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

KILLER’S MOON

KILLER’S MOON

2 Stars 1978/18/89m

“One endless night of terror!”

Director/Writer: Alan Birkinshaw / Cast: Anthony Forrest, Tom Marshall, Georgina Kean, Alison Elliott, Jane Hayden, Jean Reeve, Nigel Gregory, David Jackson, Paul Rattee, Peter Spraggon, Elizabeth Counsell, Jo-Anne Good.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “One minute you’re a person, then you’re a sheep…all covered in blood.”


I was born in 1978. The year of Halloween, Grease and…uh…Killer’s Moon, a film possibly even more fucked up than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. ‘Ooh, I must see it!’ you may crow. But wait, remain in your seat with the belt fastened, for this is not a recommendation by any means. Tobe Hooper’s film is screwy in a truly horrific way. Killer’s Moon is shot to pieces. It’s like that mental middle-aged woman in accounts who talks gibberish on eleven different subjects at once.

It’s part Clockwork Orange, part exploitation trash and part girls’ school comedy. Said schoolgirls are in fact a choir travelling through the Lake District – yes, it’s 70s England! – when their bus conks out and they take refuge in a secluded hotel. Meanwhile, we learn that four nutters have broken free of an institute and, thanks for a new type of therapy, believe they’re dreaming.

The loonies eventually crash the big sleepover to rip off blouses, rape and strangle any jailbait they can get their grubby mits on. They abduct others and force them to…prepare food for them! OH MY GOD! The depravity! Sooner or later, a couple of camping buddies team up with the girls to escape and reap their revenge.

Author Fay Weldon rewrote much of the girls’ dialogue but some of what comes out of their mouths is unbelievable. We start off with; “I just want to die and get it all over.” Fine, stupid, but fine. But later, proto-heroine Agatha turns to a friend of hers and tells her: “Look – you were only raped. As long as you don’t tell anyone you’ll be fine.” Only raped!?!? By an insane escaped convict, no less! Oh, don’t worry Lucy, all is well, just internalise the anxiety for the next sixty years and all shall remain just tickety-boo.

Whether or not Killer’s Moon is supposed to be humorous is debatable. It could be that it just sucks. Characters don’t question anything they’re told, trust absolutely anyone and spit venomous insults akin to “you’re just horrible!” at the killers as if they’re all at a seventh birthday party. Throw in a random three-legged dog who saves the day, indifference to bodily violation and nightgowns so cheaply made they simply fall off in a passing breeze and you’ve got one of the weirdest 89 minutes one could hope to experience… Approach with caution.

Blurb-of-interest: Birkinshaw later directed a slasher remake of The Masque of the Red Death, which is immeasurably better.

Scooby Don’t

THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II

3 Stars  1984/18/87m

“So you think you’re lucky to be alive…”

Director/Writer: Wes Craven / Cast: Kevin Blair, Tamara Stafford, Michael Berryman, John Bloom, Janus Blythe, Penny Johnson, John Laughlin, Willard Pugh, Colleen Riley, Peter Frechette, Robert Houston.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “What’s the big deal about taking a little shortcut?”


The old mind struggles but this may well have been the first slasher flick I ever saw, late night Bravo channel stuff with my dad and my sister in the early nineties and there are no two ways about it, this film sucks. It’s the epitome of cheesy, schlocky, teen-kill trash and once considered a contender for the all-time worst sequel. But I fracking love it!

Craven’s ’77 original pitted a whitebread family trapped in the middle of the desert against the hill-dwelling insurgents who wanted to pillage their number. It was a thought-out tale of families from opposite ends of the spectrum thrown together in an explosion of violence and screaming and scratching and biting and stuff, remade to malevolent excess by Alexandre Aja in 2006 and followed by an equally grisly sequel the following year.

Claiming he ‘needed the money’, Craven signed on to write and direct this sequel, reportedly shot in 1983 and not released until 1985. Evidently driving under the influence of Friday the 13th (even drafting in Harry Manfredini to sort out the score), Craven wrote a cast of teenagers into the equation to serve as knife, axe and machete fodder for the extended family of psychos. After a couple of flashbacks from Bobby, who made it through the events of the first one, we’re reintroduced to Ruby, the turncoat, who, with said headband-wearing teenies, embarks on a cross-desert bus trip with some miracle motocross fuel that will make them all rich and/or famous. I wasn’t really listening to the intricacies.

With bike-ridin’ trio Roy, Harry, Hulk (!) and mechanic Foster, there are their tag-along gals, Jane, Sue and blind psychic Cass, who we could tell is going to be the final girl even if we were blind. Rounding out the group is the best character to return from the original – Beast the dog, now sporting a yellow scarf, Littlest Hobo-style. Remember him? He saved the day before, chewing up the ankle of nasty hill psycho dude Pluto. No? Still hazy? Well, never fear – Beast can certainly remember as he barks us along into his very own flashback! No, really… The screen goes all wavy and blurs into old footage of his pro-middle class savagery.

The gang realises they forgot to account for the time zone difference and, in an effort not to be late for whatever it is they’re going to, they vote to cross a desert track, which soon disables their funky red bus and they end up at an “abandoned” ranch-cum-mine.

The biker dudes decide to rev off into the wilderness in search of gasoline while the others explore the locale and Cass passes time by using one of those embossed label maker things to stick a love message to Roy on his (bike) helmet and starts to ‘sense’ things. Bad things, of course. It would have been nice if she sensed it was a sanctuary for unloved donkies and waterbuffalo, but it’s not and she doesn’t. She senses…eeeeeevil.

hhe2-beast-ruby-pennyMaybe the eeeeevil that Cass senses is closer than she thinks… Maybe it’s her friend Sue! Maybe her psychic powers allow her to see that Sue is no other than Sherry Palmer, neo-first lady and scheming wife to President Palmer in 24!!! It’s all a cunning disguise, the headband, the lycra… That’s her below left, beneath Beast and Ruby, Penny Johnson a.k.a. Sherry Palmer in one of her earliest roles. I’m not sure what she’s doing with herself there but she didn’t get a great many close-ups in the film.

Disappointingly, it transpires that Sue is not the killer and the real trouble comes in the form of a duo of hill-eye-havers, Reaper and the not-so-dead Pluto. Ruby – arguably looking worse in her cosmo-80s wear than she did in her rags – comes clean and ‘fesses up to being the girl-in-the-story that was conveniently told on the bus and spouts the usual ‘we’re all in danger’ garb. Meanwhile, Harry is killed and Roy incapacitated by the killers, who, as darkness sets in, descend on the ranch and it’s dim-bulbed newcomers.

This is where the cliches come thick n’ fast, but they’re enjoyable cliches. Hills II is one of those slasher flicks with a bit of a sense of humour to it. The characters are shallow but likeable; we care about them in the sort of temporary way we care about people we meet by the pool on holiday and the way we cared about the counsellors of Camp Crystal Lake. They’re just fun loving kids doomed to fates worse than, uh, not dying.

Pluto and Ruby have a confronation that is intercepted by the springiness of Beast, who soon scares him away, while Reaper stalks and slays the others, who defy Ruby’s warnings and canter off for showers or private rendezvous until Reaper bear-hugs and throat-slashes them into the next realm.

While Beast licks Roy back into usefulness and helps him do away with Pluto once and for all, Cass discovers the bodies of her friends, identifying them with her fingers and then catawaling their names along with the odd “why!?” Reaper follows and she manages to escape long enough for Roy to save her and formulate a plan that puts an end to both Reaper and their miracle bike gas, so that they and Beast and can enjoy the hike back to civilisation.

Minimal bloodshed, strangely lucid killers, token blindness and a dog with the ability to recall events from eight years ago… The ingredients of tripe, surely, but I’d rather watch this entry than the original or either of the ‘re-imagined’ films. Wes Craven scripted the 2007 Hills Have Eyes II, which sadly opted not to replicate the story here and was only a notch above total suckiness.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kevin Blair (later Kevin Spirtas) was the hunky hero in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood; Michael Berryman was also in Craven’s Deadly Blessing, and Penny Dreadful and Mask Maker.

GRADUATION DAY

GRADUATION DAY

3 Stars  1981/18/92m

“The class of ’81 is running out of time!”

Director/Writer: Herb Freed / Cast: Christopher George, Patch MacKenzie, E. Danny Murphy, Michael Pataki, E.J. Peaker, Richard Balin, Carmen Argenziano, Virgil Frye, Beverly Dixon, Hal Bokar, Linnea Quigley, Denise Cheshire, Billy Hufsey, Tim Hintnaus, Carl Rey, Linda Shayne, Karen Abbott, Vanna White.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “You have lovely eyes. My sister had eyes like yours. She’s dead now.”


Back in 1996 I read a book called Games of Terror, one of only a few theoretical insights into stalker movies (as they were dubbed by the writer) and of the films briefed, I found all but Graduation Day within a couple of months – bearing in mind this is long before DVD back-catalogues. Hell, it was before DVD! Six gruelling months of trying to bag a copy, a local collector sold me his VHS tape for £9 (along with Madman) and I merrily skipped home for the premiere.

Graduation Day is one of those ‘meh’ films. Probably due to overexposure to lost classics of the period (Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, Terror Train), or possibly the fact that the film is just a bit crud, finding things to like about it is a bit difficult.

grad-team-pic
Proceedings begin in the usual way, with a past event trauma that spurs on the killer at a later date and gives him something to talk to the final girl about. In this instance, over the groove-tastic disco stomper that plays through the credits, a female track runner – Laura – sprints to glory before falling down dead. We’re later told this is down to a blood clot, but everybody else blames the track coach for pushing her too hard.

A couple of months later, Laura’s military ass-kickin’ big sis Anne returns from abroad to collect a special graduation award in the dead girl’s memory. Meanwhile, a black-gloved killer is stalking and slaying the other members of the track team, clocking in all murders at just thirty seconds, the same amount of time it took Laura to win her death race. First to go is big-headphones jogging girl (throat slashing), followed by moody gymnastical-girl (sword through the neck)…

grad1grad6

In between kills, our killer stops by his gym locker and draws a big red cross over the face of the most recent victim, working his way across the picture from left to right.

At this time, some other, less important characters (suspects!) are introduced. There’s Delores, played by bad movie fixture Linnea Quigley, who will do anything to pass her music class, including seducing the face-like-a-slapped-arse teacher. There’s also an affair going on between the principal and his secretary, which contributes nothing to the slashathon we’re anticipating. Leery campus cop MacGregor likes to clamp down on the dope smokin’ students and creep around in the trees and the despised track mentor Coach Michaels, whom everybody blames for the accident. Lastly, is Laura’s grieving boyfriend, Kevin, who is all sensitivity and broodiness. Hmmm…

grad7<<< That’s Anne. Anne is our final girl, although she looks a bit like a final drag queen, don’t you think? That’s a lot of makeup for a military recruit. Gasp! Maybe she’s hiding something!!

I digress… While the boring characters talk about graduation ceremonies n’ shit, the killer offs a few more budding athletes. The third murder is truly that old classic of homicide: the football with the sword protruding from it. That’s an American football, by the way, and Mr Killer tosses it back to its owner who catches it sharp-end first. Watch in awe as the sword-ball spins in slo-mo through the air, defying all laws of gravity and credence as it goes! There’s some time out for a song about graduation and a roller-disco that boasts a seven minute nu-wave rock song while another couple of kids are chased and murdered outside. Although decapitation may be preferential to skating in circles and listening to Felony’s ‘Gangster Rock’ 12″ extended rollerboogie remix. Actually, when I re-watched the film recently, I noticed that they actually sing the song three times on loop.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the interesting look that Felony employ:

grad-felony

Fedora’s, lip-gloss, mascara and those double-guitar things. Yikes.

Morning comes and brings with it news of the missing teenagers, but the principal is more concerned with the logistics of the day and ignores it. A couple more deaths ensue and then a couple of squealy girls (one of them played by Wheel of Fortune letter-turner Vanna White; below) discover the body of moody gymnastical girl stuffed in a locker and blame falls on Coach Michaels, who’s just been given the boot over the whole Laura thing.

Vanna (right) as disco-clad squealy girl

Vanna (right) as disco-clad squealy girl

A right kerfuffle ensues and the killer’s identity is finally revealed, much to the surprise of nobody except the cast members and Anne is soon thrown into direct combat, which allows more corpses to swing out on doors, severed heads to be found on crash mats and the like…

Graduation Day is one mess of a film. There’s some nifty speed-cut edits thrown in but some simple shots are completed screwed up with demented high-speed zooming. It’s the film they should remake but probably never will. Amidst the bad scripting, some horrible acting and diabolical pacing problems, there are remnants of a good tale here, it’s just tangled up by the crowded supporting cast, many of whom aren’t required at all. If you wondered about the blonde girl who disappears early on without explanation (Diana), the actress was fired and replaced by Quigley for refusing to disrobe on screen.

grad-knife

Director and scribe Herb Freed appeared in the 2006 documentary Going to Pieces to add a few tidbits about his film – the fact that he’s now a Rabbi may indicate he’s moved on. And if you’re wondering why I was so generous with my rating, I’m trying to justify the six months spent looking for the damn thing.

I want to be this person's best friend

I want to be this person’s best friend

Blurbs-of-interest: The make-up effects here were all courtesy of a woman (!), Jill Rockow, who later worked on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Boogeyman 2. Editor Martin Jay Sadoff worked on Friday the 13th‘s Part III and VII. Christopher George was in both Mortuary and Pieces. Michael Pataki appears as Dr Hoffman in Halloween 4. Carmen Argenziano was Dr Mendrakis in When a Stranger Calls and later turned up in Identity. George and Quigley turn up all over the place. Denise Cheshire, who played moody gymnastical-girl (or Sally), was the swimming double for the famous shark attack victim Chrissie Watkins at the beginning of Jaws.

SAVAGE LUST

deadly-manorSAVAGE LUST

2 Stars  1989/18/86m

“A classic horror story.”

A.k.a. Deadly Manor

Director/Writer: Jose Larraz / Cast: Kathleen Patane, Greg Rhodes, Liz Hitchler, Jerry Kernion, Mark Irish, Clark Tufts, Claudia Franjul, William Russell, Jennifer Delora.

Body Count: 13

Dire-logue: “What’s next, Uncle Fester on the patio?”


Six teenagers embarking on a camping trip stop to pick up a hitchhiker who informs them they are off course and, when a heavy rainstorm sets in, they take shelter in a remote manor house that appears to abandoned. Closer inspection reveals that yesterday’s paper has been left out and the wreck of a car has been mounted in the garden. As night falls and the group wander aimlessly around the house, they are killed by an off-screen figure who might well have some answers concerning all the black and white photos of the same solemn woman that adorn every wall in the joint.

This clunky rarity is best viewed tongue-in-cheek as you will find it impossible to take lines like ‘a horn doesn’t just beep by itself’ seriously. Nearly a solid hour of crappy dialogue torments until the butcherin’ starts (bar an off-camera taster earlier on). Though shot in ’89, the film has not aged well and could easily be mistaken for something some ten years older, emphasised by the characters’ total lack of sense. The girls all say things like ‘maybe we shouldn’t be here’ and the boys reply ‘chill out, babe, there’s nothing here that can hurt us…’ Asking for it.

Allowably, there are a couple of creepy shots thrown in amongst the junk, but when the killer’s opening gambit to the final girl is a perky; ‘yes, it’s me!’ before even removing their mask, one must wonder who the script was approved by. When the heroine replies: ‘you’re insane – you’ve created all this madness in your head!’ you get your answer.

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