Tag Archives: I know whatcha did!

I Best Be Knowin’ What Y’all Did Last Summer

DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW

3.5 Stars  1981/96m

Director: Frank De Felitta / Writers: J.D. Feigelson & Butler Handcock / Cast: Charles Durning, Lane Smith, Robert F. Lyons, Claude Earl Jones, Larry Drake, Tonya Crowe, Jocelyn Brando, Tom Taylor.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “The only official thing you ever done is lick stamps!”


TV movies used to be, y’know, good! No, really! Before the flux of home video in the 80s, more effort went into entertaining the masses via the faithful idiot box and so this slow burn horror from Halloween of 1981 is way more than your average SyFy CG-fest. I mean, hot damn, this film gave me the creeps.

Larry Drake is Bubba, a 36-year-old small town hick with the mental age of a little leaguer, who is best friends with ten-year-old Marylee. They make daisy chains in fields, sing songs, and skip around like all healthy, outdoorsy kids should, much to the annoyance of local mailman and wannabe big-fish Otis, who’s just waitin’ for that day when Bubba is caught undressing the little girl.

When Marylee is savaged by a neighbourhood dog and reported dead, everyone naturally assumes that Otis’s prediction has come true and he gathers a troupe of fat-ass friends who gather guns and bloodhounds and chase down poor Bubba, who hides inside his mama’s scarecrow, helpless when the quartet of rednecks spray him with bullets, literally seconds before a call comes in over the radio informing them that Marylee has regained consciousness and relayed her story of the dog.

The men are put on trial and manage to gain an acquittal based on a fabricated story of self defense but, as Bubba’s grieving mama yells as she’s dragged from the courtroom, there are other kinds of justice in the world.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow, up until now, plays like a smalltown melodrama with themes of intolerance and blind hate – it’s not difficult to imagine people like this still existing today to hunt down outcasts based on race, creed or what gender of person they sleep with. There’s a sort of wicked satisfaction that they’re going to suffer for this that makes you want to lean in over a single candle flame, rub your hands together and cackle.

The film really gets its creep on at the halfway marker when the first of the guilty party notices a scarecrow, identical to Bubba, in his pasture. Accusations fly, Otis commands his disciples to stay away to avoid looking guilty, and later that evening an ‘accident’ occurs.

Paranoia of the standard ‘someone knows what we did’ subset ensues to great effect: the other men are immediately superstitious, convinced that the scarecrow is Bubba, back from the grave. Otis, on the other hand, is happy to blame anyone and everyone else: Bubba’s mama, the upset prosecutor, even little Marylee – who tells him, in no uncertain terms, that she knows what he did. Yes! Suck on that mailman ‘letter carrier’!

Weird things continue to happen, pushing an increasingly sweaty Otis to desperate measures in order to cover his own fat ass as his pals continue to drop dead in interesting ways. The scene with Philby is super-creepy and the ending… Argh! They really took some cues from Spielberg’s method of keeping the monster off camera and put them to good use here as Otis – naturally the last to believe – is made a believer.

To really review this film would be to ruin it to some degree so you’ll just have to see for yourself how basic common sense in observing what is scary rather than shocking can give a likely thought to be forgotten late nighter something of a cult following. The cast helps too: Durning makes a good, smirking villain and it’s interesting to see a young(er) Lane Smith (he played Chief White in The New Adventures of Superman) and Marlon Brando’s big sis plays Bubba’s protective mama. Drake doesn’t overplay the role of the mentally disabled Bubba either – there’s a heartbreaking fear in his eyes as Otis and his dinosaurs of the apocalypse ready themselves to open fire.

Charles Durning in… When the Mailman who Shot Your Son Calls

It’s a testament to the film’s quality that a ‘meagre’ TV film packs more unsettling content than a dozen big budget features with ten times the cash injection. Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a real product of its time: it would bore a modern audience to death were it new but for jaded oldies who thought everything good from the 80s had already been on DVD for a decade might find something nostalgically great here.

Don’t confuse it with the 1995 flick Night of the Scarecrow.

Blurbs-of-interest: Charles Durning was in both When a Stranger Calls and its sequel and also iMurders; Robert F. Lyons was in Pray for Morning; Larry Drake was Dr Giggles.

Forget him not

illalwaysknowI’LL ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT I STILL THINK I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER

2006/18/89m

“New summer. New secret. New slaughter.”

Director: Sylvain White / Writer: Michael Weiss / Cast: Brooke Nevin, Ben Easter, David Paetkau, Torrey DeVitto, Seth Packard, K.C. Clyde, Michael Flynn, Clay Taylor, Don Shanks, Star LaPoint.

Body Count: 7

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**WARNING** MAJOR-ass spoilers follow

So, news of a third Last Summer stirred around 2003-ish and soon it was confirmed that there’d be no Hewitt or Prinze returning to battle Captain Birdseye’s evil twin one last time and that things would start anew elsewhere.

Well, that’s mostly true. Unfortunately, the decision to resurrect The Fisherman as the choice villain tosses one fucking huge spanner into the works and thus summons up one of the worst reveals in horror movie history.

Far away from the fishing port of South Carolina and even further from the Bahamas, Broken Ridge, Colorado, is the setting for round 3, in which a quintet of teens-about-town share the legend of The Fisherman who hunts down teenagers on July 4th if they’re keeping naughty secrets. This occurs at the top of a Ferris wheel for some reason. About two minutes later, The Fisherman appears at the carnival and chases them away.

iakwydls5No… it’s all a prank, which was supposed to end with their bud PJ ‘falling’ off a building roof on to some pre-positioned mats. Instead, he lands on a tractor and, y’know, dies. His four friends decide to let the police go on thinking that a killer was on the loose, burn the costume and toss the hook into a lake.

One year later, they’re largely estranged in a retread of themes from the original film. Then evident heroine Amber receives fifty I Know What You Did Last Summer text messages, which serves to reunite the group to track down who sent them. More torment follows, one of the four apparently slashes his own throat with a hook and The Fisherman attacks Amber from on top of a moving cable car. Or gondola as they refer to it!??

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Come July 4th, the teens decide to stay in town so that Zoe can mime to Weapons of Pleasure’s admittedly rockin’ Daredevil in the hope of attracting the eye of a talent scout, instead only attracting Mr Slicker, who begins doing away with the rest of them and anyone else who gets in the way.

OK spoiler time: with two major suspects deadified, who is it? Angry girlfriend? Boyfriend? Mom? Dad? Sister? Dog? No. It’s no one. It’s just… The Fisherman. It’s the legend that kills. He’s some mouldy looking supernatural fella who can pretty much teleport where he wants and not die.

Observe the film’s final shot, which I did not do anything to:

iakwydls1Who the fuck thought people would be happy with this ending? The whole winning aspect of the premise is that you don’t know who’s fucking with you, what they might do and when. Screw that, let’s make it a ghost of somebody with no stake in what actually happened. To make things worse, there are a couple of extra girls who appear a few times early on, either of whom would’ve been acceptable over this! One of them’s even on the cover and she doesn’t do anything except say things like; “He’s so cute; oh my God; I love your dress; Facebook!; Jay-Z’s so talented!”

Breathe. Until this disastrous turn, I’ll Always Know functions predictably but passably as a revenge slasher film. It’s palpably cheaper than its fore-bearers and the continual flash edits are annoying attempts to jazz up pedestrian direction and photography. The characters are largely anodyne fodder: good girl, bad girl, asshole jock, nice guy, backed up by a group of red herrings.

Persistent rumours of a fourth film may well have been ass-raped by how maligned this stupid film is. My tolerance for crap means it garnered a more than generous two stars for being just about competent for a once over – but I wouldn’t fork out on the box set if you’re only really interested in Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs.

An early draft of the next sequel

The next sequel will see the killer use a time machine to make pre-accident threats

Blurbs-of-interest: Paetkau was the ladder-eye victim in Final Destination 2; DeVitto was in Killer Movie; Don Shanks played Michael Myers in Halloween 5 and was in Sweet Sixteen.

DEAD IN 3 DAYS

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2006/98m

Director: Andreas Prochaska / Writers: Thomas Baum, Uli Bree & Andreas Prochaska / Cast: Sabrina Reiter, Julia Rosa Stockl, Michael Steinocher, Nadja Vogel, Laurence Rupp, Julian Sharp, Andreas Kiendl, Karl Fischer, Amelie Jarolim, Susi Stach.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “You guys are out of your minds – this isn’t a movie it’s fucking real!”

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About the trillionth offshore Xerox of I Know What You Did Last Summer, this twee Austrian export can boast some stunning scenery and well above average photography, something Euro-horror does better than most.

A clique of graduating high schoolers each receive the same text message, which tells them they’ll be dead within three days – hence the title, duh. They assume it’s a prank, most likely by the requisite outcast and party on down. The joy of leaving school is somewhat short lived when one of them disappears and turns up bound and weighted in the town’s lake the next day. The usual reactions ensue: the police blame whomever is convenient; the teens grieve and attacks continue.

Dead in 3 Days elects a not-so-obvious final girl in Nina, girlfriend of the recently departed, who is the next to be abducted but escapes from the slicker-clad killer, allowing him/her to move on the next target, beheading them with the help of a splintered fishtank. With the cops now taking notice, the three remaining kids are quizzed about who they think might want them dead and eventually recall an ice-skating accident from their childhood where a school buddy of theirs died and, two days later, his grieving father hanged himself – or did he?

Eventually, the kids break curfew and head to the former home of dead-kid and confront the killer. What should now crank up the considerable amount of tension (the circumstances of the past incident not yet fully clear), instead fizzles out in a flat, kinda rushed finale. Nicely done but too generic to be memorable.

Dubbed into English with more care than most efforts. A sequel followed in 2008.

#500

sorority-row-fb-poster2SORORITY ROW

3.5 Stars  2009/15/101m

“Sisters for life…and death.”

Director: Stewart Hendler / Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger & Mark Rosman (original screenplay) / Cast: Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Margo Harshman, Carrie Fisher, Julian Morris, Caroline D’Amore, Matt Lanter, Maxx Hennard, Audrina Patridge, Matt O’Leary.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “You make being a bitch an art form.”


My celebrated 500th slasher flick! Yay or nay? Perhaps a dash of both.

The dreaded R word crops up again in a case of yet another early 80’s pseudo-cult-classic being – ugh, I even hate typing it – “re-imagined”, “re-tooled”, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Actually, I’m not so fazed by them, anything that draws attention to the (usually) superior originals is positive. 1982’s House On Sorority Row is a fairly elusive member of the slasher alumni, one directed with both care and flair by Mark Rosman (who signs on as Exec Producer here), it was another of the moral-dilemma slasher pics from the era, or as everyone on the internet seems to think of them now, films in the I Know What You Did Last Summer mould. ‘Tis true that many-a-film have featured the not-so-secret secret characteristic at their core and it’s a form I quite like, opening up lots of potential for realistic characters and their respective reactions that give us good insight into their persona.

Sorority Row, as it’s now called, is a remake only in that it follows this same basic guideline. The girls of the Theta Pi Sorority are out to teach Megan’s straying boyfriend Garrett a lesson and trick him into thinking she’s died after he slipped her a few roofies given to him by substance-abusing big sis Chugs. President Jessica takes Garrett, supposedly dead Megan, and four other girls away from the house on the promise of taking her to hospital when they take a ‘wrong turn’ and end up at an old mine where a freaked-out Garrett impales her with a tire iron after they discuss the best means to ensure the body doesn’t float.

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With a real body at their feet, the girls (and boy) bicker over what to do. Fortuitously, there is no cell phone reception and a nearby deep mine shaft. Only nominal nice girl Cassidy makes a real case for going to the cops but is out-voted, while nervy smart girl Ellie (we know she’s smart because she’s shy and wears oversized specs) is too broken up to have a say. Jessica convinces them to toss the body down the mine and forget about it. However, it’s nice that, for once, it’s mentioned that they will have to life with the dreadful secret for the rest of their lives.

Eight months later, the girls graduate and prepare to vacate Theta Pi to the tune of a hooj see-ya-later party. Spirits are soon lowered by the arrival of text messages that show the now ‘pimped-up’ tire iron in someone’s grasp. It’s a hell of a lot sharper… The girls assume Garrett is behind it and distract themselves with preparing for their party while a cloaked maniac begins a merry quest to set right their wrong. Could it be Megan’s sister, who’s just turned up out of the blue and wants to pledge? One of the girls themselves, wrecked by guilt? Megan risen from the grave?

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After a few introductory murders, which are not limited to those involved in the prank, the killer baits the remaining girls with further text threats until only they and a sprinkling of others remain at the sorority house, post-party for the home run. It’s this final third where Sorority Row starts to sink under its own weight. The mystery element, up until now, has been engaging, the murders fun without being too grisly and Jessica’s never ending witty retorts and lack of sympathy for anybody else have been continually amusing. There are a few totally unsubtle changes, Carrie Fisher going all Ma Barker with a shotgun and a bizarrely realised threat in the form of another party ‘in the know’ who may or may not be the killer…

Memories of the ill-conceived Black Christmas remake flood back towards the end, which also takes a stroll down Slumber Party Massacre lane towards the flat climax and a not-so-clear “twist” prit-sticked on to the very end. It’s a shame as things were going so well up until the regrouping at the mine, where it becomes clear that perhaps Sorority Row isn’t the straight-faced slasher flick it looked like it was going to be. Case in point: there are certain characters we want to die with an added dose of cruelty because of their abhorrent nature, instead, said individuals are done away with far too quickly and…comically? What’s that about? Where’s the long, harrowing chase before the fatal blow? There are a few too many gags once the killer is unmasked, their exposition pretty feeble and unconvincing – but when did these guys ever play with a full deck, eh?

Ultimately a confusing one, not least because of mixed intentions, but enough merit to engage for the running time, well written dialogue (although most of it belongs to something like Jawbreaker) and a cast of semi-familiar faces to horror fans, plus a good central figure in Evigan’s take on Cassidy and Pipes is great as super-bitch Jessica. Sorority Row is one of those films that probably needs a twice-over to make sure you totally understood where it was taking you. It graduates, but sadly without honours.

sororityrow

Blurbs-of-interest: Leah Pipes was the heroine in Fingerprints; as was Margo Harshman in Simon Says. Julian Morris was in Cry_Wolf. Carrie Fisher had a cameo in Scream 3.

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER

ikwydls 1997/15/97m

“If you’re going to bury the truth, make sure it stays buried.”

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Lois Duncan (novel), Kevin Williamson / Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr., Anne Heche, Johnny Galecki, Bridgette Wilson, Muse Watson.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “Come into the back seat, I’ll let you do things to me.”

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I used to post on a horror forum that spewed bile at the mention of most slasher flicks made post-1989, in particular this film. It was hated. Hated with the fire of a thousand suns. “You’re not a true horror fan if you like it!” I was once told. Yeah, cheers for that. This was a few years back, mind. Now it’s kinda old school, the film the next generation of slasher kids’ll say was from the good ol’ days when characters were likeable, plots made sense and you could go to town and back, have dinner and see a movie for under a fiver.

Me, I always liked this one, and when it came out I’d already OD’d on the 80’s flicks, so I wasn’t being, like, totally obnoxious, dude. The 90’s clutch slasher flicks came out in my prime years, I was about twenty, studying film, teen horror was exploding all over again thanks to Scream (or so Scream would say). In the UK it had the oh-so sensible release date of December. Winter. Off through the drizzle and freezing wind to see a film full of gorgeous people set in the summer. Hmph.

Shot as a reaction to Scream‘s success, Last Summer was, once again, scripted by Kevin Williamson and based on the 1973 novel by Lois Duncan – who reportedly hates the movie and whose name does not appear on the opening credits – in which a quartet of teen friends guilty of a hit and run accident the previous year are tormented by creepy notes and psychological games. However, in the book nobody is murdered, hence Duncan’s hatred of the film, which turned her morality tale into a hack n’ slasher. That said, Last Summer is a tame film by any comparison, with little on-screen violence and characters with sensibilites absent in most of the genre examples that preceded it.

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Celebrating their last summer of “immature, adolescent decadence,” smalltown couples Julie and Ray and Barry and recently-crowned beauty queen Helen, head out to a local beach where they drink, fool around, relay urban legends about hook-handed killers and drive back to town along a windy coast road where they mow down a midnight pedestrian. In shock, the boys convince the girls that nobody would believe Ray was driving pisshead Barry’s car and they’d all go to prison. Helen catches on but Julie wants to go to the police. She is outvoted and they toss the body off a dock, but not before he proves he’s not quite dead…

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One year later, a now sullen, miserable Julie returns home from college and receives a note with the title of the movie written on it. It turns out that the hopes and dreams of all four of them have been dashed and she tracks down Helen working at her father’s store, under the supervision of her bitchy older sister Elsa (maybe she knows what they did last summer?); Barry is also back from college and still a prize prick and Ray has become a fisherman. They discuss the note, what it means, and decide that it’s from Max, another local fisherman who drove by on the night they had the accident. He might know what they did last summer too…

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Well, actually he doesn’t as five minutes after an altercation with Barry, Max gets a big-ass fishhook through the chin. Sensing that notes aren’t enough, the killer cranks the harrassment up a notch and runs down Barry with his own car. Forced to reconsider their situation, the group soon find that their tormentor really means business as he edges ever closer to consumating their one year anniversary – July 4th, another calendar date to avoid! Helen has her ever important hair cut off while she sleeps and Julie finds Max’s body stuffed in the trunk of her car.

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Psycho killers are anal about commemorative dates, they never miss an appointment and Captain Birdseye’s Evil Twin is no exception. As night falls, the killings begin… This is where I Know What You Did Last Summer kicks in and kicks ass, peaking with the supremo chase scene where he goes after Helen. It’s highly reminiscent of Wendy’s never ending marathon of fear from Prom Night (which, you’ll note, shares several overlapping story aspects); in her lovely dress, Helen kicks her way out of a squad car, runs, stumbles, hammers on the door of the department store while Elsa faffs with the keys, drops from a high window and staggers bear-footed through some backalleys… It’s a long, drawn out, but very well done scene.

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Once Helen and Barry have been done away with (along with a couple of extras who got in the killer’s way), Julie’s investigating leads her right into the killer’s trap. Or, as it’s called in the trade, a boat. The trawler-set finale is certainly different and Julie goes through all the usual final girl things, hearing out the killer, hiding, screaming lots, all the Jamie Lee-set industry standards. Things end another ‘one year later’ with a cool jump scene right out of a Friday the 13th.

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Buffy didn’t begin on UK TV until the end of 1997 and nobody really knew who Sarah Michelle Gellar was at that point; in hindsight it’s easy to question why she didn’t just kick ass! But it’s good to see a genre icon adopting different roles – hey, JLC never got to play the slutty cheerleader! Jennifer Love Hewitt (at the time in Party of Five with Neve Campbell) makes an interesting, if yet obvious heroine who shrieks effectively and does all the things we expect her to. The boys play their standard-issue boy parts well but are overshadowed by their female counterparts. I tell ya, horror is the only genre where this goes on! Oh, and some reverse perving…

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I can see why some purists don’t warm to this flick; it’s big budget and full of surface gloss and has a preference to build characters and work on dialogue rather than bloodshed in a genre that trades on minimal-everything (except skin). Perhaps they saw it as an insult to the films they held so dear…? There’s no exploitation here, no girls running around naked, marking a point where slasher films became appealing to both genders… The suckiest thing I can say about it is that the DVD has no extras… Not one. Who knows, it works for me just the same as My Bloody Valentine or Terror Train. Can’t I love both?

Blurbs-of-interest: Hewitt and Prinze returned for the cheeseball sequel; Gellar had a cameo in Scream 2; Anne Heche played Janet Leigh’s role in the 1998 Psycho remake. Jim Gillespie later directed D-Tox and the Williamson-scripted Venom. Several of the producers worked on reams of similar films in the same era, including Urban Legend.

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