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Children of the railroad crossing

FINGERPRINTS

3.5 Stars 2006/18/92m

“Even the dead leave them.”

Director: Harry Basil / Writers: Brian Cleveland & Jason Cleveland / Cast:  Leah Pipes, Kristin Cavallari, Josh Henderson, Andrew Lawrence, Lou Diamond Phillips, Sally Kirkland, Geoffrey Lewis, Sydnee Harlan, Ashley Wyatt, Ginger Gilmartin, Darryl Cox.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines:  “A hair test is the only way to be sure that you’re drug free!”


In the small town on Emerald, Texas, in March 1957, a school bus is hit by a train at a level crossing, killing all onboard. In the years that follow, an urban legend is developed that states if you park on the tracks with the car in neutral, the ghosts of the dead children will push you to safety, leaving tiny handprints behind.

This is naturally laughed off by newcomer Melanie (Leah Pipes, pre-Sorority Row), when her sister Crystal (Cavallari) drives her to their new hometown after a stint in rehab. Her nasty mom doesn’t trust her with anything, but Crystal introduces her to the local high school rabble, one of whom decides to put the local legend to the test, nearly killing a car load of them in the process. At the last second, Mel sees a young girl (one we saw killed at the start) stood on the tracks. Twilight Zone music please.

As she tries to settle in as the new girl, battling her overbearing mother, high school bitches, and frickin’ Lou Diamond Phillips for a guidance counsellor, a couple of horny classmates get themselves skewered by a shadowy killer dressed as a railway conductor.

Mel finds herself haunted by the little girl, who clearly wants help, Sixth Sense-style. When she confides in Lou Diamond Phillips, he tells Mom, who of course goes off the deep end, even more so when the cops suspect Mel in the disappearances of the horny classmates: “You are going to your room for the rest of your life!”

Slowly, some people come around the accepting the legend is real – although its origins, it seems, have been completely made up and Fingerprints ventures down a path not too dissimilar to Elm Street, with mob-vengeance, vital information hidden from the next generation, and cover-ups. Melanie is thrown into the centre when the conductor kidnaps Crystal; finds out the truth and unmasks the lunatic. Happy days.

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The plot sounds overwrought and perhaps it is. Fingerprints is only a slasher film in the secondary sense, first and foremost it’s a tame ghost story, the gruesome slayings are a bit of an afterthought. Without them though, there’d be less motivation for the final girl to act, and it would simply be a fattened-up episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Good production unities, the Krueger-lite revelations, and eventual identity of the killer (plus their rather awesome flip out) more than make up for a bit of a slow start. It won’t please gorehounds by any means, but there’s a decent little flick here.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sally Kirkland was in Fatal Games way back in the 80s, and also Jack the Reaper; Josh Henderson was in the dreadful April Fool’s Day remake; Geoffrey Lewis was in Out of the Dark.

Sucks to be Soles

INNOCENT PREY

3 Stars  1983/87m

A.k.a. Voyeur

Director: Colin Eggleston / Writer: Ron McLean / Cast: P.J. Soles, Kit Taylor, Grigor Taylor, Martin Balsam, John Warnock, Susan Stenmark, Richard Morgan, Debisue Voorhees.

Body Count: 11


Poor P.J. Soles… As if being saddled with the worst perm in Texas isn’t enough, one night she spots her new husband’s car at a motel and decides to creep outside the window and find out if he’s cheating on her.

Her suspicions are confirmed when she sees him doing a young hooker, and then made worse when he produces a knife and slashes the girl’s throat as they climax. At home, she confronts him and as he makes a move to do away with her, the police spring up and cart him away.

Later, hubby escapes from prison and returns to the house to finish off P.J., doing in a few luckless cops as he goes. She evades him again but this time he flees, so she sees fit to take some time out down under and visits her friend Gwen in Sydney.

The Sheriff back home (Balsam: Arbogast! ARBO-FUCKING-GAST!!!) later informs her they found a burned body with hubby’s signet ring and all is well again. Only we know better: hubby set it all up and has hopped a ship to Oz, ever committed to his cause.

Rodeo P.J. – everybody loves her

As if this isn’t enough, the sub-Norman Bates landlord at Gwen’s place has hidden cameras all over the girls’ house and watches their every move, obsessed by the new arrival, and jealous of her burgeoning romance with single dad, Rick. When the first loon arrives, what will second loon do, I wonder?

Early on in the film, P.J. ponders that if there such a thing as a habitual criminal, perhaps she is a habitual victim. Hell yeah, sister! From the arms of one psycho into those of another! Innocent Prey should be suffixed The Misadventures of the World’s Unluckiest Woman. Nothing goes right for poor P.J., and when Gwen disappears, well, where else could she go!? These wackos gravitate towards her. And just wait for that final freeze frame. Come to my house, Peej, I won’t kill you! Promise!

Mass sludge of conveniences aside, Innocent Prey is a solid little thriller, sort of a proto-Sleeping with the Enemy by way of Terror Train, possibly explaining why it was released in 1991, seven or eight years after it was made.

P.J.’s always likeable charisma carries much of the weight, but director Eggleston – who later helmed weird arty-farty slasher Cassandra - builds up some palpable tension here and there, most notably in the scenes where Hubby comes back to the house.

A ridiculous film by any measure, but an entertaining one for sure.

Blurbs-of-interest: Aside from her role as Lynda, Soles was also in The Tooth Fairy and Uncle Sam. She also narrated the documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror; Martin Balsam was, duh, Arbogast in Psycho; Kit Taylor was in Eggleston’s other film Cassandra; Debi Sue Voorhees – playing the hooker – was Tina in Friday the 13th Part V and was also in Appointment with Fear.

The 13 best Elm Street characters

Having done this for Friday the 13th some while ago, it’s now Freddy’s turn (then Michael, don’t get panicky). So mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the awesome-est of them all…?

Of course, Freddy is the best character in the franchise, but that’s predictable, so he – like Jason and Mrs Voorhees in the previous countdown – won’t feature here.

*

Kincaid // Dream Warriors & The Dream Master

“Big tough bad ass” Kincaid says motherfucker a lot and tells a fellow ward inmates in Elm Street 3 that’s he’ll outlast them all – and he’s nearly right. Breaking the ‘black guys always die first’ trope in that film, he is one of three survivors, only to die first in the next film! Given with one hand, taken away with the other. Whatever, he’s proof that Elm Street was a franchise toying with the usual conventions: In any other 80s slasher film, he’d have likely been done in.

*

Hall Monitor // The Original

Who is this girl? Is she even real? Why would she buy that sweater? I like her bunches. Hall Monitor girl only appears for a few precious seconds but she’s awesome for each of them, and she leads in Nancy’s excellent line: “Screw your pass!”

*

Lisa // Freddy’s Revenge

Proto-Tiffany suburban high school queen Lisa (Kim Myers) has a bit of a Streep look to her, don’tcha think? While balancing popularity n’ stuff, Lisa befriends and attempts to heterosexualise new boy Jesse, who is being tormented by ‘the monster who wants to come out of him’ – Freddy. Only a kiss from Lisa can save the day!

*

 Creepy Child // Dream Warriors

Irrespective of whether or not he was a kiddie-fiddler, Krueger murdered children before he was killed, and in turn, they crop up in the dreams of the Last of the Elm Street Children, such as this sweet little blonde girl, who says cryptic and spooky things to Patricia Arquette as she runs through a scary dream. Creepy Child is probably the best of the Creepy Children.

*

Philip // Dream Warriors

Sensible Phil is possibly the most intelligent of the psyche ward kids in Elm Street 3, he makes a valid point to the doctors, which they ignore. But his predilection for sleep walking and puppet-craft is capitlised upon by Freddy, who turns him into a human marionette, using his veins for strings, and then drops him off the top of a tower.

*

Dokken // Dream Warriors (sort of)

Elm Street stans should doubtlessly be familiar with the high camp video for the title song Dream Warriors, by spandex metal band Dokken, who, in the said video, save Patricia Arquette and defeat Freddy with the high-pitched squealings and frankly amazing facial expressions of lead vocalist Don Dokken. If you’ve not seen it, go to YouTube this very minute!

*

Elaine Parker // The Dream Master

Kristen’s socialite mom first turns up in Dream Warriors, but comes back for more in the fourth movie, where she’s even more outrageously overbearing and hilarious. A real symbol of the cruelty of Freddy: the guilty adults are (usually) allowed to live and suffer the deaths of their children for their crime. Played by Brooke Bundy, mother of Tiffany Helm, the supreme Violet from Friday the 13th Part V, this still is my favourite Elaine moment: “Kristen! Get away from that house! Andale!”

*

Marge Thompson // The Original

From one guilty mama to another, Nancy’s alcoholic mom is one of the most camptastic characters in horror history. The first adult to finally cave in and ‘fess up to what they all did to Freddy Krueger, this only happens after Nancy’s friends start dropping like flies and Nancy begins telling mom uncanny details about her recurring dreams… Plus she smokes in a hospital. Rebel.

*

Coach Schneider // Freddy’s Revenge

Nasty, pervy, gum-chewin’ high school gym teacher Schneider (Marshall Bell) likes to punish the twinks in his classes, and takes a particular liking/dislike to Jesse, Freddy’s chosen conduit for carnage in Elm Street 2. The psychosexual undercurrent operating in the film has Jesse ‘coincidentally’ end up in some odd S&M bar ordering a drink, only to be caught by leather harness-wearing Schneider, who takes him back to school for a midnight detention, where he is bound, whipped, and slashed to death just as the shower heads spurt foamy water in the most unsubtle reference to ejaculation you could hope to find…

*

Kristen // Dream Warriors

Although she returns for the next film, Patricia Arquette is the definitive Kristen, the successor to Nancy’s mantle who has the power to suck other sleeping people into one combined dream, thus allowing them to team up against Freddy. Tuesday Knight did a good job of carrying on the torch (Arquette was pregnant and couldn’t return). Best moment: Flipping out at Dr Simms, “You stupid bitch! You’re killing us!”

*

Sheila // The Dream Master

Sweet nerdy Sheila is, like Debbie, on the periphery of the nightmare-plagued group in Elm Street 4, not really that concerned with the deaths of the friends-of-a-friend until weepy heroine Alice inherits Kristen’s dream-suck power (ooh-err) and practically serves her up to Freddy, who, ahem, “sucks” her to death during a science exam. Her Janet Jackson-lite vibe and oversized glasses make her the type of final girl I’d prefer for a change…

*

Taryn // Dream Warriors

Recovering junkie Taryn is “beautiful and bad” in her dreams. Alas, that’s not enough to save her from Freddy, though she does put up a good fight before succumbing to his modified finger knives: Druggie filled needles . Fortunately for actress Jennifer Rubin, she got to don the heroine role in the following year’s Bad Dreams, in which she plays a girl who is stalked in her slumber by a psycho who wants to kill her. Uhh…

*

Nancy Thompson // The Original & Dream Warriors

Well, it should surprise nobody really that Freddy’s ultimate nemesis is the numero uno non-undead character from the series. From her humble beginnnings as nightmare-plagued teenager with exponentially big, dry hair, to leading the Dream Warriors, and then even coming back as Heather Langenkamp for the fourth-wall busting New Nightmare. Nancy, you’re the best!

*

So nobody from The Dream Child, Freddy’s DeadNew Nightmare (excluding Heather, sort of), Freddy vs Jason or the remake make the cut. Quelle surprise.

And it’s certainly all girl power isn’t it? C’mon guys, Glenn almost made it, but Dr Gordon/Rick/Dan etc? Zzzzzz. The chicks certainly rule this dream.

Disco Demon

THE DEMON

2 Stars  1979/18/89m

“It is among you… waiting!”

A.k.a. Midnight Caller

Director/Writer: Percival Rubens / Cast: Jennifer Holmes, Cameron Mitchell, Craig Gardner, Zoli Markey, Mark Tanous, Moira Winslow, Peter J. Elliott.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Just because I’m not married even my mother thinks I’m on the other side.”


Believe it or not – and I probably wouldn’t – this Dutch/South African production has some of the best acting I’ve ever witnessed in a slasher movie, thanks to some well crafted dialogue from writer/director Rubens (at least most of it anyway), but stalls at two stars because it’s so excruciatingly boring until the last twenty minutes, when the Halloween clichés start to come thick and fast.

Mitchell plays a detective who is “just someone who’s been gifted with ESP” investigating the kidnapping of a girl from her bedroom by a mystery killer who wears – but unfortunately rarely uses – a steel-clawed glove, and is now after pretty kindergarten teacher Holmes, who’s seriously-misinformed cousin Jo is dating a slick disco bunny. Both of those two are doomed, natch.

Simply one of the weirdest flicks you will ever see; Mitchell’s character never even comes within spitting distance of Holmes, and is eventually shot dead by the kidnapped (and now dead) girl’s mother  (“did your ESP see this coming?”) and the two plots only have the killer to relate them!

The final showdown between heroine and killer is rousing enough, on the heels of her attempted escape in nothing but panties. Alas, too many boring murders (usually strangulations and asphyxiations) and the damage is done. Look for the sign to “Boobs Disco”.

Blurbs-of-interest: Cameron Mitchell was also in Valley of Death, Jack-O, Toolbox Murders, and Silent Scream.

Jinkies!

SATURDAY MORNING MYSTERY

2.5 Stars  2012/18/88m

“Don’t meddle with the devil.”

A.k.a. Saturday Morning Massacre (UK DVD)

Director: Spencer Parsons / Writers: Kat Candler, Jonny Mars, Jason Wehling, Jory Balsimo, Aaron Leggett / Cast: Ashley Rae Spillers, Jonny Mars, Josephine Decker, Adam Tate, Paul Gordon, Heather Kafka, Sean Ryan, Wyeth Miller.

Body Count: 6


Don’t you wish Scooby Doo was real? Don’t you wish YOU were one of the Scooby Gang, driving around in a van randomly solving mysteries?

The live action movies weren’t as good as they could’ve been, so I was hopeful that this unofficial homage to all things Scooby would do the job. It almost does.

VW Camper-touring paranormal investigators Gwen (the Daphne), Chad (the Fred), Floyd (the Shaggy), smart-girl Nancy (the Velma), and their crossbreed Hamlet, are struggling ghost-debunkers who bust a child-pornography ring and are chastised by the cops for stomping all over their investigation.

When they are hired to look into the supposed haunting of the old Kyser mansion on behalf of land developers, they leap at the chance to earn some much-needed cash.

Only Chad houses any belief whatsoever in the paranormal and the eerie surroundings, fleeting shadows, and same noises soon get the better of the group… until they discover they accidentally ingested Floyd’s acid tabs.

We can see figures in reflections, creeping past in the fore or background: Someone is still there. So far, so Scooby Doo Meets Hell Night. The horror then begins when the van goes up in a blaze and the gang – who we were never sure would fall victim or not – start getting hunted by the primal loons running around the old halls.

Gears shift towards a House of 1,000 Corpses vibe as the climax looms and, by this point, the concept had lost its way big time. It’s one thing that too many slasher flicks can’t write a single likeable character, but here their familiarity (albeit based on a cartoon) makes it hard to watch them die. Including the dog, which lost it major points.

Interesting, nicely done idea, but the avenue it eventually wanders down doesn’t pan out, possibly because of the number of writers inputting ideas. I’d have actually preferred an unmasking followed by the usual “meddling kids!” retort. Que sera.

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