Tag Archives: Scream

A Rose by any other name

DEVIL IN THE FLESH

2.5 Stars  1998/15/88m

“She’s a hot cold-blooded killer.”

A.k.a. Dearly Devoted (UK)

Director: Steve Cohen / Writers: Kurt Anderson, Kelly Carlin-McCall, Richard Brandes, Steve Cohen, Michael Michand / Cast: Rose McGowan, Alex McArthur, Peg Shirley, J.C. Brandy, Phil Morris, Robert Silver, Sherrie Rose, Julia Nickson, Ryan Bittle, Krissy Carlson.

Body Count: 7


“You wanna play Psycho Killer? Can I be the helpless victim? Oh, let’s see… No, please don’t kill me Mr Ghostface, I wanna be in the sequel!” So go Rose McGowan’s awesome lines as Tatum in Scream.

But where did she go after? Not that anybody from that film hit the stratospheric heights of stardom Drew Barrymore ascended to… I mean, where are Skeet Ulrich and Jamie Kennedy!?

Rose ended up here, in this obsessed-woman film that’s about ten years behind the curve, and yet managed to spawn a sequel going by the moniker Teacher’s Pet starring fellow ex-slasher-franchisee Jodi Lyn O’Keefe.

Rose is Debbie Strang, an unhinged teen who develops intense crushes on her male teachers to the point where destroying those who stand in her way becomes her favourite pastime. After burning her first love to death along with her mom, Deb is packed off to live with Piper Laurie-esque grandmother, who calls her a slut once too many times and is thus sent off with the goodwill donations.

While nicely put together and featuring a likeable performance from McGowan, the dialogue is too often feeble and there are a lot of loose ends fluttering – such as the fate of the social worker who’s struck with the kettle?

Okay fare but a bit of a waste of its lead’s talent.

Blurbs-of-interest: J.C. Brandy took over Danielle Harris’ role as Jamie Lloyd for Halloween 6; Ryan Bittle was in The Clown at Midnight.

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Title Recall: Serial Slashers

More of those loveable title cards, this time from some of the series we love the most. And maybe not so much.

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THE slasher franchise of the 90s (and also 2011), Scream fell into a consistent fontage after the first movie (which oddly had the regular typeface on all the artwork), in 2 and 3, the part number was slashed across the screen after the initial double murder which kicks off each and every film and, in the 4th, it kind of morphs out of the ‘A’ – thus the film is really called Scre4m, which is stupid, but at least we haven’t yet have 5cream

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Stephen King probably hasn’t bothered watching most of the Corn sequels (maybe that horrendous 2009 remake). Where are parts IV thru eight? On VHS or not owned at all. I don’t like III but it came in the box with the first two. What to say? Hmm… nothing much really. They’re quite dull, aren’t they?

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The original slasher movie, Psycho‘s shrieking-string opening credits end with the title card cracking up as per the sequels we see here, albeit in 1960-era editing simplicity. The ‘cracked up’ (oooh, clever!) logo remained unchanged all the way up to the 1990 final entry in the cannon, shortly before Anthony Perkins’ death.

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Despite being one of the more memorable body count franchises, Final Destination has always been a bit of a flawed title concept. Yes, it works with the plane crash-centered first one, but can there be more than one ‘final’ destination? Turns out, yes. And even when they tried to end it by sticking a giant ‘THE’ in front of it, the sequels kept coming… 3‘s tarot cards only serve to remind me that none of the idiots in any of these movies have ever consulted a psychic, and 5 looks a bit boring here, though a second later is explodes, like, totally in 3D!

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What have we learned from this batch? That some franchises are better managed in terms of their brand continuity than others. But nothing else.

Trite horror, shite horror

HEAD CHEERLEADER, DEAD CHEERLEADER

1.5 Stars  2000/18/78m

“Two-four-six-eight who do we decapitate?”

Director/Writer: Jeff Miller / Cast: Tasha Biering, Daniel Justin Roach, Andre Walker, Bob Carter, Debbie Rochon, Bobby Cerutti, Bill Roberson, Noelle Manuel, Amy R. Swaim, Beth Hunt, Amber Coker.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “A little gratuitous violence never killed anyone.”


The awesome title and tagline combined with the appearance of Debbie Rochon makes me want to love this film. Really, it does. But I tried to love the later seasons of Lost and look what happened there.

Instead, what we have here is a crappy regional production with a killer axing bimbo cheerleaders in Briar Creek, South Carolina, on Halloween: the night before a big game. Chief pom-pom waver Heather is worried about her cat, while all her friends fall victim to a loon who can manage to chop boobs off girls who are wearing tight tops.

Most of the “action” is centered around Heather’s house, where a dozen random people come knocking at the door, or call her, including a sleazy prankster in a flatlining send-up of Scream, the film everybody was still trying to copy at this point in time. Could the killer be the football team’s pervy coach? One of Heather’s THREE ex-boyfriends? Or maybe its that weird religious girl who’s angry that she didn’t make the squad?

When revealed, the outcome plays like a parody of the end of fucking Scary Movie rather than Scream, or – heaven forbid – thinking up an original twist of its own. THEN a couple more twists are heaped on top in an effort to paper over the gaping plot-craters. It’s misogynistic, anti-gay, and trashier than a Honey Boo Boo marathon at a trailer park.

The only reason this gets that extra half-star is for the possibly authentic answerphone message that plays over the opening credits, from a concerned mother who thinks the production of the film will place real life cheerleaders – including her own daughter – in danger! No, honey, real psychos operate with a lot more class.

Blurbs-of-interest: Cheap horror-fixture Rochon is also in American Nightmare, BleedBlood RelicFinal Examination and Varsity Blood.

Talking heads. Still attached.

SLICE AND DICE: THE SLASHER FILM 

3 Stars  2012/18/76m

Director: Calum Waddell


A documentary about slasher films is pretty much all you need to know, but unlike 2006’s Going to Pieces, this one didn’t start life as a book, however, one of the associate producers is Justin Kerswell, who wrote Teenage Wasteland so it sort of counts.

Reviewing a documentary is difficult as there’s no plot to describe. Therefore, Slice and Dice is a pretty skimpy 76-minute trip through the beginnings of the genre, final girls, gore, and what makes a good maniac – not quite ‘the complete history’ as the cover claims.

Talking heads range from stars such as Corey Feldman, the always lovely Felissa Rose and UK scream queen Emily Booth, to directors Adam Green, John Carl Buechler, Patrick Lussier, Scott Spiegel, and Final Destination creative force, Jeffrey Reddick.

As a mild distraction, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the final product as it sails through its subject matter with a very generous scoop of films clips from all over the place, but I found it to be a little… empty and ‘inside the box’. Not that it’s slapdash, but it has a slightly mechanical feel over that of an out-and-out passionate love letter to slasher films.

There’s also a fair wad of time doled out to series’ that I wouldn’t have lumped in with the likes of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers (Puppet Master!?) and little in the way of history lessons. Of course, to my twisted, overloaded brain, there’s no new ground to be covered so perhaps it would be more interesting and surprising to the more casual or new fan.

Adam Green supplies the best line, as the criticisms of the genre being misogynistic are defended: “It’s odd to me that people like the ratings boards say that they’re demeaning towards women, again it’s equal opportunity, they’re demeaning towards everyone, …so fuck off.”

Who else shows up: J.S. Cardone, Tom Holland, Tobe Hooper, Dave Parker, Fred Olen Ray, Robert Rusler, Christopher Smith, Norman J. Warren.

Slasher Shakespeare

When quizzed on my favourite slasher films recently, I was gawked at for citing Urban Legend. Later that week I watched it and, as it always has, it reignited my love for it. Thus, when one might ask “Urban Legend, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” I can answer like so… Oh, mind those dastardly spoilers, now!

1. The Artwork

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Still one of my favourite movie posters, and easily the best of the 90s crop: The cracked glass, the negative paper cuttings, the lighting, the eye… It’s perfect. Perfect, I proclaim.

2.The Beginning

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Albeit shamelssly ripped off from Scream (which itself was a complete theft from When a Stranger Calls), the ‘classic’ killer in the back seat legend sets things up awesomely as Natasha Gregson Wagner unfortunately becames the real life proclamation of Bonnie Tyler’s seminal “every now and then I fall apart” lyric she happens to be singing as the movie loon rises up behind her.

Can you swing an axe inside a car? Doubtful, but this is just the first of Urban Legend‘s many fab anomalies.

3. Natalie’s moral center

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At the movies when I first watched the film way back in 1999, the turning point to perfection came early on when Natalie (Alicia Witt – my kinda lady) challenged campus journo Paul on his story, reminding him that it was somebody’s life. Witt’s acting skills, effortlessly dwarfing those around her, make her an exceptional final girl.

4. Rent-a-Cop Reese

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Campus head of security Reese (Loretta Devine – almost 50-years-old when she made this!) is a sassy, Pam Grier-obsessed backgrounder who’s more important than she initially appears and was the only character to return for the sequel.

5. Killer wardrobe

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The loon in Urban Legend wears a creepy fur-lined Parka coat – the kind kids in Grange Hill wore in the 70s. Considering who it turns out to be, that hood can pack a lot down AND disguise the fiend’s face admirably.

6. …that everyone else wears

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On no less than THREE occasions is the very same design of jacket used as as a fake-out. Everyone seems to wear it, from professors, to the janitor, even girls on the swim team – despite the sunny conditions outside.

This is an undeniably stupid plot aspect in a film with so much stock in passing off coincidences as something else, I think using it once would’ve been enough.

7. Laughter Lines and It’s-About-Time Lines

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Even a super-talent like Witt could never deliver the line “It’s like somebody out there is taking all these stories and making them reality,” convincingly. It’s awful dialogue, matched later by a few other aural faux pas’ such as two girls bonding over a love triangle minutes after the killer has axed one of their friends to death…

However, this is buoyed by Natalie’s for once honest answer to the recurrent slasher movie question: “Are you OK?” On two occasions is she asked this and, on both, simply replies: “No.”

8. Danielle Harris as the skanky roommate

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Once she was cute little Jamie Lloyd, ever on the run from her derange uncle in Halloween‘s 4 and 5; once she sat across the aisle from me at the world premiere of Hatchet II. But in between horror fame, Danielle Harris chews up this small, rather thankless role, as Natalie’s goth roommate, Tosh, who seems to do nothing but cruise chatrooms looking for a shag.

9. Contrived ways of getting events to accommodate the legends

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The major obstacle in Urban Legend - both writing it and watching it – must be the method to tie all the murders together. It leans heavily on characters doing the right things at the right time for the killer to be able to exploit their actions: What if Damon didn’t get out of the car for a piss? What if Natalie hadn’t walked in on Tosh having sex before? It renders the entire film a crock in terms of reality, but, again it must be stressed that’s there’s never really been a real world slasher movie event – gun massacres don’t count – so it has to be stupid to work.

 10. Killer casting

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While leads Jared Leto and Alicia Witt never became huge stars, they’re admirably propped up by a roster f familiar faces from various other films and TV shows of the era: Joshua Jackson makes the most of his small role as the peroxide-domed prankster Damon; future famous-for-being-drunk girl Tara Reid as Sasha, the borderline slut (but she’s not unpleasant); and who wouldn’t want to go to a class taught by Freddy Krueger!?

11. A long, drawn out chase scene

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While it may not reach the dizzy heights of the chase scenes in Prom Night or I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend was savvy enough to know that nothing can get audiences going like a damsel being accosted by the killer. In this case, it’s Sasha (Tara Reid) who is stalked around the campus radio station by the axe-toting loon, apparently recreating “the one about the murder live on air” alluded to by some bit-parter in an earlier scene.

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The scene wraps beautifully with Natalie arriving too late to help her friend, who has locked herself in a room on a higher floor and smacks futilely against the window. Note the filmmakers error here: The killer simply opens the previously locked door and comes in, THEN after axing Sasha to death, we see absolutely no blood on the weapon’s blade.

11. A car chase – albeit quite a slow one

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There’s been horror, comedy, romance, and now action! Once Natalie’s on the run again, she’s picked up by the grumpy janitor and, of course, there are no other cars on the road when the killer reappears to make yet another legend reality!

12. Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening

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Tossing EVERY cliche into the bag once more, those Parka jackets and everyone who owns them prove their worth when the night brings a massive thunderstorm that Natalie finds herself running through on more than one occasion. Still, putting the final girl through the wringer is nothing new…

13. Gotcha!

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If you can read Latin, you’ll have already been informed by the college’s motto that ‘the best friend did it’. A friend of mine let it slip before it came out so there was sadly no surprise element, although Brenda’s deranged eyes and oversized shaggy perm soon outweigh the stupidity by their sheer awesomeness.

14. The Exposition

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The Scream-era had no want for motiveless loons killing because they just do, 90s slasher films had to have a killer with a proper reason behind their killing spree. Anybody remotely familiar with how these films work would’ve pegged the real motivation earlier on when Natalie confides in Brenda her terrible secret… The girl-on-girl scene is a catty-dialogue lover’s wet dream and although there’s NO WAY IN HELL a skinny girl could ever hoist up a grown man, survive being shot and falling out of a third floor window, she’s freakin’ awesome and proof that hell certainly hath no fury…

15. Brenda’s lizard face of death

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 16. The significantly “less Hollywoody” new cast

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Where the class of Pendleton University featured a uniformally beautiful group of friends, at nearby ‘Ashton’, the new class is a little less… shall we say… ‘conventional’. Though I do want the blond guy’s long hair and her glasses.

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So there you have it, next time I ask myself “Urban Legend, how do I love thee, let me count the ways,” I can say with some certainty that I love it in at least sixteen different ways. Out.

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