Tag Archives: obvious identity of killer

Something about Shrooms…?

one way trip 3d 2011

ONE WAY TRIP

2 Stars  2011/86m

“They wanted the ultimate kick – they got it.”

Director: Markus Welter / Writers: Matthias Bauer & Bastian Zach / Cast: Sabrina Reiter, Matthias Britschgi, Simon Kaser, Harry Lampl, Melanie Winiger, Herbert Lesier, Isabelle Barth, Tanja Raunig, Aaron Hitz, Martin Loos.

Body Count: 7


Bluntly, if you’ve seen Shrooms, you’ve seen this. But this one has 3D. And is all in German.

Yeah, that’s right… despite the title (no regional title) and all the credits being in English, since its production in 2011, nobody has bothered cobbling together a subtitle track for One Way Trip, so I had to fall back on my remedial German skills to try and follow the plot. Not too difficult as it turned out. Beware spoilers

Six young adults drive their gorgeous VW T2 – for the first time ever, the same colour scheme as mine!!! – into the Swiss forests to look for a seasonal mushroom with hallucinogenic properties. On route they encounter a particularly unpleasant farmer, shooting wildlife, and his starey daughter, get a flat, and pick up a stranded couple at the garage. Why they were stranded I don’t know, my translation skills failed me.

one way trip 2011

Tents up, shrooms located, the group enjoy their respective trips until Timo is attacked or injured (hard to tell) and needs medical attention. Oh look, a storm is coming in too! Evidently phones don’t work and the drive back to help is further than the farm they locate on their map, so they trek through the rain there.

Nobody is home, so the group sets up in the creepy old house until the nasty old farmer from before pops up. Meanwhile, the usual reasons to go outside crop up and it’s not long before people start dying at the hands of the scarred daughter: One guy is suspended upside down by chains, gagged, has hosiery pulled over his face and then knifed in the eye, there’s a decapitation, a fall on to an iron fence, burning, blades in the back…

Obvious final girl Valerie appears to be the last dame standing, although a couple of the others have just vanished, and she fights with Psycho Farmer in some outside pit.

one way trip 2011

Then we get the twist. Pretty much the same twist as Shrooms, albeit involving more folks. Perhaps some dialogue would’ve made things more obvious, but I was pretty sure that about half the party tripped out to the extent they decided to kill everyone and, well, that’s all folks.

Well made – though the obv. 3D shots are infrequent – with some nice scenery early on, above average production merits and a good chase scene, but it seemed to reach its climax so suddenly I half expected a twenty minute in-hospital epilogue. Perhaps I should re-learn German and watch it again. The most common criticism in other reviews is that the cast all speak the ‘generic’ form of German, rather than dialects more common to the area where the characters are supposed to hail from.

Blurb-of-interest: Sabrina Reiter was also the lead in Dead in 3 Days.

Kincaid lives!!! …for a few minutes

the back lot murders 2002

THE BACK LOT MURDERS

2.5 Stars  2002/91m

“The stage is set…”

Director/Writer: David DeFalco / Writers: Paul Arensburg, Steven Jay Bernheim / Cast: Priscilla Barnes, Charles Fleischer, Jaime Anstead, Brian Gaskill, Corey Haim, Lisa Brucker, Carrie Stevens, Heather Tindell, Dayton Knoll, Lori Dawn Messuri, Ken Sagoes, Alejandro Escos, Tom Hallick, Angela Little, Nancy O’Brien, David Solomini.

Body Count: 17

Laughter Lines: “You have assets: Use your ass and your sets.”


This production is a mess, but it’s an occasionally entertaining mess with some amusing lines – largely courtesy of Charles Fleischer as the put-upon director – and an interesting backdrop for the carnage to take place against. Mild spoilers ensue.

Your off-the-shelf horror movie rock band are about to hit it big and are shooting their debut video on a Hollywood studio back lot where The Lost World: Jurassic Park was filmed. Six months earlier, they fired their temperamental songwriter after he smashed a bottle over a barmaid’s head – will that have any bearing on what’s to come?

Also on set is the lead singer’s bimbo girlfriend Janey, whose father runs the label they’ve signed to, and bitchy PR woman Stephanie, who wants the video to be cutting edge – so much that she’s willing to cut a few other things in order to see that goal realised?

back lot murders 2002 ken sagoes

Well somebody seems hell bent on making it a video to remember, starting with a couple of special effects folks (this is one slasher flick where the black guy – Sagoes who was Kincaid in two mid-Elm Street sequels – does die first – ironically he first to die in The Dream Master as well!), and filming each slaying by camcorder.

As numbers dwindle, highly-strung, campy director Henry deals with an endless parade of morons trying to get on screen: “Wow you’re an actress? In Los Angeles? How unusual.” But the rest of the film is expanded by long dull scenes of couples exploring buildings and the Elvis-masked killer not showing up soon enough. As usual, the scantily clad babes all flash their boobs before being chased away after their boyfriend is stabbed in the back.

Dim-witted Janey is somehow nominated to be the heroine, despite the film offering up a couple of other viable options earlier on (Henry’s assistant, who I think survives by leaving, and Wendy the fog lady), leaving us without a strong heroine figure to root for, just about the only remaining girl not to take her top off.

back lot murders 2002

The late Corey Haim’s comparable bit-part would go unnoticed if you – like me – didn’t recognise him. Barnes, however, is great in her sub-Betsy Palmer turn. Despite the curiosity of the Psycho house and a few other set pieces, this is one production probably better left in the lot – especially if you happen to watch the DVD featurette where the director claims it’s a “thinking man’s horror movie”. Right.

Blurbs-of-interest: Barnes was in Stepfather III; Fleischer was the dream doctor in the original Elm Street and was also in Chain Letter.

The goings-on at this camp would scare Jason away

sleepaway camp 1983

SLEEPAWAY CAMP

3 Stars  1983/18/84m

“You won’t be coming home.”

A.k.a. Nightmare Vacation (original UK release)

Director/Writer: Robert Hiltzik / Cast: Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Christopher Collet, Paul DeAngelo, Mike Kellin, Karen Fields, Katherine Kamhi, John E. Dunn, Desiree Gould, Susan Glaze, Owen Hughes, Robert Earl Jones.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “She’s a carpenter’s dream – flat as a board and needs a good screw!”


Queer goings-on abound in this strange little cult classic with an ending so iconically deranged it completely overshadows the shortcomings of the preceding 82 minutes. Spoilers follow.

A man and his two kids are sailing on a lake when an out of control ski-boat plows into them, killing father and child. This scene sets up a few of Sleepaway Camp‘s weirdnesses: Overlong shots, Noo-Yawk accents, and over-acting. Check out the waterskier girl’s caterwauling moment.

sleepaway camp 1983

“OHMYGOD somebody PLEASE help the people PLEASE!”

Eight years later (yay! not five or ten!) the surviving sibling Angela and her cousin Ricky are sent off to Camp Arawak for the summer by Ricky’s kooky mother. She, like ski-girl, is something to behold, but a classic character nonetheless. Ricky has been before and happily reintegrates with old friends – bar sour-faced camp bitch Judy – but Angela barely says a word (in fact she doesn’t speak until 31 minutes in) and finds it hard to fit in.

Aunt Martha sleepaway camp 1983

“‘Return to Sleepaway Camp’? No, that wouldn’t do at all.”

It doesn’t help that the campers of Arawak are about 23% assholes who rejoice in mocking Angela one way or another. She’s almost raped by the pedophiley cook, waterbombed by the macho-swagger boys, thrown in the lake by her nasty dorm counsellor, and generally tormented verbally by most of the others.

So who is behind the series of bizarre accidents that begin to plague the camp? Said cook is scalded by a huge vat of boiling water; a boy is drowned beneath a canoe; another has his bathroom break interrupted by a wasp’s nest being thrown through the window… Later there’s death by curling-tongs amidst the more standard knife-in-the-back and arrow-in-the-neck.

sleepaway camp 1983

sleepaway camp 1983

The camp owner wants to keep it all under wraps and writes the first few fatalities off as accidents, much to the chagrin of his staff, but begins to suspect Ricky as the deaths continue. Why the whole place wasn’t closed after the first death is a real mystery.

Anyway, things culminate with a bit of a spree and the killer’s identity is revealed in the unforgettable final few frames, partnered nicely with a flashback to fill in the blanks. Most review books give it away and if you, like me, happened to see the sequels first, well then all is ruined.

Sleepaway Camp is a bit of a one-trick pony in this sense. It’s a bit of a chore of a film to reach the famed ending, peppered with some really strange elements and moments that don’t make a whole lot of sense, giving the impression that Hiltzik was so focused on his reveal that he back-pedalled a bit to fatten up his picture with a few extra bodies (when and why are the kids who go on the camping trip hacked up?), the strange flashback of two men embracing in bed together, which is a strange thing to be crowbarred in, especially in the less-than-tolerant early 80s.

sleepaway camp 1983 gay

Is Sleepaway Camp a gay movie? -shrug- I honestly don’t know where I stand with it. There’s nothing particularly pro or anti-gay going on. That the killer turns out to be a reluctant transgender teenager and possibly had a gay dad seems a bit of a lazy ‘queer things are deadly’ resolve, but the fact the film ends as soon as we’re informed what’s been going on, there’s thankfully nobody around to go “Well, yes, all non-cisgender people are homicidal killers, aren’t they?” Add to this the errant homoeroticism of many-a-boy in short-shorts that leave little to the imagination, crop-tops, and going skinny dipping together and, well, hmmm…

sleepaway camp 1983 fashion

The Sleepaway Camp Fashion Show

sleepaway camp 1983

Oh…

sleepaway camp 1983

OH.

The scattergun effect of Sleepaway Camp is its biggest foe. Who is the main character here? The crowded supporting cast are largely indistinguishable from one another, though that may accurately reflect life at camp with so many groups and cliques. Victims are sorted pretty much by who is nasty to Angela, so the nice counsellors and campers are (mostly) spared.

There’s still mucho 80s goodness (read: badness) to lap up, from the horrific fashion outings, Judy’s t-shirt with her own name on it, Meg spelling out her monosyllabic name in case anyone was in doubt, and Ricky’s unrelenting stream of profanities: Cocksucker, fucking pussies, chickenshit, asshole etc. The kid could work at any branch of Sports Direct.

And also the many stares of Angela*:

the many stares of Angela sleepaway camp 1983

I can’t ever seem to settle on an opinion on this film, whereas the 1988 sequels are a much easier pill to gulp down. It has enough decent content to entertain, with some ambitious photography here and there, and a good idea at its core. Were the world not so politically correct now, I’d nominate this as a prime candidate for a remake… but you know that final shot would never be permitted!

*Yes, I asked Stacie Ponder’s permission to re-use this term.

Blurbs-of-interest: Rose, Tiersten, and DeAngelo all came back twenty years later for Return to Sleepaway Camp; Rose was later in fellow summer camp slasher Camp Dread; Katherine Kamhi was a sub-final girl in Silent Madness; Mike Kellin was also in Just Before Dawn.

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.

Head Girl

night school 1980

NIGHT SCHOOL

3 Stars  1980/18/85m

“A is for Apple, B is for Bed, C is for Co-Ed, D is for Dead, F is for failing to keep your head.”

A.k.a. Terror Eyes

Director: Kenneth Hughes / Writer: Ruth Avergon / Cast: Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Nicholas Cairis, Karen MacDonald, Elizabeth Barnitz, Annette Miller, Holly Hardman.

Body Count: 6


With only viable suspects, you won’t have to do much thinking to work out who is beneath a black motorcycle helmet beheading girls around Boston with a rather unique, boomerang-shaped blade. Although, a slow-witted peeping Tom is thrown into the mix to try and sway suspicion away from the real killer.

Nicely put-together from the director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with lush photography, but it never really settles into itself – is it a police thriller or a slasher pic?

Either way, accusations of misogyny could be quite fairly levelled at this one, despite having a female scribe, the eventual motive does little to defuse the women-are-nothing-more-than-vacuous-victims subtext.

night school 1980

Splatter wise, there’s a fair serving of blood for kitty to lap up, but it’s nowhere near as explicit as its residency on the Video Nasty list would have you believe: The killer leaves the decapitated heads submerged in buckets, aquariums, and kitchen sinks, but the gore is no less sloppy and amateur than a zillion other, cheaper flicks.

Rachel Ward probably looks back on his with the half the embarrassment she’d feel over The Final Terror, another title which, like this, isn’t particularly appropriate, as the school is hardly relevant. The Childcatcher is still way scarier.

Blurb-of-interest: Leonard Mann was later in Silent Night Deadly Night III.

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