Tag Archives: slasher films that aren’t supposed to be funny but are funny

Slumber Party Massacre XVIII

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SLEEPOVER NIGHTMARE

3 Stars  2004/15/81m

“The dead never wake.”

Director/Writer: Boon Collins / Cast: Hayley Sales, Richard Olak, Kristine Cofsky, Chad E. Rook, Ward McMahon, Graham Wright, Benjamin R. Hanson, Ace Hicks, Ashleigh Harrington, Jonas Shandel, Will Millar.

Body Count: 17


Cheap but likeable Canadian made-for-video outing (but shot on film, not digital) in which an escaped mental patient crashes a Labour Day party at a lakeside house and begins offing the teenage guests. Some references to cell phones and the like notwithstanding, here’s a film that looks authentically mid-80s and consequently doesn’t fall into the traps that claim most post-millennial slasher films: in short, it doesn’t spend the first hour trying to build up characters we won’t care about and cram all the action into the last 25 minutes.

Conversely, most of the kills in Sleepover Nightmare occur during the daylight at the party and only about 15 minutes of the film takes place after dark – making the title seem pointless in the extreme – lending it an all round more nostalgic feel that it’s been made out of love for the genre rather than as a pretentious ‘we know better’ vanity project with a crowbarred-in niche (see The Pumpkin Karver, Scar, Devon’s Ghost etc). That said, the film has obviously been padded out with a needless flashback scene, which tells us that the killer went berserk seven years earlier at a similar party, and ended up killing a few guests.

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In the present day section of the film, he favours killing off the teens with a metal spear, but sets it aside to use cars, outboard engines and, in one memorable scene, impales one poor guy with his own beer can. It also benefits nicely from characters who aren’t overtly annoying, despite the presence of the stock asshole boyfriend of the heroine and the girl he cheats with.

Not the kind of film you’d remember a few days after seeing it, but a fun 81 minutes nonetheless.

Blurb-of-interest: Director Collins was one of the co-writers of Night Warning.

 

2015 Halloween Spectacular Part 2: Zombie Nightmare

zombie-nightmareZOMBIE NIGHTMARE

1.5 Stars  1987/80m

Director: Jack Bravman / Writer: David Wellington / Cast: Adam West, Frank Dietz, John Mikl Thor, Manuska Rigaud, Shawn Levy, Tia Carrere, Allan Fisher, Hamish McEwen, Manon E. Turbide, Linda Singer.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “I’m old enough to be your older sister.”


And I wanted my 666th slasher movie to special! Kinda got what I wished for.

Serving as a kind of resume urban legend for some of the big names involved, Zombie Nightmare‘s IMDb rating of 2.2 (up from around 1.8 and a place in Bottom 100) provides a fairly accurate reflection of what to expect…

BUT… bad movie lovers amongst us will enjoy this veritable feast of How Not To Make A Good Movie, from drastic changes in hair, clothes, and even actors mid-scene.

I would reckon zombie movie fans have picked up this one excitedly in the past, only to painfully discover that, title aside, and just like Zombie Island Massacre, this ain’t nothin’ but a punk ass slasher movie.

zn5Anyway, after a baseball game, the Washington family walk home, and big dad Bill tries to help a young girl being harassed by two punk ass teen, uh, punks. For his trouble, he gets himself stabbed in front of wife and young son.

Years later, young son has grown up into be-mulleted hunk Tony (Thor, of the band Thor), all round great guy, who looks after mom and is nice to all, or so we assume from his few minutes of screen time. Tony is sent to fetch groceries from the couldn’t-be-more-stereotypical Italian shopkeep, who is later referred to as Hank Peters (!). During his errand, more punk ass punks attempt to rob the store (Hank gasps “Mamma Mia!”) and Tony beats up their punk asses but is then run over by yet another group of punk ass teen punks, who just drive away. They have no collective remorse, with the guy at the wheel even saying he got a buzz from it.

zn3Shopkeep takes Tony’s body to his mom’s house and then suggests they call the police, but she has better ideas, calling in a favour from local Haitian Voodoo Priestess Molly Mokembe, who can resurrect Tony in zombie form long enough for him to seek revenge on those responsible.

So it goes, the quintet of teens are hunted down by the hulking zombie, initially sporting the same mullet but later cropped down to sensible Ken-doll hair, while he breaks necks, impales with baseball bats, or just smashes skulls into walls n’ shit. Curiously, the nasty teen most responsible – big blown out, feathered hair – goes fairly early on, leaving Tia Carrere and boyfriend to be stalked to the last.

Tony: Before and after

Tony: Before and after

As if this weren’t awesome enough ingredients for the best film y’ever saw, halfway through Adam freakin’ West turns up as the police captain, whose detective (Dietz) is hot on the trail of the killer. The murders are somehow being reported as drug-infused suicides. Of a victim, the Captain says: “He ran with a bad crowd… Running red lights, getting drunk, smoking marijuana – you know the usual bad stuff.” Yeah sounds like an epidemic.

Tony eventually rids the world of the punk ass teen punks and is free to rest in peace, but not before Zombie Nightmare plays its ace card: Adam West is one the punk ass punks who killed his dad!

zn-westBut, hey, wait a sec… The M.E. says that an earlier victim was aged around 43, whereas West was pushing 60 in 1987 – and how many years were supposed to have passed between Tony’s dad being murdered (by “teens”) and Tony being grown up? 10? 20?? 30???

Nothing really makes a lot of sense in Zombie Nightmare. At one point, things just grind to halt so we can watch two people play tennis for several minutes. But at least there’s pre-Wayne’s World Tia Carrere as one of the teens, and the ringleader was played by Shawn Levy, who went on to direct the Night at the Museum films along with numerous other Hollywood titles, whereas Zombie Nightmare‘s director, Jack Bravman, later gave us the even worse Night of the Dribbler.

  • Elsewhere, why does the priestess talk like a sheep singing a Belinda Carlisle song?
  • Why does Zombie-Tony look like he’s doing interpretive dance in the final scene?
  • Why does a near rape victim think that saying: “I’ve had enough of your childish sexual advances – go away!” would ever work?
  • Who is the hero in this film, seriously? Zombie Tony? The detective?

zn4The thrash metal soundtrack, with songs from Motorhead, Thor (of course) and a load of other bands I’ve never heard of, seems to be where the budget went. Come for the music, stay for the hair and the comedy.

You mentioned something about a closet…?

The-Dark-Side-of-Midnight-1984THE DARK SIDE OF MIDNIGHT

0.5 Stars  1984/89m

A.k.a. The Creeper

Director/Writer/Producer/Star/Caterer/Janitor: Wes Olsen / Cast: James Moore, Wes Olsen, Dave Bowling, Sandy Schemmel, Rocky Jackson, Susan Frawley, Dan Myers.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “He broke her neck and crushed her skull with his bare hands – we’re dealing with a psychopath.”


To understand the experience that was watching The Dark Side of Midnight would be like trying to glean from somebody what it was like to survive something truly, truly terrible. However, if you go on to the film’s IMDb page there are a couple of posts from people who were in it, one of which states that the lead actress burst into tears when she saw it, and the composer walked out of the screening, never to return.

Doling out a half-star rating is as rare as a full five stars, as it should be in the bell curve that is film appreciation, although The Dark Side of Midnight made me laugh more than a few times, there’s no way in hell I could ever give it anything more.

dsom1A girl is murdered by a fiend hiding in her closet. The police investigate. The local mayor wants stories played down in case it effects the possibility of a university being built in their small town.

Soon after, a babysitter is stalked at her job, but survives, which is more than can be said for the six-year-old boy she was looking after, who is found in his bed with his throat cut, the only gore in the entire film! A dead child.

This is what ensues when the lead detective and hotshot profiler guy go to interview her:

  • Girl: “There was a man in the closet.”
  • Detective: “What closet?”
  • Girl: “Timmy’s closet. Timmy told me there was a man living inside his closet. I didn’t believe him. There was a man in his closet.”
  • Detective: “Timmy told you that a man lived in his closet?”
  • Girl: “Yes.”

1965453The mayor, pissed that the murder of a six-year-old makes the papers, devises an evil plan to get rid of the police chief so he can frame some homeless schmuck and secure the green light for the college build: He fakes a fall saying his sister is at death’s door in Canada.

Of course, the killer, now known to be The Creeper, wanted in Detroit for twelve murders, strikes again after the arrest, then goes after the chief’s daughter, who is dating the hotshot profiler guy.

Eventually, profiler guy’s knowledge of typewriters leads him to the killer, who lives in a small scale balsa wood model house and, well, y’all know how flammable that shit is.

The Dark Side of Midnight was made for around $10,000, which reportedly came from the director, who cast himself as hotshot profiler guy, and is a pure exercise in ineptitude at every level. Local theater actors with little to no in-front-of-camera experience shout their dreadful dialogue, move their eyebrows and bob their heads a lot, amplifying every nuance in case the people at the back can’t see it – oh wait, it’s a film, not a play.

“You can’t come bursting into my office!” yells the mayor at somebody who just calmly walked through an already open door.

What else? Oh yeah, nearly everyone in the film has a mustache:

dsom-mustaches…even the killer’s rocking one!

dsom-killer…which makes it all look a bit like some gay porn film gone wrong…

dsom-gaypornVery possibly the go-to worst movie ever made, with absolutely no redeeming qualities beyond how bad it manages to be, and that sweet exchange of dialogue about the fucking closet.

Honor and obey

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POSSESSION: UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART

1 Stars  1987/93m

Directors: Lloyd A. Simandl & Michael Mazo / Writers: Lyne J. Grantham & Lloyd A. Simandl / Cast: John Robert Johnston, Melissa Martin, Cat Williams, Leanne Jaheny, Samra Wolfin, April Alkins, Geraldine Farrell, Monica Marko, Rupert Grant, Shane Carlsson.

Body Count: 14

Laughter Lines: “There won’t be anybody up there – we’ll be ALL. BY. OURSELVES.”


Irredeemably boring T&A fare, notable only for starring the bitchy girl, Tamara, from Jason Takes Manhattan as the final girl.

She, Madeline (Sharlene Martin, credited here as Melissa), is abducted one night by a whiny-voiced, mother-fixated loon, Frankie, who takes girls home, forces them to dress in Mom’s clothes, and, if they’re not ‘nice’ enough, are murdered.

Madeline succeeds in escaping, but the police are almost completely apathetic, and it’s her gang of indistinguishably cloney gal-pals who suggest driving around to look for the guy, whom they run into almost straight away. Ill-prepared for this venture, they flee, cops intervene, Frankie escapes in a rowing boat WHICH EXPLODES WHEN SHOT AT.

An exploding wooden rowing boat.

Shortly thereafter, the girls – who might be escorts, it was unclear – go to a strip club and arrange for a couple of the suspiciously camp dancers to join them up at so-and-so’s uncle’s cabin in the woods for a bachelorette party.

Acting, hair, and fashion choices - about the only things you'll remember from Possession

Bad acting, hair, and fashion choices – about the only things you’ll remember from Possession

Predictably, Frankie ain’t dead and soon comes looking for Madeline once again, offing a couple of her friends who didn’t go on the trip, but hangs around long enough to hear an answerphone message that conveniently gives the full address of the cabin. Lord.

The girls party, make out with the gay strippers, Frankie comes along. That’s about all you need to know. It’s bodaciously unexciting, replete with clichés so dense you’d need a Humvee to plough through them: One girl goes off on her own to photograph trees! The car won’t start. The girl who had a bath conveniently never pulled the plug so the killer can drown her in it. It doesn’t stop.

Even when the killer’s presence is discovered, the last girls standing abandon the comparable fortitude of the cabin (which has a push-bar door!?) to run into the woods, where the killer, disabled by a speargun arrow while they flee, somehow teleports in front of them to jump out from behind a tree, and so they run BACK to the fucking cabin where there’s a gun!

Said woods are mysterious and wild, we know this because every time a character walks through them pan pipe music plays. This might mean something if the killer were a Native American rather than a camp-voiced suburban mama’s boy.

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Brimming over with protracted T&A scenes that go thusly: Girl has shower, girl lathers up own boobs for ages, girl dresses up in kinky clothes, girl is stabbed >>> Girl has bath, girl washes self, girl dresses and paints own nails, girl is drowned in bath she never bothered emptying >>> Girl has shower, girl soaps up boobs, girl’s throat is cut in shower. Somebody somewhere does not want women to exercise good hygiene, or worse, has some real issues with their gender, note when one young woman talks about a guy she met and her friend replies: “You were in a BAR?” Why the hell not? She’s young and vivacious, should she only be allowed in the kitchen or the convent?

A plodding, dullard of a feature with absolutely nothing to recommend it unless pastel fashions, awful hair, and naked chicks in the shower is enough. With fourteen bodies dropped, there’s hardly even any grue to speak of.

This is a film nobody need possess.

Blurb-of-interest: Director Simandl also helmed the equally barren Ripper 2: Letters from Within.

Valley of the (not so) Cheapjack Franchises: The Texas Chainsaw Remakes

Probably unpopularly, all of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre canon ranks as one of my least favourite series’ in horror. The 1974-1994 set (plus that godawful 2013 instalment) do next to nothing for me, but what of the Platinum Dunes/Michael Bay ‘re-imaginings’?

tcm-2003

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

3.5 Stars  2003/18/95m

“What you know about fear…doesn’t even come close.”

Director: Marcus Nispel / Writer: Scott Kosar / Cast: Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Erica Leerhsen, Jonathan Tucker, Mike Vogel, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich.

Body Count: 7


Michael Bay has much to answer for, and I imagine a mob of horror fans would crucify him for being the poster boy of the remake era, which was a quiet zone of horror filmmaking around 2003, until the announcement of a “re-imagining” of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Twelve years on, it’s an easy equation to comprehend. The 1974 film was notorious, banned in numerous countries, and had a name that is far more suggestive than any of the content. Sooner or later, someone was going to say “Enough with sequels! Remake it!”

Fortunately for me, I have no strong feelings towards the original. I first saw it at a midnight screening in the late 90s and it was a headache of a film. My friend turned to me halfway through and said: “This is probably the most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen.” I found it entertaining enough, but not the monstrosity we all expected (same with The Exorcist, which also lost its UK ban in the same time period), and nothing I really cared about seeing again.

Authentic 70s names: Erin, Andy, Pepper, Morgan, Kemper

Our authentic 70s characters: Erin, Andy, Pepper, Morgan, Kemper

The 2003 over-do remains traceably loyal to the ‘true’ story: A van of five teenagers, on their way back from Mexico and on to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, roll into a nightmare. Stopping to help out a girl walking down the road is the grave error they make, as she wastes little time in putting a pistol in her mouth. They find that summoning help is difficult and the locals seem less than fazed about their dilemma, one which they soon argue about: Leave the body and scram, or wait for help?

From here, the Dead Teenager conventions come into play: Two of the group go to the creepy house nearby where one vanishes, looking for him reveals Leatherface, who gives chase wielding the titular weapon. Toss in the imitation-Sheriff (inimitably played by R. Lee Ermey), who the kids wrongly trust, and they sink deeper into the nightmare.

tcm-house

Before long it’s all down to off-the-marks final girl Erin (Biel), whose luck just keeps getting worse: Everybody she calls on for help is part of the extended family of loons, and she’s soon at their mercy until she manages to escape. From there, it’s abrasive cat and mouse scenes as Leatherface stalks her through the woods, an abandoned shack, eventually to the abattoir.

Whereas the old film pre-dated our understanding of killed-one-by-one plot structure, and is therefore only arguably a slasher film at all, there is no such uncertainty in the remake: We know Erin is going to be the last one standing, we know the others will be laid to waste (it’s just a case of picking the order in which they go), and we hope she’s able to exact a gruesome revenge on her captors.

tcm-van-attack

So everything works on a mechanical level, but the over-stylized look of the film begins to work against it after awhile, and the fact that Wrong Turn had been released just a few months earlier hoovers up much of the ‘originality’ of the ‘re-imagining': Dirt, grime, rednecks who don’t give a shit.

Everything is very dark and earthy, supposedly to give it an authentic look, but at times it goes too far, while it clashes with the youngsters, who aren’t convincingly ’70s kids’ at all, no matter if you deduct cellphones and brand names, the language they use and even their names are too contemporary to wash. Gunnar Hansen – the original Leatherface – pointed out that the film was shot at chest-level to keep Jessica Biel’s bust in the frame as much as possible, not to mention the moments where her white blouse gets very, very wet.

tcm-women

Roger Ebert famously gave this film a rare no-stars, and his reasoning is valid enough, but it’s still a solid remake, not too entrenched in the cynicism which was to come with every other horror title they began stuffing through the machine. It’s just that they ‘re-imagined’ it with too little subtlety, so it’s more of a box-ticking exercise than a grafted horror experience.

Blame it for ushering in the dawn of the remake, but enjoy it for breaking out of the tame, studio-slick horror that was beginning to wane in the wake of Scream.

 *

texas_chainsaw_massacre_the_beginning_xlg

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING

2 Stars 2006/18/92m

“Witness the birth of fear.”

Director: Jonathan Liebesman / Writers: Sheldon Turner & David J. Schow / Cast: Jordana Brewster, Matthew Bomer, Diora Baird, Taylor Handley, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lee Tergesen, Terrence Evans, Marietta Marich, Kathy Lamkin, Cyia Batten, Lew Temple.

Body Count: 10


While I remember going to see this at the movies with my pal Earl, I don’t remember buying the DVD, but there it was on my shelf, possibly unwatched.

As the 2003 film ended the trail of horror left by Leatherface and the Hewitts, the only logical next step to cash-in on its success was to go back… back to “The Beginning”. Ish.

Starting with a very brief 1939-set intro that sees Thomas Hewitt born in a meat-packing factory, while the credits whirr, there are old sepia photos and doctor’s notes about his deformity and within minutes it’s 1969 and Tommy loses his job at the slaughterhouse when it’s closed down as the town dies (economically, it’s not chainsawed to pieces).

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He flips and kills the owner, leading to his clan intervening and ultimately shooting the local Sheriff (“the only law enforcement left”) and taking up cannibalism in the blink of an eye.

Elsewhere, a jeep of two couples heading to Austin where brothers Eric and Dean are going to enlist and be carted off to Vietnam, hurtles towards the Hewitt residence. With their girlfriends in tow for one last weekend of fun, it all goes to shit when they’re accosted by a motorcycling robber, hit a cow at high speed, and crash.

They believe they’re in luck when ‘the Sheriff’ turns up almost immediately, but when he guns down the would-be robber, something seems just a bit more than ‘off’. Eric’s girlfriend, Chrissie, was hurtled into the long grass in the crash and hides while her friends are assaulted and driven away to be tortured and eaten.

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The rest of the film is largely a re-tread (pre-tread?): Chrissie sneaks her way into the house to try and save them, but is too late and eventually ends up caught and invited to dinner, in a scene reminiscent of the 1974 film that was never ‘re-imagined’ into the remake. So samey is it, that she’s chased through the woods to the slaughterhouse for the finale! And, being that we know the Hewitts weren’t caught for a few more years, things don’t look good for anybody surviving this one.

Production values are high, as before, this time with Jonathan Liebesman’s slightly more grounded direction, but whatever appealed to me in 2006 has since gone: Watching the film in 2015 was a pure endurance test. On the one hand it brings nothing new to the table, a few explanations of character attributes aren’t reason enough to make a whole new movie, and it also made contact with, and crossed, my ‘line’.

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My ‘line’ exists where fun entertainment ends and cruelty begins. While the 2003 film wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels of joy, it was exhilarating without being stupidly violent; Here, the film practically revels in demonstrating how gross it is, with peeled off faces, blood rain, chainsaw vivisections… But not an ounce of a good time. A scene in which a dying character says they can no longer feel their limbs and are cold is upsetting, not exhilarating.

Plenty of people will say “well, that’s real horror” etc., but horror is like comedy – we all find different things acceptable or funny. A horror film without the re-equilibrium is just depressing, which is why the first one gets a pass and this doesn’t. There’s no element of mystery or surprise, and rooting for a survivor is futile – The Beginning is just killing for the sake of it.

The film skates over how quickly the family turns from struggling to evil, embracing their newfound cannibalism in what must be no longer than twenty-four hours, and the script makes Ermey the focal point over and above both Leatherface and the tormented teenagers, unable to realise that what made him so good before was moderation. He’s a one-liner away from Freddy Krueger levels of camp at times.

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In the much thinner plus column, Jordana Brewster is a solid heroine, slightly more believable than Jessica Biel was as a child of the time. She has an opportunity to escape without being detected, but is loyal that she goes back to try and save a friend she can hear screaming elsewhere. It’s that pivot scene that tells us a lot about her character – she’s admirably unselfish, regardless of the eventual cost.

A depressing experience in all, although better than the original sequels and the 2013 film, serving only to compound my resistance to this series as a whole: It’s just not very good.

Blurbs-of-interest: Erica Leerhsen was also in Wrong Turn 2 (ha!) and Lonely Joe; Terrence Evans was in The Pumpkin Karver; Diora Baird was in the even worse Stan Helsing; Lee Tergesen was in The Collection; Cyia Batten was in Killer Movie; Andrew Bryniarski was in The Curse of El Charro; Marcus Nispel directed the Friday the 13th remake; Jonathan Liebesman directed Darkness Falls.

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