Tag Archives: gore o’clock

Aromatherapy

reeker 2005REEKER

3 Stars  2005/15/87m

“Evil is in the air.”

Director/Writer: Dave Payne / Cast: Devon Gummersall, Tina Illman, Scott Whyte, Derek Richardson, Arielle Kebbell, Michael Ironside, Eric Mabius, David Hadinger.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Are you afraid of the dark?” / “No, I’m afraid of psycho desert crackheads who hunt small animals with Dahmer’s garden tools.”


Spoilers in the road ahead. Commencing with a great double-shock opener which gives new meaning to the term roadkill, this strange little film, with echoes of Dead End, the terrible Soul Survivors, and even The Sixth Sense, strands five college kids during a ride share for a desert festival at a seemingly abandoned roadhouse.

The phones are out, nobody’s around for miles, and whomever was there before them was obviously a bit mad – and might still be there. They’re soon joined by Michael Ironside in his enormous RV, looking for his absent wife. Apparent ghosts also appear, though only to us, the characters can’t see them for the most part.

A bad smell fills the air and an incorporeal cloaked figure manifests to start killing everybody one by one with a variety of almost comically oversized and bizarre contraptions, forecast each time by the stench – one poor soul is pulled down into an outhouse toilet, recalling Sleepaway Camp II. The characters fall as expected, leaving the predictable pair to duke it out with their hunter. The blind guy falls back on his other senses to help save the day.

reeker 2005

The twist – obvious to anyone who has seen the aforementioned titles – is nicely realised and elevates Reeker from being confusingly dumb to a little bit smart, wrapping up its loose ends without the need to staple gun on a last second shock.

Going the funny-gruesome route was the right move and there are some genuinely LOL moments from Scott Whyte’s paranoid frat boy, and Ironside is dependably amusing. A pre-Ugly Betty Eric Mabius also turns up as a nasty drug dealer. Watch to the end of the credits to read the disclaimer from the filmmakers calling out critics before they whip up any clever puns on the title to say the movie stinks.

*

NO MAN’S LAND: THE RISE OF THE REEno man's land rise of the reekerKER

2 Stars  2008/18/85m

“Terror lurks between the living and the dead.”

Director/Writer: Dave Payne / Cast: Michael Muhney, Mircea Monroe, Stephen Martines, Valerie Cruz, Robert Pine, Desmond Askew, Gil Birmingham, Michael Robert Brandon, Ben Gunther.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Bad smells are nature’s warning.”


Reeker‘s semi-clever twist was clearly enough for creator Dave Payne to forge ahead with a sequel with bits of a prequel to prevent in from becoming a Xerox of the first one. Both play like reverse Final Destination instalments though: The cast members of gorily offed by the blurry Krueger-esque creature, and the high concept FX work is showcased at the end as the event that caused their induction into limbo is revealed.

It’s back to the secluded diner again, with a trio of bank hopeless robbers in the mix, father and son issues between local Sheriffs, and not-so-funny comic relief is inserted to try and thicken and lend depth to the characters, but little of it works after the opening manoeuvre, which veers off in a not so predictable direction.

The ultimate catastrophe is good, but not different enough to that of the first film, rendering it all a bit void. Askew is good as the leader of the rubbish robbers though.

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael Ironside was also in American NightmareVisiting HoursHello Mary Lou: Prom Night IIChildren of the Corn: Revelation, and Fallen Angels; Arielle Kebbell was also in Red Mist; Desmond Askew was in Turistas.

Valley of the Cheapjack Franchises: JOY RIDE

joy ride 2001

JOY RIDE

3 Stars  2001/15/93m

A.k.a. RoadKill (UK)

Director: John Dahl / Writers: J.J. Abrams & Clay Tarver / Cast: Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Bowman, Ted Levine (voice).

Body Count: 2

Laughter Lines: “I’m not going anywhere until somebody tells me why I should be afraid of a radio.”


There’s a sad irony that the late Paul Walker featured in several movies that centered on reckless driving and its relative consequences.

Joy Ride sprang up in 2001 at the tail end of the teen-slasher/thriller cycle, hijacking elements of Spielberg’s debut classic Duel and mixing them with Screamie stalker madness from a classic prank gone wrong opus, resulting in a solid chiller, albeit not one with a body count.

College kid Lewis Thomas (Walker) is due to fly back to New Jersey from Berkeley, California, for summer vacation and, on a whim, purchases a car on the basis of picking up his unrequited object of lust Venna (Sobieski) from her Colorado school and cruising back east slowly. On route, he’s asked to pick up his wayward brother Fuller (Zahn) from jail in Salt Lake City.

joy ride 2001 steve zahn paul walker roadkill

Fuller installs a CB radio into the 1971 sedan (’71 being the year Duel was made) to get the heads up on a clear run to Denver, and the brothers end up playing a prank on a creepy sounding trucker who identifies himself as Rusty Nail. Fuller convinces Lewis into impersonating a horny female trucker and, when they encounter a racist asshole at a motel, lure Rusty Nail to the guy’s room with the promise of sex. One near-fatal beating later, the brothers confess to the cops their prank and are told to get going.

Down the road somewhat, Rusty Nail’s voice comes back over the airwaves demanding an apology, which Fuller flat out refuses to do, and, in a true “the call is coming from inside the house” moment, it turns out he is right behind them on the freeway. The brothers flee and are accosted by the big scary truck, and eventually given a stay of execution when they apologise.

But Rusty Nail doesn’t move on so easily and continues to stalk them, even when they pick up Venna from her school, kidnapping her roommate in a bid to exact further revenge, which includes making the brothers walk naked into a diner to order cheeseburgers, a cat and mouse chase around a cornfield, and playing them off against one another over their mutual attraction to Venna.

joy ride 2001 leelee sobieski

Predicament thrillers are usually only good for a single watch, once you’re confronted with some of the bizarre decisions the characters make (they sometimes have to be bad to drive the plot forward), and Joy Ride lacks incessant rewatchability, but is helped along by Dahl’s nice direction, keeping Rusty Nail as an off-camera presence, and the likeable trio of leads, although you’d want to kick Fuller’s ass out of the car if you were either of the other two. The entire final act was re-shot, and the DVD features a total of four alternate endings, of which the happiest was chosen for theatrical releases. Possibly trying to lean away from becoming ‘just another slasher flick’, options for a few extra homicides were skipped, wrapping it up tamely.

Jeepers Creepers made slightly better use of Duel‘s creepier aesthetics and beat Joy Ride to the punch by just over a month, and is just as askew a slasher flick – but then came the sequels…

*

JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEADjoy ride 2 dead ahead 2008 roadkill 2

3 Stars  2008/18/90m

“Detours can be deadly.”

A.k.a. RoadKill 2 (UK)

Director: Louis Morneau / Writers: James Robert Johnston & Bennett Yellin / Cast: Nick Aycox, Nick Zano, Laura Jordan, Kyle Schmid, Mark Gibbon.

Body Count: 4


This efficient enough DVD follow up moves the series into neo-teen slasher territory, borrowing from the likes of Wrong Turn and Wolf Creek, as a quartet of young folks on their way to a joint bachelor/bachelorette party in Las Vegas break down on a dusty backroad when trying to save time.

They happen across a remote ranch house where the mail hasn’t been collected in over a month, break in, find the phones don’t work, and decide to ‘borrow’ a classic 1971 Chevy Chevelle, with the intention to rent a car in the next town, bring it back and leave cash for any damages. Good girl/bride-to-be Melissa even leaves a note with her number.

Naturally, the ranch belongs to Rusty Nail, who decapitated a hooker in the prologue, and finds his plans for downtime scuppered by this new drama. Thus, he kidnaps groom-to-be Bobby from a roadhouse bathroom and calls the others, sending them on several humiliating missions to get him back. First thing he wants is Kayla’s finger after she flipped him off, so they break into a morgue to retrieve one from a corpse. Melissa then has to do a striptease in front of his truck. Kayla’s internet-boyfriend Nik then has to dress as a woman and score some crank.

joy ride 2 2008

Rusty Nail, as we expected, isn’t going to play so fair, and Joy Ride 2 reaches an interesting third act as the girls race to save the boys, both of whom are bound to chairs in Rusty’s lair and tortured in a reversal of the usual scenario (and that of the original).

While the Duel-pilfering is kept on the lowdown (there’s a short car chase), the horror and grue is ratcheted up in its place, with the antagonist slotting into a sort of sub-Ben Willis position, facially still kept off camera. There’s a gross open-mouth garrotting, which recalls Wrong Turn. Nicki Aycox – previously seen fending off the winged beastie of Jeepers Creepers II – makes for a heroine you can root for and avoids some of the dumber decisions that tend to plague these things. Given the small cast, the wheels turn at a fast enough pace to make this worth a look.

*

joy ride 3 roadkill 2014JOY RIDE 3: ROADKILL

3 Stars

Director/Writer: Declan O’Brien / Cast: Ken Kirzinger, Jesse Hutch, Kirsten Prout, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Leela Savasta, Gianpaolo Venuta, Jake Manley, Dean Armstrong, James Durham.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Some say it’s aliens… I say it’s the damn government – the NSA!!!”


Rusty’s third outing is actually a lot better than it ought to be, given that the writing and directing reigns were handed to Declan O’Brien, who outdoes the combined efforts of the three Wrong Turn sequels he turned out. I also like that the film’s subtitle, Roadkill (though curiously not on the film itself) was the UK title for the franchise, which should, by rights, make this one Roadkill 3: Roadkill, but it looks like they didn’t even bother and just kept the original moniker.

A couple of meth-heads plot to rob whichever strung-out trucker they can lure to their hotel room and, of course, pick on the wrong fellow, who overpowers them and chains the pair to the hood of his Peterbilt, challenging them to hang on for a mile, at which point he’ll set them free with a bag of crystal for their trouble. Predictably, their thirst for a high gets the better of them and they end up dragged under the truck and left in chunks along the freeway. Roll titles.

joy ride 3 2014

We meet the meat in the form of six members of the Wells Racing team, who are on their way to some tournament or other when they learn of a possible shortcut that’ll save them a day. I know, it is virtually the same plot as The Hills Have Eyes Part II. The old Highway 17, affectionately known as Slaughter Alley, will go unpatrolled so they let loose and end up pissing off guess who?

The Duel-inspired action missing from the previous film reasserts itself to decent effect, as the team’s two cars and Rusty’s truck barrel down the deserted highway, eventually escaping his lethal manoeuvres but far from off the hook, as he succeeds in capturing two of them and holding them to ransom, apparently willing to exchange them for the race car.

joy ride 3 2014

The series ventures further into slasher territory, with gruesome demises including the fingers and then the face of one poor soul forced into a fan, a shrinking chain suit thingy, and a guy’s head squashed between a jack and the underside of a truck. A showdown at a wrecking yard reveals a decent twist so that the predicted survivors are changed around a bit, although they resistance against further sequels proves too tempting for some and, well, you can look out for Joy Ride 4: Full Throttle circa 2020 at this rate of turnover.

A little tight-budgeted but still surprisingly fun stuff.

Overall-blurbs-of-interest: Nick Zano was in The Final Destination; Kyle Schmid was in Fear Island; Jesse Hutch was in The Tooth Fairy and Freddy vs Jason, in which Ken Kirzinger played the hockey masked one and got to squish him with a fold-up bed. Kirzinger was also in Stan Helsing and Wrong Turn 2; Kirsten Prout was in My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Parts 2 and 3; Dean Armstrong was in O’Brien’s Wrong Turn 4.

Mistake, indeed

home sweet home 1980

HOME SWEET HOME

1.5 Stars  1980/18/83m

A.k.a. Slasher in the House

“Be it ever so humble, there is no place to hide.”

Director: Nettie Pena / Writer: Thomas Bush / Cast: Jake Steinfeld, Colette Trygg, David Mielke, Vinessa Shaw, Peter De Paula, Don Edmunds, Sallee Young, Charles Hoyes, Leia Naron, Lisa Rodriguez.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “Please don’t hurt her – I’ll play my guitar for you!”


Of all the calendar holidays to trigger the homicidal leanings of a madman, Thanksgiving has largely been left to curdle like old milk, with only this and Blood Rage representing.

Your basic asylum escapee slasher – musclebound fitness guru Steinfeld – happens across a ranch on Thanksgiving and decides to go overboard on the carving duties. The family of largely unsympathetic, barely named characters provide the meat content for the first hour, until the floor caves in for supposed ‘tension building’, pending the obvious confrontation and the last few people alive keep going to check if windows and doors are locked in virtual darkness.

Crappy acting abounds as people fail to react convincingly to anything and don’t seem to care about the rash of disappearances. Future ‘name’ Vinessa Shaw made her debut as the requisite small child who is immune to the violence (and, aged 4, out-acts the adult cast), but the most memorable character has to be her teen brother, named Mistake, who wears Kiss-lite make-up and tries to convince the killer to stop on the promise of hearing him play guitar for him.

Bloody and weird, but don’t let that stop you.

Blurbs-of-interest: Vinessa Shaw was (much later) in Stag Night; Lisa Rodriguez was in the even worse Terror on Tour.

Express Elevator to Hell… going down

botched 2007

BOTCHED

3 Stars  2007/15/91m

“Russian Mafia, insane hostages, twin serial killers… Ritchie Donovan’s luck has run out.”

Director: Kit Ryan / Writers: Derek Boyle, Eamon Friel, Raymond Friel / Cast: Stephen Dorff, Jaime Murray, Bronagh Gallagher, Geoff Bell, Hugh O’Conor, Jamie Foreman, Russell Smith, Sean Pertwee, Norma Sheahan, Gene Rooney, Edward Duly Baker.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “You have to get the police – various people are trying to kill me.”


Definitely a first for a slasher movie – a virtuoso mix of gore and slapstick comedy, with Dorff as an American grafter caught up in the theft of a sacred Russian artifact. Things descend into chaos when one of his comrades kills somebody and then the thieves and an elevator full of passengers gets stuck on a secret floor in a Moscow building.

Believing the police are on to them, the trio of crap crooks try to bargain their way to freedom with the release of a hostage, who ends up decapitated by a pair of giant shears. It becomes clear that it’s someone other than the cops keeping them at bay – someone with a cache of weaponry, all of it destined to hack, slash, and skewer through the cast.

botched 2007

If this weren’t bad enough, a group of three seemingly nervous religious women decide to take over the situation and turn the tables on the hostages, a jittery journalist joins forces with a wannabe commando security guard, leaving Dorff with a sexy Junior VP (Murray) to go about things the smart way.

The plot makes a few surprising turns as more above the Ivan the Terrible-lite killer and his purpose is revealed, all of it peppered with some great lines, fart gags, and Three Stooges physical comedy, all the while parodying the likes of Hostel with a very British sense of humour. Botched is like nothing you’ve seen before and definitely not for all tastes, but an entertaining hour and half however you cut, hack, or gut it.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sean Pertwee was in Wilderness; Geoff Bell was also in Tormented and Comedown.

“All who stay – WILL DIE!”

the tooth fairy 2006

THE TOOTH FAIRY

3 Stars  2006/89m

“The childhood fairytale becomes your worst nightmare!”

Director: Chuck Bowman / Writers: Stephen J. Cannell, Cory Strode, Cookie Rae Brown, Daniel Farrands, Carolyn Davis / Cast: Lochlyn Munro, Chandra West, Nicole Munoz, Carrie Anne Fleming, Stave Bacic, P.J. Soles, Peter New, Ben Cotton, Jesse Hutch, Jianna Ballard, Sonya Salomea, Karin Konovsal.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “Mark my words – all who stay WILL DIE!”


A strange, but endearing alternate take on The Tooth Fairy as a children-hunting killer in the wake of Darkness Falls, which was an unprecedented success with its PG-13 rating. It should be therefore no surprise that a gored-up knock-off would appear soon after.

In 1949, a couple of boys visit an old house where an alleged witch lives. She knows when you’ll lose your baby teeth and offers gifts in exchange for them. With the promise of a shiny new bike, one of the boys enters the house but sees the hag’s face and is chopped up for his trouble, with the other boy legging it.

Fifty-seven years later – yay! not ten or twenty for once – ex-city doc Peter (Munro) has bought the same house and is renovating it into a country inn. For the weekend arrives girlfriend Darcy (West, who may well have been cast for her likeness to Emma Caulfield), and her 10-year-old daughter Pam, who quickly befriends the ghost of a local girl, who fills her in on the legend. On the way back from this, Pam falls off her bike and knocks her final baby tooth out! Gasp.

tooth fairy 2006

While Peter and Darcy battle a couple of hicks in town, Pam becomes convinced The Tooth Fairy is after her – fueled by P.J. Soles as the requisite neighbour in a cloak who tells them they’ll all die, initially in an Irish accent that soon fades into generic American twang. Nevertheless, a series of gooey deaths ensue as promised: The hunky help is fed into a woodchipper, a kooky psychic is nail-gunned to a wall, a dick is sliced off, decapitation… This is anything but the off-camera kills of Darkness Falls. In truth, it probably has more in common with the same year’s Fingerprints.

Where The Tooth Fairy succeeds is in its slightly more invested characterisations and subsequent dialogue: Peter’s old buddy rocks up with his aura-sensing girlfriend, who utters awesome things like “a transcendent evil has been awakened in this house,” and “your personal landscape is a manuscript written by your actions – when you fight you always lose more than you redeem.” Munoz impresses as the pre-teen heroine, although exchanges between the child actors are sometimes clunky, the Are You Afraid of the Dark-stylings are more enabling in this case.

the tooth fairy 2006

Things become slightly undone as the final edges towards its finale, with ridiculous decision-making shoehorned in to up the body count, undermining the good work done at the start. It’s all forgivable though, given the effort clearly put in by the filmmakers to create something with characters we don’t instantly hate.

Blurbs-of-interest: Lochlyn Munro was in Hack!, Scary Movie and Freddy vs Jason, along with Jesse Hutch; Nicole Munoz was in Scarecrow (2013); P.J. Soles was Lynda in Halloween, and can also be seen in Innocent Prey and Uncle Sam; Ben Cotton was in Harper’s Island, Scar, and Stan Helsing; Chuck Bowman previously directed Dead Above Ground.

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