Tag Archives: Oz

Toothache

DARKNESS FALLS

3 Stars  2003/15/82m

“An eye for an eye. Your life for a tooth.”

Director: Jonathan Liebesman / Writers: Joe Harris, John Fasano & James Vanderbilt / Cast: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie, Grant Piro, Sullivan Stapleton, Steve Mouzakis, Rebecca McCauley, Peter Curtin, Kestie Morassi, Jenny Lovell, John Stanton.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “All this over a fucking tooth!?”


Given that tagline, you’d be forgiven for thinking Darkness Falls might be a comedy (should’ve stuck with the far more pithy ‘Evil Rises’). Well, there are parts to laugh at, but this is one po-faced PG-13 profit monster from down under; it raked in almost $50million on the back of an $11million budget.

Yes, it’s a body count horror film about The Tooth Fairy. THE TOOTH FAIRY! Rather than go into details around the origins of such a figure, we get an real quick ADD-aware intro about local woman Mathilda Dixon, who lived in the eponymous town 150 years earlier. Affectionately known as The Tooth Fairy by the kids, whom she gave a gold coin in exchange for lost teeth, until the day some kids disappeared and she – a burn victim who was confined to the shadows – was blamed and hanged “in the light” (that last bit is apparently important). Turns out the kids were fine and dandy, the town was wrong, and covered up their faux pas, as these appropriately named townships always do.

Zoom forward to the almost-present and young Kyle Walsh loses the last of his baby teeth, which he puts under the pillow to be collected. But local legend says that if you see The Tooth Fairy, she’ll kill you. He sees her and escapes, alerting his mom who does the usual “it’s okay, darling” routine until she catches a glimpse in the mirror and is clawed to death.

Zoom forward again and adult Kyle (the late Kley – who somewhat ironically died in his sleep) is summoned back to town by childhood crush Caitlin (Caulfield, who was the always hilarious Anya in Buffy). Her ickle brother Michael is exhibiting the same weird behaviour Kyle claimed was present at the death of his mother: “She’ll get me!” etc. and will not go anywhere dark.

The Tooth Fairy/Mathilda still has it in for Kyle and does all she can to finish him off, killing rednecks, Caitlin’s man-friend, some nurses, and cops, while the trio of characters afforded any personality/names are on the run from her flying fiendishness by staying in the light at all times. Even when all lights fail. And torches. Car engines. You name it, it breaks.

The villain is shown a little too much and resembles the trio of flying witches in Disney film Hocus Pocus, but in accordance with the teen-sucking rating, shots of anything deemed remotely scary are fleeting and that old bugger shaky-cam syndrome is in full force.

A lighthouse finale lends itself to the predictable CG-heavy outcome and the expected “but she still exists!” threat is not, for once, obliged in the outro, which I suspect was added to fatten the 72 minute run time (the credits roll for a full ten, though to the rockin’ tune of Vixtroa’s excellent Gunboat).

Darkness Falls is bloodless, entirely predictable, and riddled with cavities. But be damned, I like it! High-end production values help, as do some effective shots and stuntwork and fairly tense chase scenes. The producers insisted they were deliberately trying not to make a slasher film but that’s what they’ve have, albeit a variant more along the lines of Jeepers Creepers than, say, Terror Train, but there’s an after school popcorn feel to it that warms my cockles. Eww.

As the concept of a killer Tooth Fairy is yet to be perfected, you can also try the far more obviously titled The Tooth Fairy, which is more of your straight-up slasher flick.

Blurbs-of-interest: Liebesman directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning; Kestie Morassi (the younger nurse) was one of the doomed backpackers in Wolf Creek.

“Why won’t you just fucking die?”

Not quite Trade-a-Life, but there are some films where somebody should cark it, and then doesn’t. Here are a few of them:

Scott from Bloodmoon (1989)

Set at the posh Winchester private school, you can bet your life that there would be no shortage of utter pricks flouncing about, and in the slasher movie realm, these horrible individuals should meet a grisly end. Not so in Bloodmoon, where ringleader of the twats, Scott, is not only having sex with the wife of a teacher (who turns out to be the killer), but is cruel to people, starts fights, gets by on being rich, and DOESN’T DIE! even when caught by the killer in bed with his missus! He just lets him go and shoots her instead. One of those movies where girls are done in on all sides but boys can act like total assholes and get away with it.

*

Crissy from Prom Night (2008)

Queen Bee from Whatever High is hellbent on being crowned Prom Queen, but her dream is thwarted by the arrival of a loony killer who’s after boring final girl Donna. What’s more infuriating for her is that before she evacuates, she rips open the envelope to find one of her nicer rivals was to be crowned instead. Said nicer rival has been slashed to ribbons elsewhere while schemey, Mean Girl-lite Crissy strides out of there intact. Boo.

*

Tracy from Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

As they went on, the Elm Street films became less and less concerned with horror and more about cameos and tie-in merchandise. Such is the case in what was, at the time, the supposed last hurrah for Freddy Krueger, as he slashed his way through some teens from a halfway house after they venture into Springwood. There’s already a nominal final girl in Maggie (Lisa Zane), who turns out be to connected to Freddy, and Yaphet Kotto is around too, but why spare Tracy? The other victims – all boys – number a paltry three and the film really could’ve benefitted from another decent scene. Her survival is pretty pointless in a genre where it’s all about body count.

*

Dr Reynolds / Pervy Teacher from Final Exam (1981)

According to myth, Dr Reynolds was to be offed in the script, but the budget was so tight they had to cut the scene. Instead, we’re left with a situation echoing that of Bloodmoon where the girl is punished with death after engaging in an affair with her married teacher and he lives to lecture another day!

*

Paul from Halloween (1978)

What does Paul look like? Whoever he is, he was lucky to escape the same fate that ended Laurie’s crush on Ben Tramer. But wouldn’t it have been cool if El Jerko come to the Wallace house looking for Annie after she never turned up to collect him? Did he just forget about it and go out with his buddies? This is the solitary plus point that Rob Zombie’s version of the film gets; Paul did come over and he did run into Michael Myers and he did die.

*

There’s nothing wrong or uncreative about playing the the fates of characters; in fact I’d encourage the makers of slasher films not to be predictable with who does or doesn’t buy the farm, but these guys, they really should’ve been found skewered in a corner somewhere as they kinda deserved it…

Family affair / Family o’ fear

YOU’RE NEXT

4 Stars  2011/18/95m

“They will hunt you.”

Director: Adam Wingard / Writer: Simon Barrett / Cast: Sharni Vinson, A.J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran, Sarah Myers, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Simon Barrett, L.C. Holt, Lane Hughes.

Body Count: 14


Families. You can’t choose them. But you can kill them. Be warned, UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS follow…

An amorous couple are totally murdered in their plush home, the words “you’re next” are painted in blood on a window for one of them to find. Soon after, cutesy couple Crispian and Erin drive out to his parents’ secluded vacation home, which is approximately the size of a small suburb, for a 35th wedding anniversary gathering.

The next day, Crispian’s brothers and sister arrive with their respective partners: Dad’s favourite Drake and his tightly wound wife, Kelly; moody Felix and goth-lite girlfriend Zee; and perky Amy and her filmmaker beau whose name I don’t remember, but Ti West played him.

There’s tension between Drake and Crispian, Erin tries to ingratiate herself as the outsider (in addition to it being her first time meeting them, she’s an Australian in a house full of Americans), and Mom (the always welcome Crampton) is all jittery and hears a few strange noises in the house.

The group gather for dinner and in the midst of a row between brothers, are suddenly attacked from outside by a crossbow-wielding maniac with great aim. There’s panic, chaos, injury and a dead body on the floor. Next, somebody tries to make a run for the car only to career next-first into a wire, and another flees successfully through the woods to the already-dead neighbours and receives an axe in the head for her trouble.

Back at the house, it becomes clear that not only is there more than one assailant, but that some of them are already inside the house. Erin takes charge after Crispian elects to make a run for help, and admits to her bewildered companions that she grew up in a survivalist camp in the Australian outback – something the killers hadn’t banked on, especially when she efficiently begins taking them out.

But that’s not all, the Whys of the situation become clear as it comes out that the three amigos aren’t just randomly attacking the super-rich family, but someone has hired them to do so for their own greedy motivations. Erin learns this, discovers she’s more or less on her own from there on out, and transforms into a gung-ho heroine Sigourney Weaver would be envious of, and she’s dangerous with a blender.

You’re Next doesn’t really pack anything that’s not been seen before in terms of other home invasion and slasher films, though it’s good to see them spliced together with an absence of gunfire for the sake of more conventional slasher movie weapons, such as axes, knives, and cleavers.

The power of the film lies in Erin’s skills at defending herself and fighting back harder than these suckers thought was possible. With the right audience, You’re Next will be a great cinema experience. Fortunately, seeing it at FrightFest meant people whooped and cheered at the right moments, laughed at the (mercifully subtle and few) gags, and were on the final girl’s side early on. Whether it has enough mass-appeal is another thing; it’s not too bloody to put off casual viewers and it thankfully doesn’t feature killers who can’t be put down after numerous counter-attacks.

Blurbs-of-interest: A.J. Bowen was in Hatchet II; Barbara Crampton was in Castle Freak; Ti West directed The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, and one of the shorts in V/H/S; Adam Wingard also directed the crappy Home Sick, so it’s nice to see him leap forward here.

Twists of fury: Cut

In this feature, Vegan Voorhees examines those jaw-dropping revelations that the slasher film loves to bat our way from the blue, like a pushy parent tossing softballs at a kid who doesn’t want to learn baseball.

This week, we observe the brow-creasing revelation that Australia’s answer to Scream – the thoroughly fun Cut – spits up when it clearly runs out of ideas near the end… SPOILAGE follows.

Set Up: Film students decide to complete Hot Blooded, a slasher film allegedly cursed after the stuntman playing the killer murdered the tyrannical director (Kylie Minogue, y’all!) and was, himself, killed by one of the actresses. Further attempts to finish the film have ended in death – why should this be an exception? To an old mansion house they go where they are stalked and slain by the shears-toting maniac…

Twist: There is no killer per se. The killer – Scarman – is “a product of the creative energy put into the film.” Thus, whenever the film is screened or toyed with in any way, Scarman hitches a ride with it and kills folk. Destroy the film stock, destroy the killer.

Problems with this revelation:

  • OK… like, HOW does this happen? There’s no evidence of otherwordly goings-on in Cut, which, up to this reveal, is a standard, amusing, and liberally bloody slasher film.
  • Did the electrical current that fuzzed when the stuntman was originally impaled suck him into the film?
  • An old woman – widow of the original producer – stops by to inform everyone that there is a presence at work that is inherently evil. How she knows this is also a mystery. It didn’t stop her writing a cheque to the filmmakers to get the picture finished earlier in the film.
  • If Scarman is the film and the film is Scarman (or something), why does he have Brad’s (the stuntman) face under the mask?
  • Why does nobody explain anything in normal terms???

Likely explanation: Some would say the writer just penned himself into a corner and came up with this ludicrous turn of events, however I prefer to believe that Cut is parodying those late-80s slasher films that tried to climb aboard the Elm Street wagon with all manner of stupid outcomes such as killers travelling through plug sockets n’ stuff… Shocker comes to mind.

All the same, I do *heart* this movie. It’s dumb, sure, but it feels like it was SUPPOSED to be.

A shot of the good stuff

Needle-2NEEDLE

3.5 Stars  2010/15/86m

“Your fate has been chosen.”

Director: John V. Soto / Writers: Soto & Anthony Egan / Cast: Michael Dorman, Travis Fimmel, Tahyna Tozzi, Jessica Marais, Trilby Glover, Luke Carroll, Nathaniel Buzolic, Khan Chittenden, Jane Badler, John Jarratt, Ben Mendelsohn.

Body Count: 7


Imagination in the horror genre is often lacking and so this impressive little voodoo-slasher all the way from Australia deserves extra credit for the ambitions of its premise alone…

College kid Ben Rutherford receives a bizarre antique box – the last item remaining in his late father’s will – an ornate little contraption with ‘Le Vaudou Mort’ on the top. He doesn’t want it but is told by a college professor it could hold some worth and so hides it under his bed after showing his group of school friends.

When he finds the box is stolen, an event that coincides the return of his estranged police photographer brother, Ben isn’t so bothered until the mysterious fiend who has box-napped it begins using it for its created intentions: Killing.

Turns out the box is used to create mini wax figurines that are used for voodoo when the desired victim’s photograph is inserted and blood and wax poured in the top. Said victim hears the cranking of the in-box mechanics before whatever wounds the assailant wishes to inflict on the victim are carried out with various needles.

So it goes, the jock is first to find himself slashed to pieces from the inside out, then a wall-climber is literally broken into pieces. Ben and big-bro Marcus are forced into collaborating to work out what the box is, who has it and why their using it to take out a bunch of harmless college students.

There’s morgue investigations (in which Aussie horror staple John Jarratt plays the chipper coroner), a trip to the nuthouse to see one of the few witnesses to the box’s substantial killing abilities, and eventually ye olde back-to-the-beginning where the hands-free killer and their vengeful motive is revealed.

Needle takes it’s time in setting up the horror, a restraint too many slasher films are incapable of exercising. Though it commits the increasingly present sin of only including a gay couple who are a pair of hot girls (heaven forbid we see a couple of men kissing!), it’s interesting to cast two male leads – final boys? – is the lead roles, while nominal love-interest Mary is a possible suspect…

The eventual identity of the loon is revealed nicely, with gentle memories of Urban Legend and a believable “this is why I did it” jabber.

Aspects of Final Destination portents-of-doom are well played; the jogger who dies first runs past several lights that short out and fizzle in the distance and there’s that underlying question of who is next to hear the crankings of death? Gore is present without being OTT and there’s a certain charm about the interplay between the brothers that you don’t often get when the lead role is a traumatised cheerleader. That said, the writing isn’t too macho to have the guys run in ready for a fight: Ben is scared to go and explore the creepy old house. A refreshing change of pace.

Inject yourself with a shot of Needle, it’ll be quite the trip.

Blurbs-of-interest: John Jarratt was the Mick Dundee-heavy psycho in Wolf Creek and its sequel, and was also in Next of Kin.

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