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STAGKNIGHT

stagknightSTAGKNIGHT

3 Stars  2007/79m

“Sex, drugs, guns and one killer knight out…”

Director: Simon Cathcart / Writers: Simon Cathcart & Rob Mercer / Cast: Simeon Willis, James Hillier, Jocelyn Osorio, Sandra Dickinson, Martin Bayfied, Simon Cathcart, Brian McNeill, Joe Montana, J.C. Mac, Jason Hyde, Harry Athwal, Tony Tang, Danielle Mason, Santos De Castro.

Body Count: 11

First-rate Fatality: Sword through the mouth and out the arse! Ouch.


Recently, I had the disctinct displeasure of watching a Brit-slasher flick called Small Town Folk. It was a vignette stretched to feature length that required a stretch of patience to get through it. So, when sitting down to watch StagKnight last night I had similar reservations.

Blissfully, StagKnight looks like Halloween by comparison. Evidently shot with next to no budget in place, financial constraints are compensated for by a quirky sense of humour and a central premise so very simple it’s a wonder nobody has ever tackled  it in horror before now.

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Dorky historian Brian’s stag night with the Weekend Warriors’ paintball team is taking place around the back of nowhere at an inn owned by sub-wiccan Fay (Dickinson) and her Egor-like son William (ex-rugby giant Bayfield). She tricks the group into performing a chant that resurrects a Templar Knight and subsequently opens up access to a cauldron of eternal life-serum or some such twaddle. It’s never made clear really. But we’re strictly here for the slashing…

After they’re bored of the strippers and pranks, the guys opt for a nightgame of Paintball and split into two teams to enter the woods where, of course, our Templar Knight is waiting with his big sword. Meanwhile, reluctant stripper Blossom is cast early into the nightmare when she and the crazy driver crash into the Knight’s tomb and she escapes wearing an important artefact that will assist in Fay’s plan to get to the cauldron.

The Knight soon begins taking out the players in a variety of ways until the inevitable showdown in the tomb. Victims are impaled, skewered, have their faces punched to oblivion and choked on paintballs. It’s impressive but the dim lighting and CG-mist makes things difficult to see from time to time and we never get a really good look at the Knight himself.

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Bayfield and Dickinson are good, as is Willis as Brian and James Hillier as the sleazy exec-type. The crowded background cast have less to do with their one-note roles, including Korean guy, American guy, comedy Indian guy and camp gay bloke, but serve their purpose as Knight-fodder well enough for it not to matter. With a larger wad of cash at its disposal, StagKnight could have been on a par with Shaun of the Dead and is currently in limbo awaiting a DVD release. At least it never tempts you to hit fast forward which is more than can be said for a lot of contemporary horror comedies. A fun little timewaster and maybe a predecessor to HenKnight with a gun-toting bride?

Blurb-of-interest: James Hillier was Spencer in Long Time Dead.

Hearts will bleed

mbvdvdart2MY BLOODY VALENTINE

4.5 Stars  1981/18/94m

“There’s more than one way to lose your heart.”

Director: George Mihalka / Writer: John Beaird / Cast: Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, Neil Affleck, Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Keith Knight, Alf Humphreys, Larry Reynolds, Terry Waterland, Jack van Evera, Helene Udy, Gina Dick, Patricia Hamilton, Tom Kovacs, Carl Morette, Jim Murchison, Rob Stein.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “You gotta come just to see the dress I’m wearing! Cut down to there, slit up to here! I may not get out alive!”

First-rate Fatality: Oh so many in this version, but death-by-showerhead has it.


Part Deux for Final Girl’s Film Club. Cut or uncut, My Bloody Valentine rocks. However, it rocks more now that those infamous thought-they’d-never-see-the-light-of-day scissored gambits of gore can not only be seen but inserted back into the film!

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Canada had already produced uber-slasher Black Christmas and also the disco-fabness of Prom Night, but with MBV came a slight variation on the form. This time there were no middle class teenagers biting the blade in the ‘burbs, at camp or school. Here, we have blue collar workers in their mine-dependent town (aptly named Valentine Bluffs) being stalked by a goggle-masked, heavy breathing killer whom everyone assumes to be Harry Warden, sole survivor of a Valentine’s Day mine cave-in two decades earlier. Warden went mad, killed the mine supervisors and disappeared, leaving a message to the locals that they should never host a Valentine’s Dance again at the risk of his pick-axe swinging return…

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The local Sheriff and the Mayor cover up a couple of murders and cancel the “first dance in 20 years” after human hearts are sent their way in candy boxes. The younger folks – gruff miners and their girlfriends – opt to secretly party on down at the mine instead and celebrate love n’ stuff. Amidst the madness, there’s a love triangle developing between miners TJ, Axel and weepy blonde Sarah. For reasons unclear, TJ had left town suddenly, which put pay to his relationship with Sarah and allowed Axel to move in on her. Now he’s back (“and working in the mine”), things are a little tense between the trio.

Patty and Sarah rethink their choice in boyfriends

Patty and Sarah rethink their choice in boyfriends

Maniac-miner predictably crashes the Valentine’s party and begins offing anybody who senselessly wanders off on their tod; forcing their faces into boiling pots or skewering them head-first on to shower heads. Before these victims are discovered, three couples head off for a midnight tour of the mine, thus trapping themselves below the surface with the town psycho. More killings ensue until only those involved in the love triangle remain. Is one of them the killer? Or did Harry Warden return? Only a battle of the pick-axes will reveal the dreadful truth.

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When I first saw this back in the mid-90s, I was genuinely surprised by the revelation that occurs at the end, meaning among other things that sometimes I can be a bit thick and also that the creators of My Bloody Valentine had realised a script that houses surprises that have been thought through more than, say, the other half of this daily-double, Friday the 13th.

mbv3aSpeaking of Friday, here’s a film which also contains quite a mean streak, emphasised by the presence of the cut footage. Many films were forced to pull their gory punches in the wake of the MPAA clampdown in 1980 and, subsequently, some suffered greatly for it, cut or not. Now, at last, thanks in large part to the 2009 3D remake, Lionsgate pressed the right buttons at Paramount to polish the excised footage and reinsert it. Visually it’s obvious the celluloid hasn’t maintained its original quality but who the hell cares!? Given the choice I’d accept a few smudges and grains anyday over risking never seeing some of this stuff. It’s frakkin’ gold! Elevates the film to the point I added an extra half-star to my rating.

Unquestionably better than it’s cynical and nonsensical remake, My Bloody Valentine is one of the top slasher films of its day (and, indeed, ever) and anybody intending to gather a decent cross-section of titles that illustrate how much fun the slasher flick is, should not discount it.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Lori Hallier turned up many moons later in Heartstopper; Gina Dick has a small part in fellow-Canadian slasher from ’81, Happy Birthday to Me. Alf Humphreys had already been in minimalist sorta-slasher Funeral Home.

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.

Scream Queens

HELLBENT

3.5 Stars  2004/15/81m

“When the night belongs to the devil, the party goes to hell.”

Director/Writer: Paul Etheredge-Ouzts / Cast: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood, Andrew Levitas, Matt Phillips, Samuel Phillips, Hank Harris.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Wouldnt you wanna kill us? C’mon, we’re fucking fabulous!”


Gay men seem to really like slasher flicks. Weird huh? It’s true! Seriously. While we’re known for being ‘vanguards of all that’s camp’, most folk would equate slice n’ dice teen horror with its chiefly adolescent heterosexual male target audience, hence all the tits n’ stuff.

But think about it for a mo (har-de-har-har) and you might see why. Final Girls are intrinsic to the genre, strong girls who ‘don’t belong’ in the norms of society. Often, she’s the part-outsider, a factor which aids her in seeing and subduing the maniac who’s been laying her dim-witted friends to waste while they screw each other in the woods or the abandoned cabin.

P’haps we benders identify with her. Or maybe the killer? He’s an outsider too and he likes to rid the world of stereotypical teens who, we can arguably assume, are so self-absorbed that they’re everything-phobic. Jocks, bitchy cheerleaders, not historical Friends of Friends of Dorothy in the slasher realm.

Endless rantable theories aside, Hellbent is one of two existing queer slasher flicks around. The other one is lez-fest Make a Wish, in which girl-lovin’ girls go camping, get laid, get knocked off. Hellbent is a slicker affair, pulling focus on a quartet of Californian goodtime boys, out to party at a Halloween carnival, only to be stalked by a buffed up maniac, dressed as the devil and equipped with a sickle that most would think was a harmless costume shop toy…

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Things begin with the requisite double murder of shagging couple…in car…parked by the woods…after dark. But, of course, here it’s two handsome guys who’re caught doing naughty things.

We meet our Final Boy, John Barrowman-alike Eddie, an all-round nice guy working for the cops, possibly hoping to be one. He’s held back for a reason that later becomes cringingly evident in a scenario never before seen in a slasher pic! He and his three buddies; pill-popping sex addict Chaz (cowboy-gay), his younger brother Joey, the shy newcomer to things (S&M gay), and Drag Queen for-the-night party dude Tobey (uh…Drag Queen gay). They fill archetypal victim and gay roles, neither as responsible nor watchful as Eddie.

Once the carnival gets swingin’, the killer turns up, having previously spied the quartet at the site of his previous slaying when they stop for a looky-loo. Meanwhile, Eddie encounters James Dean-wannabe biker boy Jake, tempting and sexy, just what Eddie needs. Now, the killer is no puritanical Reverend or member of the Phelps church, he’s a gym-pumped Adonis in a horned Devil mask who appears in the shadows, in the dimness of the forest or the strobe lights across the dance floor. Sticking to the genre rules like flypaper, Eddie is attacked by the killer but is too late to save his friends, who are either off their heads on pills or simply off their heads. Period.

The executions are dripping with claret, albeit computer generated grue, they’re still quite brutal. But then if you’re going to collect gay-heads then it’s not going to be something Kim & Aggie would approve of when it comes to mess-management. Unless you’re Dexter.

Things are capped off when the killer visits Eddie’s home to crash his intended kinky consummation with Jake – featuring handcuffs! Severed heads fall out of cupboards, sickle blades pierce flimsy apartment doors. There’s a whole lot of Halloween to it.

As the gay loveletter to John Carpenter’s flick, Hellbent is effective and fun but lacking in queer-soul that gives homo dramas like The Broken Hearts Club depth, like helmer/scribe Etheredge-Ouzts was too busy trying to make the film blend in with its straight bretheren to bother making sure it was wearing its Pride flag on its sleeveless muscle shirt. It’s a thin line so I may as well perch on the fence over the issue and be thankful there were no morality-play allusions. I’m shutting the hell(bent) up now.

Blurbs-of-interest: Andrew Levitas (Chaz) played Provoloney in Psycho Beach Party. Executive producer Joseph Wolf (who died in 2005) was also involved in the productions of Halloween II, Hell Night, Fade to Black and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

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