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

In the event of an emergency, run to the nearest carousel

HOUSE OF DEATH

2.5 Stars 1981/18/89m

“He wants their bodies …in pieces.”

A.k.a. Death Screams

Director: David Nelson / Writer: Paul C. Elliott / Cast:  Susan Kiger, Martin Tucker, William T. Hicks, Jennifer Chase, Jody Kay, John Kohler, Andria Savio, Kurt Rector, Josh Gamble, Helene Tryon, Mary Fran Lyman, Hans Manship, Monica Boston, Mike Brown, Sharon Alley.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “If his brains were TNT he couldn’t muster a good fart!”


Beware thy spoilers

This junky, but okay Friday the 13th copy starts as all good slasher films should, with a young couple’s lovemaking interrupted by murder. In this instance, they’re somehow doing it on a motorcycle (!?) when some fiend comes along and, it seems in the dim lighting that plagues this production, strangles both with the same noose, before disposing of their bodies in the river.

The plunge of their corpses into water – in flicky slo-mo – is accompanied with an overwrought score that looks like a cheap attempt at a Bond movie credit sequence. Unlike most scratchy-string slasher scores (try saying that five times), it sounds like a whole orchestra was drafted in to provide music for House of Death.

Cut to Anywheresville, USA, where the locals are enjoying the carnival at the end of summer: Highschool coach Neil is sad to see two of his favourite students about to leave for college, shop girl Lilly is… well, not much really; dumpy Sheriff Avery is keeping law, and the usual gaggle of over-aged actors pretend to be the local teen contingent.

Coach Neil takes a shine to Lilly and asks her on a date, much to the chagrin of some random girl (I called her Headband Girl), who jealously covers his car in shaving foam and then wanders away from the crowds, only to be shot in the back with an arrow. She flees, seemingly running away from the carnival, to a disused carousel. Now, I know the first thing I’d do if wounded in such a way would be to seek out the nearest merry-go-round, so she’s clearly a smart girl. Or not, as once in the ‘safety’ of the carousel, it starts turning and someone is able to asphyxiate her with a plastic bag. She dies in about three seconds. See this former Ridiculous Scene O’ the Month here.

For what seems like weeks, we watch the over-aged teens on rides, on the bouncy castle, ferris wheel, in the funhouse… Eventually they decide tonight is right for an end-of-summer party near the lake. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s slow son Casey flits about, adhering to Robert Downey Jr’s speech about ‘going full retard’ in Tropic Thunder. Naturally, he is a major suspect. Lilly is cajoled into attending the camp-out, hoping that Neil will also go. What kind of pot-smokin’, pre-marital-sex-having teens invite their teacher?

A touch of equal opportunity objectification: House of Death has it all!

After an hour, one of the group goes skinny dipping and the bodies of the two pre-credits victims (seen throughout the film floating downstream) collide with her, the killing can finally begin. The others, thinking she’s just left, go to the cemetery to tell ghost stories but get rained out, seeking shelter in an abandoned house. THE house. The one from the title. It finally debuts 73 minutes into the 89 minute film.

There are 16 minutes remaining to kill eight characters, subdue the loon, and roll the credits. Get a move on.

Unlike, say, The Final Terror, the killer does at least shift his ass into gear and swiftly does away with most of them, but it becomes a meta slasher flick, what should’ve been spread over at least 45 minutes is crammed into 14: There’s a beheading, a throat slashing, and one guy dies from both hands being chopped off. Last to go is the town slut, Ramona, who falls through a rotten staircase: As the others try to heave her free, she’s cut in half at the waist.

But wait… Wasn’t the killer outside the front door, literally ten seconds earlier? Yes, but House of Death isn’t bothered about such liberties… Hell, the fucking house only just bothered to show up.

With the good kids and Lilly left, the killer bursts forth and we get maybe ten seconds to work out who it is and why they did it. Lots has been made of the bad edit in this scene, and one earlier, which had us believe said character was dead, but on this viewing, I just about heard the name called out before the guy is taken down with a cut throat, tumble through a second storey glass window, and then an exploded head, courtesy of the just-in-time sheriff.

What gives, House of Death? Don’t ask me, and don’t look for answers in either of the available UK DVD releases, both are cut, despite what the boxes say, and both have been placed on the DVD out of order: For instance, rather than the reels going 1, 2, 3, 4, it goes 1, 2, 4, 3. If you’re a smart cookie, you could re-author it on to a new disc, otherwie just buy American.

“…And nobody had a fucking clue what had just happened.”

So it’s under-lit, badly chopped, and the slasher part of it only lasts a few minutes, but House of Death is similar in tone to Final Exam or The Slumber Party Massacre: it’s just pure stalk n’ slash silliness. Had the mystery element been amped up and the editor been a little harsher in the early scenes, it could be a minor cult classic.

Pepsi will save the day!

THE NIGHT BRINGS CHARLIE

2.5 Stars  1990/76m

Director: Tom Logan / Writer: Bruce Carson / Cast: Kerry Knight, Joe Fishback, Aimie Tenalia, Monica Simmons, Chuck Whiting, David Carr, Moire Reagan.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “We were together in Saigon and I was the one who tried to piece him together after the chainsaw accident…”


Laughable but likeable Orlando-shot throwback, The Night Brings Charlie orbits around your common-or-garden small town – Pakoe – and the series of decapitation murders plaguing it. The new Sheriff (Knight) has no clue, and the M.E.’s dim-witted daughter Jenny seems to keep finding herself embroiled in it.

The sack-hooded, goggle-wearing killer stalks the town after dark, collecting the heads of nubile teens, unless they are protected by the magic of Pepsi. That’s right, a big-boobed girl taking a shower is about to lose her noggin when the can of Diet Pepsi she has falls into the tub and seemingly scares off the killer! Also check the number of times said soft drink’s logo appears in the background.

Playing out like a gored-up episode of Murder, She Wrote, there’s not much going on in the film: The dopey Sheriff figures things out while Jenny’s overprotective Dad worries, and eponymous suspect Charlie, the deformed local tree-trimmer whose chosen uniform happens to be an exact match for the killer’s, is hauled in for questioning… A mid-point “twist” is revealed with all the acting muscle of a dead jellyfish: The murderer confesses as if his crime is as serious as an unpaid parking ticket. I almost expected Angela Lansbury to appear and shake her head disapprovingly. At the performance if not the crime.

A few more schmucks die as Jenny takes on a dare to sneak into the barn where Charlie lives. Clearly too dense to bail when her friends don’t show up, instead of going home, Jenny goes to the barn anyway and comes faces to face with the killer. Showdown, chainsaw, various other farm implements (but surprisingly no cans of Pepsi to throw at the encroaching killer), open ending. Done.

In reality, The Night Brings Charlie sucks, but I was strangely fond of its 80s/90s-cusp colour scheme, the constant lullaby of cicadas, and an unconscious thirst for Pepsi. The Sheriff’s sarcastic receptionist provides a few snarky one-liners too. It’s about as memorable as a night in a Travelodge, but, equally, does its job adequately enough.

Before Wolf Creek, there was…

HOUSEBOAT HORROR

1 Stars  1989/79m

“Something is about to happen on Lake Infinity.”

Directors: Kendall Flannigan & Ollie Martin / Writer: Ollie Martin / Cast: Alan Dale, Christine Jeston, Craig Alexander, Des ‘Animal’ McKenna, Gavin Wood, John Michael Howson, Louise Siversen, Peppie D’or, Steve Whittacker, Julia Tompson.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “You watch it – or I’ll kick you where your mother never kissed you!”


Back in 1989, Britain was in the midst of its obsession with Australian soap operas: Neighbours was at the top of the tree, while Home & Away perched a few branches below. I preferred Sons & Daughters - so many Mafia-like plots within a small cast, poisonous snakes in the safe, shark attacks… it had it all.

Thus, when sitting down with Houseboat Horror recently, that nostalgic era of Scott and Charlene, Helen Daniels, Madge and Harold, Bouncer the dog, and Ramsay Street – surely built on crossing Ley Lines for all its bad luck – came a-floodin’ back. So much so as Alan Dale, who played Jim Robinson in Neighbours for years, was somehow roped into appearing in the floating turd that is this movie. Ants may elect to make a houseboat out of said turd and the cycle begineth again.

A crappy rock n’ roll band and a film crew head out to Lake Infinity to shoot a music video. Naturally, the lake was the scene of a tragic fire (or some murders, I’ve already forgotten) X-years earlier. A newspaper tells us a child was horrifically burned. See where the course has been set? So laboured is this point, that early on when the group stops at a gas station, one of the attendants turns to the other and says: “Brings back memories over those movie killings a few years back…” and the world’s most obvious this-sounds-creepy synthesiser note is struck.

The group hire three ugly-ass houseboats and, after a day of fooling about with the really shitty band, are stalked and slain by a shadowy chap who lurks in the trees a lot. People are sliced with his machete, axed in the head, shot with spearguns, and even killed by a horseshoe in the eyes.

There’s very little more to say about Houseboat Horror. It’s cheap, it’s brimming with Aussie sayings of yore (people referred to as ‘dags’ who might’ve ‘shot through’) and it’s dated by an appearance of the world’s largest cell phone, which Alan Dale says into: “The two-way doesn’t work so if you want to talk to me you’ll have to do it on this walkabout phone thing.”

Some gory dispatchments and the mild distraction of different accents and vernacular highlight an otherwise awful vessel (ho ho ho) before it sinks under its own weight of crap.

Blurb-of-interest: John Michael Howson was in the 1980 Aussie horror Stage Fright.

Dancing to a different beat. A really, really weird one.

BLOODBEAT

1.5 Stars  1983/87m

“Who can survive its reign of terror?”

Director/Writer: Fabrice-Ange Zaphiratos / Cast: Helen Benton, Terry Brown, Claudia Peyton, James Fitzgibbons, Dana Day, Peter Spelson.

Body Count: 10


If you are a dog owner, you’ll probably be familiar with that thing that happens when you talk at your dog and he cocks his head to the side like he’s trying to decipher your meaning.

I had this expression throughout the 87-minute runtime of BloodBeat, a film so strange it virtually defies explanation. But here’s what I did glean…

Christmas hols. Teen siblings Ted and Dolly come home to visit Mom and her boyfriend Gary at their rural Wisconsin farm, bringing along Ted’s squeeze Sarah. Mom – Cathy – is psychic or some shit. She thinks she knows Sarah from somewhere. Gary and the kids take Sarah hunting. She flips out (saving a deer!) and runs away, managing to somehow kill some dude who appears from nowhere. I didn’t see how it happened and had no wish to wind it back but I think when they collided he got skewered on an arrow maybe.

After it’s declared an accident, Sarah goes to rest and later finds a Samurai sword and costume (?) in a trunk, while obsessed-painter Cathy creates crappy, splotchy art downstairs. The presence of the Samurai stuff is later denied, even though nobody actually looks where she tells them it was. Again, maybe they did, my mind was a kaleidoscope of haze by now.

Eventually, a ghostly Samurai appears and begins slaying people with the sword. Sarah either dreams this or masturbates to it. I shit you not, hunting for answers I found a page that suggested the Samurai awakes whenever she’s got the horn. Anyway, it’s in a blue light added in post-production that looks like utter shite, making it difficult to see to the point of whatthefuck levels of annoyance. It kills Uncle Pete, kills the neighbours, and then Cathy goes all quivery, the house goes all Amityville, and Dolly screams a lot.

At the end, the Samurai thing faces off with Cathy, who’s now got glowy-orb things for hands. There’s a random montage of Hiroshima bomb footage and then Ted and Dolly come along and also have the glowy-orb things while O Fortuna shrieks on the soundtrack.

Most of the cast – and the director – never did anything else. Perhaps they went insane. Who knows? BloodBeat ticks about every synonym of weird there is going. Unfortunately it’s not really good-weird, it’s I-don’t-care-enough weird.

To those who wait

BLOOD FRENZY

2 Stars  1987/87m

Director: Hal Freeman / Writer: Ted Newsom / Cast: Wendy MacDonald, Tony Montero, Lisa Loring, Lisa Savage, Hank Garrett, Monica Silveria, John Clark.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “So I’m a dick-smoker, huh? That’s great coming from a pussy-buffer and fucked up shrink!”


This one had been on my list since the mid-90s. With unreasonably high expectations, finding it after almost twenty years was a real moment of excitement! In other words: I never learn.

A drunken father finds his daughter playing with a Jack in the Box, flips, and she ends up killing him with some garden trowel-like implement.

Blah years later, a psychotherapist (MacDonald) accompanies an RV of her patients to a desert retreat in the Mojave to help them confront their issues, which include a Casanova complex, alcoholism, PTSD, and a hot blonde chick with nymphomania. Naturally, non-hot blonde chicks are never cast in this role.

There are arguments and insults, minimal psycho babble and, after the approximate amount of time it takes for a glacier to form, one of them has their throat cut.

In the morning, the murder is discovered and everyone blames the PTSD ‘Nam vet dude, then believe him when he denies it… They decide to split into pairs: Two stay with the immobilized RV, and the others go in alternate directions to find help.

The Pop Goes the Weasel playing Jack in the Box appears and more throat slashings occur: Apparently you can actually continue screaming despite such a fatal wound.

Despite the foreknowledge that the child murderer was female, Blood Frenzy tosses in a so-so twist on the expected outcome, paving a way for quite a decent round of fisticuffs between the final living players coupled with some hilarious overacting. But with only seven central cast members, you can’t make too many incorrect guesses either way.

Echoes of Death Valley and The Hills Have Eyes rebound off the arid landscape, and a few amusing lines of Direlogue lighten things up, but ultimately it wasn’t worth the wait. Sad times.

Blurb-of-interest: Lisa Loring was in Iced.

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