Tag Archives: spunky final girl

Valley of the Mid-Range Franchises: The Stepfather

For a long time I didn’t really consider The Stepfather movies to be slasher flicks: Slightly too-highbrow (the first one, at least) and more in common with the rush of late-80s demented family member/one night stand/roommate/nanny thrillers.

However, the titular character does kill his way through the three movies, laying to waste those who disrupt his vision of familial bliss. That the films are less about a string of victims and more focused on the facade created by the stepfather is relevant, but they’re cool films so let’s love them anyway…

the stepfather 1987THE STEPFATHER

3.5 Stars  1987/18/85m

“Jerry Blake loves taking care of the family. Any family.”

Director: Joseph Ruben / Writers: Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Garfield & Donald E. Westlake / Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Stephen Shellen, Charles Lanyer, Stephen E. Miller.

Body Count: 4

Laughter Lines: (to the grieving sibling of a murder victim) “Why don’t you get on with the rest of your life and forget about it?”


As the product of a family where the parents have stayed together for over 40 years, I don’t have much insight into what it’s like to grow up with a single parent and have a prospective new partner enter the scene, disrupting the routine that you likely cling on to in the wake of a divorce or loss.

I can only imagine what it must be like to have someone try to be your new best friend, especially if they glow with a plastic Ward Cleaver aura, one that feels so forced that, in the wake of films like this, you’d automatically suspect them of having some literal skeletons in their closet.

For Stephanie Maine (then-burgeoning scream queen Jill Schoelen), this is a nightmare come true as, after her father’s death, her mother has remarried Jerry Blake – smilin’ family guy, realtor, doting dad, unhinged psychopath. Beyond the expected issues of coping with her loss, Stephanie gets expelled from school and blames all of her problems on Jerry and his transparent attempts to reach her: The usual ‘champ’, ‘slugger’ platitudes, buying her a puppy etc…

step1-2

Of course, we know better having seen ‘Jerry’ dramatically alter his appearance and walk out on his slain previous family in the prologue, slipping effortlessly into a new life.

At a party hosted by the family, Stephanie gets a glimpse of Jerry’s hidden persona as he throws an anger hissy in the basement where he thinks he’s out of sight. Over hearing the tale of the still uncaptured family-slayer, Stephanie begins to believe Jerry is that guy.

Like the thrillers that came in its wake, a large midsection of The Stepfather concerns Jerry thwarting Stephanie’s attempts to out him, while mother Susan looks on, thinking all is rosy. He also finds time to murder Steph’s shrink and mocking up an accident, the event that eventually brings them closer, that is until he flips about her kissing her crush on the doorstep.

stepfather 1987 jill schoelen

Jerry finally decides enough is enough and begins sculpting a new life in preparation for getting shot of Susan and Stephanie and starting anew elsewhere, but unfortunately for him, not only does he confuse his identities, but the brother of his last wife has been busy tracking him down and is about to show up with a gun in hand. Things shunt into slasher gear when Stephanie is attacked and has to save herself.

O’Quinn’s commitment to what could easily have been a campy, over-hammed role as Dad is what carries both this and the sequel beyond the contrivances of the plot (more pertinent in the follow-up). His natural intensity, later seen in Lost, and a talent for balancing his below-the-surface psychotic tendencies with the outward guy-next-door charm is genuinely unsettling – the way he posits “maybe they disappointed him?” as a possible motive for the murders is chilling – and a series of glares serves to remind the viewer that we know a lot more than his family and friends.

stepfather 1987 terry o'quinn

The many stares of the Stepfather

For her part, Schoelen oozes likeability – as she did in all her horror roles – and rises to the challenge of final girl-dom with aplomb, using broken mirror shards and sledges to her advantage. The only weird thing about it is that, despite being in her early twenties during production, her brief topless shower moment seems wrong as her character is said to be fifteen. It’s buoyed in a way by some frontal nudity of O’Quinn, courtesy of a reflection in a mirror, but still seems weird.

A fine film, albeit with a narrative that’s been aped too many times to reap its rightful returns, but it seems over a little too soon and, I think, could work well in mini-series format if they ever wanted to resurrect it. Oh wait, they did…

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stepfather ii make room for daddy

STEPFATHER II

3 Stars  1989/18/88m

A.k.a. Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy

“Tonight – Daddy’s coming home to slice more than just the cake!”

Director: Jeff Burr / Writer: John Auerbach / Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Meg Foster, Caroline Williams, Jonathan Brandis, Henry Brown, Mitchell Laurance.

Body Count: 5


Having miraculously survived the wounds inflicted on him at the end of the first film, Jerry is now locked up in an institution in Puget Sound, where the new doctor, Dr Danvers, is keen to help him and find out his real identity – but we know Jerry will have other plans.

After winning the doc’s trust, he dispatches him and a security guard before making his escape and rocking up in a Los Angeles suburb ‘for the family’ where he sets himself up as Dr Gene Clifford, a therapist specialising in familial stuff.

Before long, Gene is involved with local divorcee Carol and her sad son Todd. While he disappears her ex husband forever into a compactor, Carol’s friend Matty (Williams) begins to suspect the good doctor is not all he seems, using her access as local mail handler to find out that the actual Gene Clifford is not only dead, but was also black.

stepfather 2 terry o'quinn

Of course, Jerry/Gene isn’t going to let anybody ruin his plans for suburban family bliss and engineers her out of the picture so he can hurry up and wed Carol. A violent climax at the aborted wedding ramps things up the camp-o-meter a fair way, but, as before, O’Quinn’s performance always teeters on the brink.

The infamous Weinstein’s insisted on more gore for this follow-up, which O’Quinn flat out refused to participate in, which explains some of the insert-shots of various pools of blood etc, moving the property closer to a sort of Freddy-down-the-block slasher series, which probably explains why the leading man opted out of returning for any more rounds.

Either way, Meg Foster’s eyes are still the scariest thing in this film.

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stepfather III

STEPFATHER III

3 Stars  1992/18/106m

A.k.a. Stepfather 3: Father’s Day

Director: Guy Magar / Writers: GM & Marc B. Ray / Cast: Robert Wightman, Priscilla Barnes, Season Hubley, David Tom, John Ingle, Dennis Paladino, Stephen Mendel, Mario Roccozzo.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Maybe he’s not who he says he is?” / “Yeah, well with any luck maybe he’s Kevin Costner or Tom Cruise?”


Terry O’Quinn’s (wise) decision to not return to the series, probably for fear of being typecast, means that this third and very final entry required the biggest convolution of all: Plastic surgery.

That’s right, fresh from escaping from the same institution again, Family Guy gets back-alley surgery from a greasy, chain-smoking dude who then gets his throat cut with a surgical saw for his trouble.

Nine months later, ‘Keith Grant’ is the new guy in the small town of Deerview, working at the plant nursery, volunteering to dress up as the Easter Bunny at a church fete, and hunting for a new mother-child combo to call his own. Although, Stepfather III smells like it’s trying to create some kind of mystery as to who it is who’s had surgery, but entirely fails to disguise it in any way.

stepfather 3

Said schmuckette is Christine (Barnes), amicably divorced and with wheelchair-bound son Andy, whose condition is psychosomatic (so we all know he’ll rise up outta that thing at the perfect moment). After three dates, Keith and Christine are married, but detective-mad Andy is suspicious of his new stepfather.

The perfect family illusion Keith has been desperate for begins to shatter when Andy goes to stay with his father for awhile, leading psychodad to begin courting another single mom, Jennifer, and hatching plans to get rid of Christine, but abandons them when Andy comes back earlier than planned.

Andy, meanwhile, becomes convinced Keith is Jerry Blake/Gene/whoever else, and recruits Father Brennan to help him prove it, but of course those who get in the way end up shoveled to death, raked, or driven off the road.

A woodchipper-tastic finale brings forth the moment when Andy finally lifts his feet from the wheelchair, accompanied by some rousing superhero music, and he’s forced to finish ‘dad’ off with some ferocity, ensuring there’s no amount of plastic surgery that can resurrect the Stepfather for Part 4.

stepfather 3

The video sequel needs to be trimmed along with Keith’s plants, clocking in about 15 minutes longer than necessary, but Wightman does fine in O’Quinn’s big shoes, though the script leans towards tacky elements here and there and Christine is the most naive of the Stepfather’s victims to date. In fact, all through the series women are made to look a bit dumb, eager to get married ASAP despite knowing fuck all about this man, and it’s down to the children to strike the final blow at the end. Hope they use those guilt coupons wisely going forward.

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THE STEPFATHERthe stepfather remake 2009

2009/15/101m  2 Stars

“Daddy’s home.”

Director: Nelson McCormick / Writer: J.S. Cardone / Cast: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, Sherry Stringfield, Paige Turco, Jon Tenney.

Body Count: 7


I saw this once ages ago and can’t remember much about it, beyond the fatal error of switching out the final girl to a final boy, a guy from a military background, no less – where’s the fear for our hero(ine) in that?

At the time it was just the latest in the factory line of people-remember-this-title-so-let’s-remake-it churn-outs, written by Cardone, who had also penned the risible Prom Night upchuck (directed by McCormick) and, back in ’81, The Slayer. O’Quinn was reportedly offered a cameo and sensibly said no. Sela Ward has an utterly thankless role as the new wife and Amber Heard spends most of the running time in a bikini, highlighting just how little thought went into this watered-down PG-13 retread.

No.

* * *

So, a quality series in terms of production values. O’Quinn was definitely the high point and the conservative/anti-conservative subtext of the whole thing is interesting even today, with all this “I like tradition,” rhetoric Steppie likes the spout.

As a slasher series, it’s definitely low-key, with far more emphasis on the character’s manipulative psychosis over a blade-wielding maniac chasing skimpy babes, which is refreshing in a way. Remember it next time you’re messaged on Tinder.

stepfather 2009

Blurbs-of-interest: Jill Schoelen was also in Cutting ClassThe Phantom of the OperaPopcorn, and When a Stranger Calls Back; Stephen Shellen was also in American Gothic; Stephen E. Miller was in Funeral Home and Matinee; Jeff Burr directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Night of the Scarecrow; Caroline Williams had final girl duties in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and was also in Hatchet III; Guy Magar later directed Children of the Corn: Revelation; Priscilla Barnes was in The Back Lot Murders; David Tom was in Dead Scared; Stephen Mendel was in Jack Frost; Amber Heard was the title character in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

Welcome to Australia

wolf creek tv series 2016

WOLF CREEK (TV SERIES)

4 Stars  2016/288m

Directors: Tony Tilse (5 episodes), Greg McLean (1 episode) / Writers: Felicity Packard & Peter Gawker / Cast: John Jarratt, Lucy Fry, Dustin Clare, Jessica Tovey, Fletcher Humphrys, Deborah Mailman, Jake Ryan, Richard Cawthorne, Eddie Baroo, Matt Levett.

Body Count: 24


TV was the new movies in the 2000s, with bigger budgets, drawn out arcs sucking in squillions of viewers that your favourite movie could never. Legal dramas, police procedurals, mafia families, drug dealers, vampire hunters, and trundling along at the rear, like the runt of the horror litter it’s often seen as, slasher tales.

First came Harper’s Island, then Scream – The TV Seriesand the risible Scream Queens, the subtley titled Slasherand now from down under, Wolf Creek.

On the back of the pair of brutal homegrown Aussie flicks, which chronicled the never ending killing spree of the outback’s answer to Freddy Krueger, Mick Taylor, as he raped, pillaged, and knifed nubile tourists who ventured beyond the city limits. Based on the real crimes of backpacker murderer Ivan Milat, Wolf Creek‘s gritty and repellent presentation of vulnerable outsiders thrown into a truly nightmarish situation resulted in a film even found too intense to return to.

wolf creek tv series mick taylor john jarratt 2016

At the end of Wolf Creek 2 in 2013, Mick once again evaded capture and death and lived to hunt another day. The TV series starts with Taylor doing what he does so well: Killing. Selecting the American Thorogood family, who unwisely park their huge RV at a billabong where pre-teen son Ross is almost chomped by a saltwater crocodile, Mick shoots the reptile and is invited to supper. While Mom and Dad chatter, 19-year-old daughter Eve finds their guest a bit much and goes to lie down with some music.

Mick makes quick work of the parents and little brother, and goes after Eve, who, as a committed athlete, bolts for her life, but is shot down in the distance. Unable to find her body, raspy-voiced Mick chalks it up to croc bait and burns down the RV and disposes of all evidence of murder. Eve is rescued by some birdwatchers the next day.

wolf creek tv series 2016 lucy fry

Detective Sullivan Hill is assigned to the case and carries an ever-growing folder of possible crimes committed by the anonymous psycho in the outback. His attempts to put Eve on a plane back to the US are foiled when she runs away, steals the folder, buys a van and takes off in the direction of the crime.

Over the next few episodes, Eve follows Mick’s trail of murder around the desolate outback of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, while Hill follows her. She befriends a stray dog (named ‘Dog’) and finds herself in a series of bizarre and deadly situations, from being arrested for possession of weed (which was left in the van she bought by its previous owner), escaping prison, stealing cash and a gun from a biker gang, facing off a would-be rapist, solving a murder, and researching Mick’s previous murders. Each episode has a small arc within the greater story, as Eve goes from teary victim to woman warrior.

wolf creek tv series 2016

Of course, this journey is anything but smooth: Eve steps in bear-traps, is attacked by horny blokes at least twice, bitten by a venomous snake, and almost murdered by a crazy subterranean dweller. She also finds time to go all Daniel LaRusso with an outback saviour, who teacher her the aboriginal way of throwing a spear – something that’ll come in handy later, of course.

Original creator Greg McLean declared that Wolf Creek in this incarnation is less about Mick than it is Eve, and, wisely, the killer is limited in his appearances, cropping up here and there, stalking and killing a few poor folks as his and Eve’s paths grow ever closer to crossing: After a couple of episodes, he is aware someone has survived and is out to find him, he murders her would-be rapist, they ask about one another at the same roadhouse, with Hill just a heartbeat behind.

wolf creek tv series 2016

Elsewhere, the hoodwinked bikers are chasing her, allowing for an amazingly funny interchange when one of them catches up with her, proclaiming he needs a woman to give him kids instead of killing her. The Wolf Creek movies featured generous slabs of dark humour from Mick, but additional skits from background players here do a lot to endear the viewer to the production.

As things wrap up in the final two episodes (of a perfectly pitched six), Eve tracks Taylor to a drinking hole, which also – a little too conveniently – is frequented by a mad local known as Jesus, who is revealed to be Ben, only survivor of the first movie. Weird that they never ran into one another? She is finally able to put a lid on the biker situation, and follows clues left by Mick to lead her to the Wolf Creek Crater and then his lair.

wolf creek tv series 2016 john jarratt lucy fry

The only arguable flaw at this juncture is the appearance of Mick’s backstory in black and white flashbacks to his childhood, which serve as the starting point to his murderous career. It denigrates his repulsive character to some degree, almost drawing sympathy from the audience, and aligning him even closer to Freddy Krueger than before, as he appears behind Eve with a few witty remarks at his disposal, further cementing the similarity.

So it comes down to survivor versus legendary maniac in a final showdown that seems over a little too soon, and lacks an amount of finality that points towards a second series in the future – but how can Mick survive what Eve finally does to him?

wolf creek tv series 2016 dustin clare

Much IMDb crying occurred over the series being too slow, Eve not being ‘right’ to take on Mick, and him not being in it enough. However, keeping the tempo of the films over almost five hours is never likely to work and would not be sustainable, and largely physically impossible for the characters. It was 100% the right decision to keep Taylor in the shadows as much as possible. Eve is also the perfect opponent – an outsider in every possible way, a recovering opiate addict, and an unlikely survivor.

Easily the best slasher series on virtually every level, from the lush production values, use of the agoraphobic Australian landscape, where, despite so much space, there’s still nowhere you can run. Jarratt, Fry, and the impossibly handsome Clare all put in excellent performances, and every bit-parter makes an impression, Dog included. Given this was almost the 700th slasher ‘thing’ I’ve seen, for me to find it so fresh and binge-watch over two days underscores just how much I loved Wolf Creek. So great.

wolf creek tv series 2016 lucy fry

P.S., that full frontal nudity? It’s a guy.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jarratt also featured in Next of Kin and Needle.

Slither n’ Slash

venom 2005 dvd

VENOM

3.5 Stars  2005/15/87m

“He never hurt a soul until the day he died.”

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten & Brandon Boyce / Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Rick Cramer, Laura Ramsey, Meagan Good, D.J. Cotrona, Pawel Szajda, Bijou Phillips, Davetta Sherwood, Method Man.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “You stole it?” / “Well, I wasn’t gonna buy it, it’s too ugly! I felt bad taking a nice one – I have a conscience.”


Kevin Williamson produced this ill-failed feature, for which he was reunited with I Know What You Did Last Summer director Gillespie. It ended up being released within days of Hurricane Katrina – not good for a Louisiana-shot, voodoo-centric teen horror film. Predictably it tanked, raking less than $1million.

In spite of this misfortune, Venom is a handsome critter, which benefits from above average production design, and a brutality absent in other recent slasher films. And there weren’t many around theatrically in 2005. Initially, the film was conceived as a backstory for a pending video game, Backwater, which featured an antagonist known as Mr Jangles. Whether that ever surfaced I do not know.

venom 2005 meagan good agnes bruckner

A mambo priestess in the deep south retrieves a suitcase full of snakes possessed by the evil of people whose bad mojo they’ve sucked out in a ‘milking ceremony’. Whilst transporting it to safety, she, grimy local mechanic/outcast Ray Sawyer, and sexy teens Eden and Eric, are involved in an accident on a bridge, which culminates with the hulking Ray trapped inside the sinking car with the loose snakes.

Ray’s body is retrieved and the mambo also dies from her injuries, but the former is soon up and about, killing the coroner, Method Man’s deputy (what happened to him!?), and a string of teens leading back to the mambo’s house, where her granddaughter CeCe (Good, who is, uh, good) is mourning her loss.

venom 2005

Meanwhile, the demon-formerly-known-as-Ray sandblasts a light-fingered teen to death before heading in the direction of the house where the depleting teens gather to comfort CeCe. After finding their VW Beetle turned on its head (at least it wasn’t completely trashed, gorgeous thing that it is) the assault begins with a ripped-off arm, death-by-crowbar, and even house-wrenched-in-half when CeCe’s voodoo powder-scattering blocks his entry.

Venom goes to some lengths to provide creative demises for all involved, but by doing so adheres to that is-it/isn’t-it true stereotype of killing the black characters first: The first three murdered aren’t white and the ripe opportunity to finally cast a black girl as the heroine is squandered.

venom 2005 bijou phillips

That said, Agnes Bruckner, as Eden, does just fine with the role – running and retaliating where required and I’d forgotten just how long the third act of Girl vs. demon-formerly-known-as-Ray carries on, so her dues are well and truly paid.

Despite reliance on some real contrivances – one of the teens is Ray’s illegitimate son, perfect to make a voodoo doll with – there’s much to enjoy here, from the swampland locus (although why does nobody have a southern accent?) to the comparably luxury production qualities. The characters blue together somewhat, with little to them beyond final girl Eden wanting to go be a doctor in New York, her boyfriend moaning about it, the gay boy, the drunk boy, and a host of ‘other ones’.

venom 2005

Venom isn’t likely to be regarded as a classic by any metric, but it’s definitely worth a look for its surface gloss appeal alone, which is rare in low-end slasher fare, and some MTV hyper-edits aside, ticks all the boxes a fun horror ride should.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gillespie also directed D-Tox; Laura Ramsey was in Cruel World.

Final Girl Power

last girl standing 2015 dvd

LAST GIRL STANDING

3 Stars  2015/18/87m

“What happens after the horror movie?”

Director/Writer: Benjamin R. Moody / Cast: Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos, J.D. Carrera, Laura Ray, Kelsey Pribilski, Ryan Hamilton.

Body Count: 14


I’ve long wondered what happens after the final girl staggers off to freedom having bested the killer: What does Marti/Alice/Sally tell the cops? What’s the process of the investigation, the clean up, the press? How many shrinks do they see? How does their family react?

The Texas-lensed Last Girl Standing doesn’t quite cover these bases, instead opting to skip forward a few years in the life of woodland-massacre sole survivor Camryn. So the first few minutes is a quick meta-overview of Camryn taking down The Hunter, an occult-ritual loon in a furry antlered mask, who offs half a dozen of her friends.

In the now, five years on, Camryn is a lonely, withdrawn figure who works at a dry cleaners, doesn’t have any friends and wakes most nights from flashback nightmares of the murders. However, this all begins to change when new employee Nick enters the picture and takes a liking to her.

last girl standing 2015 akasha villalobos

This coincides with Camryn believing The Hunter has come back, as she’s accosted at her place of work. Naturally, no one else sees a thing and nothing can be proved. Nick offers to accommodate her for the night and she meets his circle of friends, whom she begins to believe will be the next targets of the killer.

Camryn’s episodes unnerve the others as her paranoia grows, and it’s not immediately clear if anything she’s experiencing is real or in her head. She is befriended by Danielle, one of Nick’s friends who also carries some survival guilt. Together, they drive out to the burial site of The Hunter to give Camryn closure so she can be free!

last girl standing 2015 akasha villalobos danielle evon ploeger

But can she? Can she ever really get over it? Last Girl Standing, albeit more of a character study than a slasher film for most of its running time, isn’t able to reach it’s 87th minute without bookending itself with another killing spree – was The Hunter back all along? I ain’t telling.

While the new perspective allows for a fresh take on things, it still doesn’t feel as if we learn that much about the aftermath of Camryn’s experience. It’s not too far removed from Tommy’s character in Friday the 13th Part V, all broody and silent, seeing Jason everywhere, and other sequels where the heroine spends most of the running time trying to convince others that the killer has come back.

last girl standing 2015 akasha villalobos

A good character study in part, the slasher bits deliver as well (though viewers who demand boobs, joints, and skinny dipping in their teen-kill flicks should avoid it), but something is missing, and it’s not as unconventional as it thinks it is – a film set in the days and weeks after the massacre would have been more interesting, although it would likely entail a higher budget than what’s in evidence here. That said, nothing is aesthetically wrong with the production and Villalobos puts in a strong performance as the twitchy title character.

Last Girl Standing would make a good double-header with The Final Girls as writers and directors search for new ways to focus on new aspects of a tired out genre. Not Scream Queens though. That can go fuck itself. Maybe a sequel concerning a survivor’s anonymous group is in order?

Fashion Fatale

sorority house massacre 1986 cover

SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE

2 Stars  1986/18/86m …or 74m

“Who’ll survive the final exam?”

Director/Writer: Carol Frank / Cast: Angela O’Neill, Wendy Martel, Pamela Ross, Nicole Rio, John C. Russell, Joe Nassi, Marcus Vaughter, Vinnie Bilancio, Gillian Frank.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “What’s with Beth?” / “Her aunt died.” / “But that was weeks ago…”


“It must have all started the moment I entered the house…” says a girl in a hospital bed. FLASHBACK TIME!

Sorority House Massacre - where the fashions are deadlier than any nutjob with a knife. I paid £0.01 for this DVD. Seriously. And I still feel robbed.

This brazen Halloween clone was directed by a crew member from The Slumber Party Massacre, but gone is all that playfulness, replaced by what could well be the most 80s movie of the 80s.

sorority house massacre courteney cox

Beth – Courteney Cox-a-like O’Neill – comes to stay at the sorority house Theta Peter something or other where her friend Linda lives, intent on scoping it out to possibly pledge in the future. But no sooner does she enter than a weird feeling creeps up on her, the feeling of deja vu, and her nightmares begin: Creepy dolls, blood dripping on a china tea set, a trio of little girls warning her away blah blah blah.

sorority house massacre dolls

Across town/state/nation, a guy in an asylum begins twitching and then screaming: HE AND BETH ARE PSYCHICALLY LINKED! Who is he? How does he know her? Why does — oh, fuck it, we all know he’s her brother who flipped and killed the family in that house thirteen years earlier. It takes the cast a good hour to work this out though.

While loon-guy breaks out and steals the station wagon that Michael Myers appropriated and a hunting knife for good measure, Beth tries to fit in with the other sorority girls who are remaining at the house over Memorial Weekend. In between hallucinations of the asylum man in mirrors n’ shit, Beth finds the time to dress in accordance with the others, i.e. awful:

sorority house massacre awful clothes

Final Girl noted the presence of the extra at the back there and declared her ‘Banana Orbison’ in her review, and I can’t come up with anything more suitable. Amazing. It’s all just… so… amazing.

One girl asks Beth: “Do you have anything that will go with this?” Yes, fire. And lots of it.

As if this isn’t terrifying enough, Sorority House Massacre commits its first big continuity transgression. Now, the American version of the film clocks in at 74 minutes, while the UK VHS I saw in the 90s ran for 86. Terrible cuts? Better gore? No. More clothes. More scenes of the girls talking about clothes. Or hair. Or boys.

In one such scene, soro sisters Linda and Sara meet on their way back to the house and Linda has totally different hair. Like, completely different, only to cut back to a scene clearly shot some time earlier where she’s back to the old style in the blink of an eye.

They congregate and decide to make the most of their rule of the house by… trying on Cindy’s clothes!!!11!!!1!

This is Cindy in an earlier scene:

sorority house massacre cindy

What kind of fashionista? She calls this ‘fantasy in blancmange’.

Sorority House Massacre stamps its 80s card once again as we are dragged kicking and screaming into a fashion montage. While Beth sits on the bed looking pensive, Linda, Sara, and Tracy don Cindy’s wardrobe, a.k.a. the possible Gateway to Hell.

The girls pose and doo-wop to the kind of saxophone music used in any given 80s breakfast TV show. It is pain.

sorority house massacre awful clothes

C’mon, if Satan didn’t send these garments, who the fuck did?

Later, they receive a delivery of weird Native American ware for a party. The guys come over. Here are the guys:

sorority house massacre the guys

‘Swoon’.

The guys stick around, Beth has more dramas and lets Linda hypnotise her to try and work out where the bad dreams are coming from, while one of the guys relays the story of the murders that occurred in that very house! Beth ‘sees’ a knife hidden in the fireplace in her state of hypnosis which turns out to be legit there, and everyone stares at it for a bit:

sorority house massacre

One of the boyfriends leaves and the killer finally shows up and stabs him. Then Tracy and Craig go outside to have sex in the teepee and the killer gets Tracy. Sorority House Massacre returns yet again to the isle of bad continuity:

sorority house massacre 1986 nudity

sorority house massacre 1986 goof

sorority house massacre 1986 nudity

Finally alert to the presence of the killer, it’s soon just the three remaining girls versus the loon, who sees each one in turn as one of his slain sisters, having to re-kill them before getting to Beth, who still hasn’t worked out she’s the surviving sister. Tenants of sisterhood, sororities, woah, deep thematics or what?

An attempt to use the fire ladder to climb down to safety is thwarted, and when the killer starts to come up, the girls throw the ladder hooks out, only for him to JUMP FROM THE GROUND AND THROUGH A SECOND STOREY WINDOW.

sorority house massacre

More teenagers die, Beth is the last girl – duh – and finally sticks her brother where it hurts. Cut back to hospital bed, last second hallucinated shock thingy, credits.

Wow, 74 minutes never felt so long. Imagine being British in the 80s and having to trawl through those extra twelve minutes of clothes and hair!?

A bad movie lover’s dream, Sorority House Massacre may suck harder than a Pittsburgh hooker, but it’s occasionally effective: Beth’s dream of the china tea set is suitably weird, and there’s flashes of decent photography, and O’Neill makes for a capable heroine, even if all her efforts are bogged down by mechanical performances (the shrink is quite good), characters with a collective IQ lower than a spoon, and offering up absolutely nothing surprising.

But you still need to see it. Need to.

Blurb-of-interest: Pamela Ross was later in MoonStalker; Nicole Rio was in semi-slasher The Zero Boys.

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