Tag Archives: sorority

Never gonna dance again

prowler-dvdTHE PROWLER

3 Stars  1981/18/85m

“It will freeze your blood.”

A.k.a. Rosemary’s Killer (UK) / The Graduation

Director: Joseph Zito / Writer: Neal F. Barbera & Glenn Leopold / Cast: Vicki Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Cindy Weintraub, Donna Davis, Lisa Dunsheath, Timothy Wahrer.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “This is everybody’s last night together. Some of us’ll never see each other again.”


Bad pacing almost kills this early slasher flick from the director of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. This unruly little feature begins with the industry standard prologue, here set waaaaay back in 1945, where young Rosemary’s Dear John letter to an American G.I. culminates in the rejected soldier gruesomely skewering her and her new lover with a pitchfork at their graduation dance.

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35 years later, Avalon Bay is set to hold its first graduation dance since that fateful evening, thus prompting the killer to don his old uniform in an effort to repeat the crime on the new kids. So far, so My Bloody Valentine. Nominal heroine Pam encounters the killer in the student dorms (unknown to her, he just killed a couple of her friends) and alerts her deputy boyfriend, Mark.

Together, they inform one of the chaperones at the dance while they begin snooping for clues, first around mansion of wheelchair bound Major Chatham, father of the long-dead Rosemary, as he grabbed Pam as she fled from the prowler. This takes a long time. A very long time.

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Back at the dance, Pam’s friend Lisa has already wandered off for a late night swim and becomes another casualty, as does the poor teacher who comes looking for her.

Pam and Mark continue to delve into the unsolved mystery of Rosemary’s murder and, without the guidance of the town’s sheriff, stumble around slower than a Mazda Premacy. To the police station they go, then to the cemetery where they find Lisa’s body in the freshly exhumed grave of Rosemary Chatham, then back to the Chatham house. All of this takes forever, which, in a slasher film is unwelcome.

Of course, Zito tries to wring suspense out of this nothingness but fails miserably. Dancing very slowly moving between shots of Pam in the car and Mark crouching down at the graveside is not scary, it’s boring. Hurry up. Kill some more people. Kill those people over there…

Finally, on the second visit of the night to the Chatham mansion, the killer puts in an appearance and chases Pam around with his pointy-pitchfork until she blasts his head clean off his shoulders.

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There are other ‘issues’ with the picture; a horny teen couple stray away from supervision so they can have sex in the basement. The camera lingers, showing them from behind objects in the foreground. A pervert watches too. We wait for him to die and then then couple. We switch to another scene (probably with Pam and Mark achieving nothing in their investigation) and the sex-couple are never featured again! Once the killer is revealed, it really turns out that his identity is secondary to the needs of the plot – it really could’ve been anyone ‘of an age’ to have committed the 1945 murder. And what the hell happened to the Major?

The low body count doesn’t do too much harm; Tom Savini’s gore-jobs here at top notch, so much so that even I questioned whether this could be a genuine snuff film at one point. The shower murder is particularly realistic and nasty, as is Lisa’s fatal throat-cuttery and the tracheotomy on the nice teacher. As with Zito’s previous film, Bloodrage and also his Friday episode, there’s more than a subtle hint of violence chiefly against young women, which was discomforting.

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The photography, score and the original artwork (above) are all ace and there are no problems with the acting abilities of those involved, although Vicki Dawson, as Pam, evidently excelled in her how-to-frown acting class. One curiosity of the film is its number of striking similarities to one Friday the 13th Part 2, so much so that even the final girls look like sisters…. See?

friday-prowler2It should probably be noted that The Prowler was shot before Friday was released (albeit several months earlier) so it’s just some kinda weird coincidence…isn’t it? I mean, Zito later directed a Jason and there’s that double-impaling. Hmmmm.

I think The Prowler is okay; it’s flawed but the technical abilities of its general look and Savini’s wonderful work means it would be ignorant of these plus-points to rate it any lower than three stars. It’s commonly viewed as a cult favourite, although be prepared for some boredom between the slashings…

Blurb-of-interest: Lawrence Tierney was in Midnight.

THE INITIATION

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4.5 Stars  1983/18/93m

“…The night new blood is pledged.”

Director: Larry Stewart / Writer: Charles Pratt Jr. / Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Frances Peterson, Hunter Tylo [as Deborah Morehart], Paula Knowles, Joy Jones, Trey Stroud, Peter Malof, Christopher Bradley, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Mary Davis Duncan, Rusty Meyers.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “[Here’s] to being young, staying young, and dying young.”


Four-and-a-half stars!? You may spit your coffee across your keyboard – but yes, almost top marks for my favourite stand-alone slasher flick of the 80s – it is The Initiation. Read on and I will explain my madness reasons…

Things begin in the normal film style with the credits. These are boring. After the credits, things begin in normal slasher film styleé with a nightmare sequence of a little girl wandering down a hall, into her parents room, there’s a fight, there’s a fire, there’s the no-longer adorable child wielding a knife… Time to wake up! The dream belongs to Kelly Fairchild (Zuniga, later from Melrose Place), who is rudely snatched out of her subconscious by a load of sorority girls with candles chanting (somewhat ironically given what’s to come) “Delta Rho Chi, never will die,” over and over and over.

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Kelly and three other pledges – slutty Alison, wise Beth, and virginal Marcia – are escorted down to learn about their ‘hell week’, which will finalise their induction into the sorority. Big-mouthed bitch Megan informs them that their hazing stunt will be to break into the mall that Kelly’s father owns and steal the nightwatchman’s uniform.

Meanwhile, Kelly flits between seeing her arms-length parents (Miles and Gulager) and frequenting ‘the dream factory’ run by young professor Peter and his absolutely adorable assistant Heidi. Together, they aim to expose the root of Kelly’s recurring dream and find out what happened before a convenient amnesia-fest for everything before she was nine.

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Elsewhere, a group of mental patients are released from their asylum and one of them, seen only by his surgical gloves, rakes the stern ward nurse to death and steals her car. Who is it? What do they want? What does that man keep doing with his tongue?

Kelly’s parents try to hide the truth from her and also the viewing audience by talking cryptically and blaming themselves for ‘what they’ve done’ la la la… The teens attend a come-as-your-suppressed-desire party where we acquaint ourselves with who’s going to die later, see a giant walking penis and witness Kelly and Peter hook up.

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Amidst the slowly building madness, Peter and Heidi wax lyrical about what’s up with Kelly, who’s dream features standard Freudian, Jungian set-pieces: mom, dad, fire, mirrors – or is it…deeper? You don’t have to procrastinate for too long to figure out Kelly’s dream is, in fact, a memory, that the burnt guy is probably the same burnt guy working at the asylum and that there’s gonna be a whole lotta death comin’ our way!

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On Prank Night, Beth decides that hazing jokes aren’t for her and drops out, leaving Kelly, Marcia and Alison to gain access to the mall where, unbeknownst to them, Todd the security dude has already been raked to death!!! with the small, trowel-sized rake thingy the killer likes to use. Alison dons rollerboots to ‘create a diversion’, while Megan and three frat boys enter the mall to scare the crap out of the pledges. Boys include walking-penis Ralph, Megan’s dorky boy-toy Andy and ‘other bloke’ Chad.

The teens split off into groups and are stalked and killed by axe, bow and arrow, and hunting knife. The original UK video release had been trimmed by 59 seconds so it was nice to catch up with the grue on the DVD release, which includes a gratuitous cross-cutting between two teens having sex and another being stabbed to death, while screaming into the tannoy system.

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This is a customer service announcement: Aaaaaaarrggghh!!

Peter and Heidi figure out most of the mystery and he gets to the mall just in time to save the day – or so he thinks – as The Initiation pitches its curveball straight out of nowhere, opening us up to one of the campest, most fabulous reveals EVER! I want to tell you because I love it so much but up until this point the filmmakers were savvy enough not to let anything slip so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. Or read someone else’s review who gives it away.

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What distinguished The Initiation for me was chiefly a mix of more comprehensive plotting and rounder characters: few films would dabble with so much Freudian-psychology so in your face and create the story around it. The identity of the killer isn’t spelled out for you, repeat viewings show that the clues are there but, unlike most other horror movies, there are no enormous neon arrows steering you to figuring it out first.

Kelly is a rather standard final girl, battling with her rich-and-therefore-emotionally-barren parents and trying to fit in with her friends; Marcia is her luckless best friend who informs the others that contrary to their assumptions about her, she is not a virgin and was raped as a child, never having told a soul. It’s a sad, desolate moment, waaaay more than we expect from a slasher flick character but it makes us care about her fate. Hell, even Alison is more than your uno-dimensional slutty girl (despite appearing naked several times). The creators cared about their characters and therefore so did I, I didn’t want them all to die so brutally as they do.

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Also impressing is the use of light and dark and shadows: the killer moves about in the background or appears as a creeping silhouette to catch their next victim: the camera work is great, timed to catch every glimmer of light on a sharp knife blade, swooping and panning to make the most of the shot and giving us way more than we expect in low rent filmmaking. Considering the crew shot overnight in a Houston Mall, the number of takes to perfect some of the setups must have been through the roof.

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I love The Initiation; it’s enthusiastically made, well-acted, brilliantly shot, involving, confusing, surprising and you get the feeling that they really put their hearts into making a quality horror film. For a horror film it retains a crucial sense of fun (“Kelly didn’t get the blessing…” / “She’ll live without it.”) – there’s a huge walking penis for Christ’s sake!!

Altogether now: Delta Rho Chi…never will die…Delta Rho Chi…

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Blurbs-of-interest: Daphne was an early victim in The Dorm That Dripped Blood; Clu Gulager was the dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 (ironically another film about dreams, return of the repressed blah blah); Vera Miles was, of course, Lila Crane in the first two Psycho flicks.

SILENT MADNESS

silentmadness2.5 Stars  1984/18/87m

“The screaming never stops.”

A.k.a. Beautiful Screamers; The Nightkillers; The Omega Factor

Director/Writer: Simon Nuchtern / Writers: Robert Zimmerman, William O’ Milling & Nelson DeMille / Cast: Belinda Montgomery, David Greenan, Viveca Lindfors, Solly Marx, Sydney Lassick, Roderick Cook, Stanja Lowe, Ed Van Nuys, Dennis Helfend, Philip Levy, Tori Hartman, Katherine Kamhi, Katie Bull, Elizabeth Kaitan.

Body Count: 11

Dire-logue: “Just because the goddamn broad is so good looking don’t mean we all have to think with our dicks!”


Amazingly cool poster art and 3D aspect side, this no-frills co-ed campus slasher is pretty much a run of the mill two-star effort until it caught me out with a quite unexpected twist, which elevated it above the dime-a-dozen girls’ school terror subset.

A psychotic named Howard Johns (Marx) is accidentally released from an institute in place of the intended out-patient John Howard in the administrative error from hell! He gravitates back to the scene of a seventeen-years gone massacre at a sorority house and begins knocking off the girls who haven’t left for fall break in a re-enactment of the previous slaughter.

Meanwhile, Montgomery is the psychiatrist who believes something to be amiss when the creepy Dr Kruger (who speaks with a ridiculous English accent) claims that Johns is actually dead. So she goes to the sorority house where the nail-gun murders occurred and poses as ex-alumni while Kruger dispatches his duo of equally creepy attendants to catch and kill the wayward loon. Murders are intermittent and sloppy while Montgomery explores the house’s boiler room, which is roughly the size of a concert arena, allowing for drawn out stalk-a-thons therein.

Lindfors is amusing as the slut-hating housemother, whose role was far more obvious when I watched the film a second time. Some of the murder setups are seemingly intentionally funny: one girl is playing a video game and shouting (at it); “look behind you! slash! run!” while her friend is suspended upside down on a piece of gym equipment, Johns wraps one end of a skipping rope around her neck and the other around a barbell, which is then tossed out of the window! Acting, characterisation and credibility are all washed away in a tide of silliness and the roster of familiar faces seem wasted.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sydney Lassick was in The Unseen and was also Carrie‘s English teacher; Katherine Kamhi was the bitchy counsellor Meg in Sleepaway Camp; Elizabeth Kaitan (the skateboardin’ sister) was in Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 and played Robin in Friday the 13th Part VII. Paul DeAngelo, also from Sleepaway Camp, is the first guy killed.

BURIED ALIVE

buriedalive

2.5 Stars  2006/18/91m

“Evil has awakened.”

Director: Robert Kurtzman / Writer: Art Monterastelli / Cast: Terence Jay, Leah Rachel, Erin Michelle Lokitz, Tobin Bell, Steve Sandvoss, Lindsey Scott, Germaine De Leon, Beth Biasella.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Great weekend…fuckin’ snakes, psychos and dweebs.”


Is Tobin Bell the new Pleasence or Englund? He seems to be cropping up in more and more obscure B-movies these days on the back of the Saw-travaganza. Good for him though, he’s pretty cool, ain’t he?

Anyway, Buried Alive isn’t Tobin-centric, he’s a red-herringy bit-parter this time round as a grizzled custodian at the ranch where collegiate cousins Zane and Rene – who’re a bit too close for comfort – bring a gaggle of friends for the weekend to party hard, initiate new sorority pledges and fall victim to a girl-ghoul who’s severely pissed off about something. She appears mostly to Zane (Jay) who has “stopped taking his pills” and can therefore see what nobody else does. Until later when suddenly they all can. Or something.

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Zane and Rene are of the belief that their ancestry is cursed, having something to do with their great-Grandfather burying his Native American wife alive, a big fire and a symbol on a talisman that protects those who wear it. It’s a confusing backstory that’s dragged out amidst hazing pranks and sexual exploits before the slashin’ begins, courtesy of the decomposing missus, who likes to bury axes into young academics, or chop them in half or slice their faces off…

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While we are privy to the cut n’ dried character cut-outs of the geek, the obnoxious jock and the sorority bimbos, it becomes clear that one of the pledges is a dark horse who not only knows a lot about symbolism and its relative lore but has the design from the talisman tattooed on her back, which saves her from becoming the resting place for the killer’s axe.

The second half of the film really cranks into gear, taking cues from recent J-horror hits and ending with a nicely done sorta-twist. Even with the upsurge in quality towards the finale (a reversal of what normally happens in horror films, which have a tendency to start well and go downhill), it’s a case of too little too late for Buried Alive to be much more than a passing interest.

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Blurb-of-interest: Bell’s other recent foray into supernatural slasherism is Boogeyman 2.

#500

sorority-row-fb-poster2SORORITY ROW

3.5 Stars  2009/15/101m

“Sisters for life…and death.”

Director: Stewart Hendler / Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger & Mark Rosman (original screenplay) / Cast: Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Margo Harshman, Carrie Fisher, Julian Morris, Caroline D’Amore, Matt Lanter, Maxx Hennard, Audrina Patridge, Matt O’Leary.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “You make being a bitch an art form.”


My celebrated 500th slasher flick! Yay or nay? Perhaps a dash of both.

The dreaded R word crops up again in a case of yet another early 80’s pseudo-cult-classic being – ugh, I even hate typing it – “re-imagined”, “re-tooled”, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Actually, I’m not so fazed by them, anything that draws attention to the (usually) superior originals is positive. 1982’s House On Sorority Row is a fairly elusive member of the slasher alumni, one directed with both care and flair by Mark Rosman (who signs on as Exec Producer here), it was another of the moral-dilemma slasher pics from the era, or as everyone on the internet seems to think of them now, films in the I Know What You Did Last Summer mould. ‘Tis true that many-a-film have featured the not-so-secret secret characteristic at their core and it’s a form I quite like, opening up lots of potential for realistic characters and their respective reactions that give us good insight into their persona.

Sorority Row, as it’s now called, is a remake only in that it follows this same basic guideline. The girls of the Theta Pi Sorority are out to teach Megan’s straying boyfriend Garrett a lesson and trick him into thinking she’s died after he slipped her a few roofies given to him by substance-abusing big sis Chugs. President Jessica takes Garrett, supposedly dead Megan, and four other girls away from the house on the promise of taking her to hospital when they take a ‘wrong turn’ and end up at an old mine where a freaked-out Garrett impales her with a tire iron after they discuss the best means to ensure the body doesn’t float.

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With a real body at their feet, the girls (and boy) bicker over what to do. Fortuitously, there is no cell phone reception and a nearby deep mine shaft. Only nominal nice girl Cassidy makes a real case for going to the cops but is out-voted, while nervy smart girl Ellie (we know she’s smart because she’s shy and wears oversized specs) is too broken up to have a say. Jessica convinces them to toss the body down the mine and forget about it. However, it’s nice that, for once, it’s mentioned that they will have to life with the dreadful secret for the rest of their lives.

Eight months later, the girls graduate and prepare to vacate Theta Pi to the tune of a hooj see-ya-later party. Spirits are soon lowered by the arrival of text messages that show the now ‘pimped-up’ tire iron in someone’s grasp. It’s a hell of a lot sharper… The girls assume Garrett is behind it and distract themselves with preparing for their party while a cloaked maniac begins a merry quest to set right their wrong. Could it be Megan’s sister, who’s just turned up out of the blue and wants to pledge? One of the girls themselves, wrecked by guilt? Megan risen from the grave?

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After a few introductory murders, which are not limited to those involved in the prank, the killer baits the remaining girls with further text threats until only they and a sprinkling of others remain at the sorority house, post-party for the home run. It’s this final third where Sorority Row starts to sink under its own weight. The mystery element, up until now, has been engaging, the murders fun without being too grisly and Jessica’s never ending witty retorts and lack of sympathy for anybody else have been continually amusing. There are a few totally unsubtle changes, Carrie Fisher going all Ma Barker with a shotgun and a bizarrely realised threat in the form of another party ‘in the know’ who may or may not be the killer…

Memories of the ill-conceived Black Christmas remake flood back towards the end, which also takes a stroll down Slumber Party Massacre lane towards the flat climax and a not-so-clear “twist” prit-sticked on to the very end. It’s a shame as things were going so well up until the regrouping at the mine, where it becomes clear that perhaps Sorority Row isn’t the straight-faced slasher flick it looked like it was going to be. Case in point: there are certain characters we want to die with an added dose of cruelty because of their abhorrent nature, instead, said individuals are done away with far too quickly and…comically? What’s that about? Where’s the long, harrowing chase before the fatal blow? There are a few too many gags once the killer is unmasked, their exposition pretty feeble and unconvincing – but when did these guys ever play with a full deck, eh?

Ultimately a confusing one, not least because of mixed intentions, but enough merit to engage for the running time, well written dialogue (although most of it belongs to something like Jawbreaker) and a cast of semi-familiar faces to horror fans, plus a good central figure in Evigan’s take on Cassidy and Pipes is great as super-bitch Jessica. Sorority Row is one of those films that probably needs a twice-over to make sure you totally understood where it was taking you. It graduates, but sadly without honours.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Leah Pipes was the heroine in Fingerprints; as was Margo Harshman in Simon Says. Julian Morris was in Cry_Wolf. Carrie Fisher had a cameo in Scream 3.

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