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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In the now, five years on, Camryn is a lonely, withdrawn figure who works at a dry cleaners, doesn’t have any friends and wakes most nights from flashback nightmares of the murders.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.

Heating Up

cold prey ii dvd

COLD PREY II

4.5 Stars  2008/15/86m

“Revenge is best served cold.”

A.k.a. Cold Prey: Resurrection

Director: Mats Stenberg / Writers: Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland, Roar Uthaug, Axel Hellstenius, Marius Vibe / Cast: Ingrid Bolso Berdad, Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik, Kim Arne Hagen, Fridtjov Saheim, Per Schaaning, Johanna Morck, Mats Eldoen, Andreas Cappelen, Robert Follin.

Body Count: 8


In terms of creating a sequel that picks up immediately after the events of the first filmCold Prey II gets a big fat tick for getting it right.

While on the surface it will appear as little more than a Halloween II rip off, the continuity in play stomps that film to dust, as does the ratcheted up tension, equalling the first film when it comes to edge of your seat fear for people walking around the dark, empty corridors of a clinic.

A day or so after surviving the attack of the hulking Fjellmannen, Jannicke is rescued by a patrol car after her group’s car is reported as being seen abandoned in the mountains. She wakes up later in the soon-to-be-closed clinic in town, police and staff at the foot of her bed anxious to know what happened.

cold prey ii 2008 ingrid bolso berdad

While she recovers, the cops locate the crevasse where the bodies were dumped and repatriate them to the morgue. Meanwhile, the skeleton staff at the clinic are preparing to move on to new lives: Future doctor Camilla is struggling with the desires of her boyfriend, Ole, and fighting off the flirtation of Herman, the remaining doc, and nurse Audhild wants to party and perhaps get it on with rookie cop Svarre, who’s stationed at the clinic while the others investigate the ski lodge of death.

Jannicke asks if she can see her friends, resulting in the sad scene where she gets to say goodbye, with all the previous actors returning to play their dead selves, but the fifth body bag that contains their killer is also there and later, when being prepped for embalming, it appears he’s not so dead after all and the medics stick by their oath and resuscitate.

cold prey ii 2008

Of course, you can never keep a slasher movie killer down, and he’s soon up and slashing, bludgeoning, and breaking the necks of anybody unlucky enough to cross his path. Jannicke is soon engaged in another game of hide and seek, trying to save pre-teen Daniel from being pick-axed, while the police chief tries to learn the truth behind the identity of the Fjellmannan.

Despite Jannicke’s protests, nobody listens and people keep going into the clinic to try and shoot him, until he gets away and heads back to the lodge for the final scrap.

Cold Prey II is, to the original, as Aliens is to Alien - the budget has been cranked and with it the action and special effects inserts. Jannicke’s yearn to survive has been traded with a thirst for violent revenge, and she’s thrown around, through glass tables and into walls a lot more than the first time. She also shares some of the final girl duties with Camilla, who supplies the running and hiding side of affairs early on – though I think in the interests of the film’s emotional punch, she should’ve been made another victim. Ooh, harsh.

cold prey ii

An amazing accomplishment for a sequel of any stature, it really is a continuation rather than a retread, addressing lots of those ‘well, what happened next?’ questions that crop up: We see the cops/rescue squad photographing and cataloguing the victims, the beginning of the official investigation, and Jannicke’s gradual ‘comedown’ – it’s just all thwarted by the reactivation of the killer. Things also end properly and very finally, with Cold Prey III sensibly opting to go back to days of olde and act as the origin tale.

The Big One.

halloween 1978

HALLOWEEN

5 Stars  1978/18/88m

“The night HE came home!”

Director/Writer: John Carpenter / Writer: Debra Hill / Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Andrews, Brian Andrews, Nick Castle.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “You know it’s Halloween. I guess everyone deserves one good scare.”


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I’ve been avoiding reviewing Halloween for a few years for two reasons: Firstly that it’s just so huge – what else can I add to a film that’s probably been put under the microscope more times than co-boogeyman Donald Trump has hit on underage girls?

Also, it means I have to troll back through eight years of posts and link it. And it gets mentioned a lot. And I’m old. And tired.

Stand by for lots of pictures.

halloween young michael myers clown 1978

Watching it today, it struck me that I obviously hadn’t seen it with decent picture and sound before, as I heard a whole lot more than usual. Never knew Don’t Fear the Reaper was playing in the car during Laurie and Annie’s drive to their babysitting gigs before.

The simplicity of the story belies its genius: Madman incarcerated for homicide as a child breaks out of his institution fifteen years later and returns to his small down to slay anew.

halloween 1978 body

Everyone always forgets about this poor chap.

As a much-analysed film, Halloween‘s numerous bloopers are brought up a lot, so viewing it with such familiarity sometimes turns into a game of spot-the-mistake, which isn’t a good way to enjoy any film, unless it’s really bad or pretentious.

halloween 1978 laurie tommy myers house

“Lonnie Lamb said bad things happened there.”

What I noticed in this viewing was a significant difference in acting ability between Pleasence and Curtis and the rest of the cast. Of course, it goes in layers, but the primary offenders are bit-parters: Laurie’s dad and his robotic delivery of “don’t forget to drop the keys off…”, the kids tormenting Tommy at school, Judith Myers’ boyfriend.

halloween 1978 bullies

It would’ve been awesome for this trio to have re-appeared in one of the sequels and gotten cut up.

But even within the main cast, Curtis outshines everyone around her with her natural talent: She is the shy girl down the street, sensible and dependable, you would have her babysit for you anytime.

On the flipside of Laurie’s bookish good girl, there’s the lurking presence of evil that’s Michael Myers. Far from most of his ensuing imitators and even his own incarnations in the gazillion sequels, Michael stalks Laurie far beyond most slasher movie killers, who turn up a few minutes before the kill for a bit of peering from behind trees n’ stuff. The first time I watched Halloween, probably close to twenty-five years ago, Michael appearing outside school, behind the hedge, amongst the laundry, was far scarier than a masked maniac manifesting out of the blue with an axe. In that scenario, the threat is sudden and obvious. Somebody watching from out of reach, turning up wherever you go, is fucking creepy.

halloween 1978 michael myers car staking

…outside school

halloween 1978 michael myers behind hedge

…in your street

halloween 1978 michael myers stalking laundry

…in your neighbour’s laundry!

Not so far removed from the recent trend of people in clown masks just trying to freak folks out during October. Maybe that’s what Laurie thought it was? Course, there were no slasher films around to teach her otherwise!

Unlike the genre it ushered in, Halloween takes its sweet time before killing anybody new once Michael reaches his home turf, but is never boring. Carpenter sustains the tension of his presence throughout the scenes, bolstered by our genuine fear for Laurie, as the girl it’s impossible to dislike. I defy anybody to come up with a genuine reason to hate her.

halloween 1978 laurie strode jamie lee curtis

One of the many academic studies I’ve read on the film goes on about how her friends Annie and Lynda are devalued in opposition to Laurie. True, it’s big-picture difficult to imagine the three of them being friends, and Rob Zombie’s horrendous remake of these moments only showed how far we’ve moved on from nice people up for the slaughter towards wanting the cast to bite it.

halloween 1978 annie nancy loomis

There are still plenty of sweet moments between the girls, reminding us that horror (and in particular slasher) movies give actresses much more to do than play the supporting wife, mother, femme fatale. Laurie’s need for her friends is nicely realised, even if they mock her. Listen when Annie tells her she’s losing it, to which Laurie replies “I already lost it,” and Annie quips: “Doubt that.”

halloween 1978 dr loomis and sheriff brackett

What also defines Halloween in its status as the most important teen horror film that ever was is that while a new audience would laugh and point at all the cliches on show, they simply didn’t exist in 1978. Hell, didn’t exist until June of that year.

A girl I went to college with once wrote it off as crap because: “I knew he would sit up behind her!” Of course you knew, because Halloween was so good at everything it did that ten thousand filmmakers copied it.

halloween 1978

In the wake of scores of bodies we’ve seen drop from trees and fall out of closets, the funhouse moment of Laurie discovering her dead friends does seem contrived and a little comical (Lynda’s face-of-death), but it’s just one of countless genre boxes Halloween ticked long before everyone else did it.

halloween 1978 lynda closet dead

Hey Lynda…

 

halloween 1978 lynda dead closet

Lynda!

halloween 1978 lynda dead closet

LYNDAAAA!!!!

What else can be said? While I’ve always been more of a Friday the 13th guy (the early ones, that is) and placed Halloween third in my countdown of The 100 Greatest Slasher Films, only a fool would try and deny in terms of importance and influence that it’s the best slasher movie, and probably teen-horror film of all time.

Blurbs-of-interest: Pleasence returned in parts 245, and 6, plus Alone in the Dark and Phenomena; Curtis came back for II, H20 and Resurrection, and was also the final girl in Terror Train and Prom Night and was the only good thing in Ryan Murphy’s dreadful Scream QueensP.J. Soles took on heroine duties for Innocent Prey and was also in 90s comic slasher Uncle Sam and then the crazy doom monger lady in The Tooth Fairy; Charles Cyphers returned for the sequel.

Here are some more awesome stills:

halloween 1978 wallace house

This shot is ever so creepy. Do you reckon the Wallaces ever moved back in?

halloween 1978 michael dressed as ghost

Michael certainly had a sense of humour.

halloween 1978 annie dead bed gravestone

halloween 1978 closet scene

The old trapped-in-the-closet-while-the-killer-breaks-in routine.

halloween 1978 dr loomis donald pleasence

Series mainstay and, dare I say it, true star: Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis.

“That was the boogeyman,” a tearful Laurie says.

“Yes, as a matter of fact it was.”

Perfect.

Most likely not to die. Despite requirement to.

most likely to die 2015 dvdMOST LIKELY TO DIE

3 Stars  2015/81m

“One killer reunion.”

Director: Anthony DiBlasi / Writer: Laura Brennan / Cast: Heather Morris, Ryan Doom, Perez Hilton, Chad Addison, Tess Christiansen, Johnny Ramey, Tatum Miranda, Marci Miller, Jason Tobias, Skyler Vallo, Jake Busey.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Oh please, like this Cabin in the Woods shit really happens!”


There’s yet to be a slasher film at a proper reunion. You know, scores of attendees back at their old school or a hotel, a DJ, stupid ‘most improved’ prizes – and a killer on the loose. Spoilers ensue.

Instead, virtually everything seems to pivot on a small group of wrongdoers lured to a cabin/house/dilapidated schoolhouse where they’re assembled to pay for some dreadful past sin.

Most Likely to Die is not a departure from this cheap tried and tested method – but nearly is. Set entirely at a house in the hills on the Californian coast, nine old high school pals gather to prep for the proper reunion the next night. Where are their hosts? Were they murdered at the beginning?

Our girl to watch is professional poker player Gaby, ex-girlfriend of TV star Brad, who has brought along his supermodel girlfriend, Bella. On the wall, nine yearbook photos with their ‘most likely to…’ tag beneath: ‘Get what she wants’, ‘eat anything’, ‘see their name in lights’ etc., all of which will come true in the most gruesome of ways.

mltd2

Seems as if they were all party to a nasty prank on high school loser John Dougherty, who later brought a gun to school and was packed off to juvie hall.

Now, somebody dressed in a blue graduation gown, complete with razor-edged mortar board, is stalking the house, doing them in as per their quote. Well, some of them. The body count stays disappointingly low. Note to producers: IF YOU’RE GOING TO CAST PEREZ HILTON IN A SLASHER FILM, MAKE SURE HE’S DEAD BY THE TIME THE CREDITS ROLL.

Yeah, that’s right – the maligned spreader of mean gossip is spared a slashtastic death. I’m relatively indifferent to the man, I saw him acting like a dick on Celebrity Big Brother a few years ago, but that’s where my exposure to him pretty much begins and ends. The fact that he’s a despised limelighter should mean that his inclusion in a body count horror film would capitalise on the opportunity, much like almost-namesake Paris Hilton was done away with in House of Wax. Fatal error. Or rather, not fatal enough.

mltd1

Nevertheless, there’s enough to enjoy here for a once-over: Above average production attributes, with some nice shots, Morris is good as the heroine, and there’s a decent scene where she’s stuck down a gated alleyway, locked one end, not at the other. Guess where the killer is.

The outcome of the mystery isn’t surprising so much as it elicits a ‘meh’ of a revelation, and way too many of the characters survive, though notably all females who aren’t the heroine are laid to waste. Hmm…

Blurbs-of-interest: Jake Busey was in Identity; Ryan Doom was in Circle.

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