / “But that was weeks ago…”


“It must have all started the moment I entered the house…” says a girl in a hospital bed. FLASHBACK TIME!

Sorority House Massacre - where the fashions are deadlier than any nutjob with a knife. I paid £0.01 for this DVD. Seriously. And I still feel robbed.

This brazen Halloween clone was directed by a crew member from The Slumber Party Massacre, but gone is all that playfulness, replaced by what could well be the most 80s movie of the 80s.

sorority house massacre courteney cox

Beth – Courteney Cox-a-like O’Neill – comes to stay at the sorority house Theta Peter something or other where her friend Linda lives, intent on scoping it out to possibly pledge in the future. But no sooner does she enter than a weird feeling creeps up on her, the feeling of deja vu, and her nightmares begin: Creepy dolls, blood dripping on a china tea set, a trio of little girls warning her away blah blah blah.

sorority house massacre dolls

Across town/state/nation, a guy in an asylum begins twitching and then screaming: HE AND BETH ARE PSYCHICALLY LINKED! Who is he? How does he know her? Why does — oh, fuck it, we all know he’s her brother who flipped and killed the family in that house thirteen years earlier. It takes the cast a good hour to work this out though.

While loon-guy breaks out and steals the station wagon that Michael Myers appropriated and a hunting knife for good measure, Beth tries to fit in with the other sorority girls who are remaining at the house over Memorial Weekend. In between hallucinations of the asylum man in mirrors n’ shit, Beth finds the time to dress in accordance with the others, i.e. awful:

sorority house massacre awful clothes

Final Girl noted the presence of the extra at the back there and declared her ‘Banana Orbison’ in her review, and I can’t come up with anything more suitable. Amazing. It’s all just… so… amazing.

One girl asks Beth: “Do you have anything that will go with this?” Yes, fire. And lots of it.

As if this isn’t terrifying enough, Sorority House Massacre commits its first big continuity transgression. Now, the American version of the film clocks in at 74 minutes, while the UK VHS I saw in the 90s ran for 86. Terrible cuts? Better gore? No. More clothes. More scenes of the girls talking about clothes. Or hair. Or boys.

In one such scene, soro sisters Linda and Sara meet on their way back to the house and Linda has totally different hair. Like, completely different, only to cut back to a scene clearly shot some time earlier where she’s back to the old style in the blink of an eye.

They congregate and decide to make the most of their rule of the house by… trying on Cindy’s clothes!!!11!!!1!

This is Cindy in an earlier scene:

sorority house massacre cindy

What kind of fashionista? She calls this ‘fantasy in blancmange’.

Sorority House Massacre stamps its 80s card once again as we are dragged kicking and screaming into a fashion montage. While Beth sits on the bed looking pensive, Linda, Sara, and Tracy don Cindy’s wardrobe, a.k.a. the possible Gateway to Hell.

The girls pose and doo-wop to the kind of saxophone music used in any given 80s breakfast TV show. It is pain.

sorority house massacre awful clothes

C’mon, if Satan didn’t send these garments, who the fuck did?

Later, they receive a delivery of weird Native American ware for a party. The guys come over. Here are the guys:

sorority house massacre the guys

‘Swoon’.

The guys stick around, Beth has more dramas and lets Linda hypnotise her to try and work out where the bad dreams are coming from, while one of the guys relays the story of the murders that occurred in that very house! Beth ‘sees’ a knife hidden in the fireplace in her state of hypnosis which turns out to be legit there, and everyone stares at it for a bit:

sorority house massacre

One of the boyfriends leaves and the killer finally shows up and stabs him. Then Tracy and Craig go outside to have sex in the teepee and the killer gets Tracy. Sorority House Massacre returns yet again to the isle of bad continuity:

sorority house massacre 1986 nudity

sorority house massacre 1986 goof

sorority house massacre 1986 nudity

Finally alert to the presence of the killer, it’s soon just the three remaining girls versus the loon, who sees each one in turn as one of his slain sisters, having to re-kill them before getting to Beth, who still hasn’t worked out she’s the surviving sister. Tenants of sisterhood, sororities, woah, deep thematics or what?

An attempt to use the fire ladder to climb down to safety is thwarted, and when the killer starts to come up, the girls throw the ladder hooks out, only for him to JUMP FROM THE GROUND AND THROUGH A SECOND STOREY WINDOW.

sorority house massacre

More teenagers die, Beth is the last girl – duh – and finally sticks her brother where it hurts. Cut back to hospital bed, last second hallucinated shock thingy, credits.

Wow, 74 minutes never felt so long. Imagine being British in the 80s and having to trawl through those extra twelve minutes of clothes and hair!?

A bad movie lover’s dream, Sorority House Massacre may suck harder than a Pittsburgh hooker, but it’s occasionally effective: Beth’s dream of the china tea set is suitably weird, and there’s flashes of decent photography, and O’Neill makes for a capable heroine, even if all her efforts are bogged down by mechanical performances (the shrink is quite good), characters with a collective IQ lower than a spoon, and offering up absolutely nothing surprising.

But you still need to see it. Need to.

Blurb-of-interest: Pamela Ross was later in MoonStalker; Nicole Rio was in semi-slasher The Zero Boys.

Pumpkin Face

pumpkin karver 2006 dvd

THE PUMPKIN KARVER

1.5 Stars  2006/15/88m

“Every face is a work of art.”

Director/Writer: Robert Mann / Writer: Sheldon Silverstein / Cast: Amy Weber, Michael Zara, Minka Kelly, Terrence Evans, David J. Wright, David Austin, David Phillips, Alex Weed, Charity Shea, Mistie Adams, Briana Gerber, Jared Snow, Jonathan Conrad.

Body Count: 8


Weber and Zara are siblings new to the small town of Carver (groan), after a Halloween prank at their expense ended with Zara accidentally killing her sister’s boyfriend. One year on – to the day, as ever – they attend a big party away from adult supervision where a killer in the same mask as that used in the prank begins turning the faces of partygoers into human Jack-o-Lanterns.

A creepy old local pops up every now and then to torment Zara about the sacred job of a Carver and some babble about the ‘evil within’.

Given that the story strands a large number of characters in the middle of nowhere, nothing actually happens until the last 25 minutes, when it probably should’ve spread out the action to maintain interest.

the pumpkin karver 2006

As it is, The Pumpkin Karver is a pretty boring affair with too few flourishes to make up for slack pacing and a stupid, unexplained ending. Combine these elements with annoying characters (too many of whom survive) and it has all the appeal of a rotting pumpkin on November 12th.

Blurbs-of-interest: Amy Weber was in Kolobos; Terrence Evans was the old perv in the wheelchair in both Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-do’s; David Austin and Charity Shea were in (the fairly similar) Scarred.

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