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Valley of the Overlooked Franchises: Maniac Cop

Yeeeee in a time when trust in the cops not to shoot you is lower than a Madonna chart debut, it’s surprising that they’re remaking it. But until that happens – and also, if ever – let’s revisit the trilogy of original 80s-into-90s thriller-cum-slasher-zombie flicks. Some spoilers follow.

*

maniac cop 1988

MANIAC COP

3.5 Stars  1988/18/82m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.”

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Sheree North, Robert Z’Dar.

Body Count: 16

Laughter Lines: “You always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That’s a good way to blow your balls off!”


RoboCopSumurai CopBeverly Hills Cop, Kindergarten CopPsycho Cop and Maniac Cop – sure were a lot of ‘Something Cop’ movies around in the mid-80s-to-early-90s. While most of these garnered a following – maybe not Psycho Cop - and several generated sequels of their own, Maniac Cop is a strange venture, a weird fusion of ideas from action thrillers with some voodoo-slasher shit mixed in too.

Starting as so many serial killer films have, a young woman is walking home alone in New York City, tormented by some thugs, she runs into a uniformed cop – BUT THEN HE KILLS HER! The thugs are the only witnesses but nobody believes them. Soon after, a guy is pushed face down into drying cement and a driver slashed to death over a traffic violation – all in the first twelve minutes.

New York is in the throes of terror – which of the boys in blue has turned to slaying the residents? Grizzled detective Tom Atkins is on the case and in shepherded into suspecting Bruce Campbell’s beat cop, Jack Forrest, after his wife turns up dead she follows him, having received a series of calls from a mystery voice who keeps telling her that Jack is the killer. Turns out Forrest was just having it away with vice cop Theresa Mallory (Landon). Concerned to clear his name, the two of them investigate the suspicious death of a cop sent to Sing Sing some years earlier and was beaten to death by inmates – or was he?

maniac cop 1988 tom atkins bruce campbell robert z'dar laurene landon

Before Forrest and Mallory can alert the important people to the truth, the undead cop – old-style super-cop Matt ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ Cordell – goes on a rampage around their precinct, even turning on his old flame after she tries to tell him he’s losing control.

Maniac Cop crams a lot into 82 minutes (look for Sam Raimi’s cameo) and is thus never boring. Cordell’s carnage-creating romp around HQ is expertly done; A scene where Malloy is handcuffed to a body; Car chases with slo-mo crashes, and all manner of creative shots and visual cues that serve to keep the horrors of the killer’s face out of shot. A longer cut with more to say on the city-in-fear perspective would be interesting, as that kinda gets left behind once our leading lovers suss out what’s really going on and who has covered up what.

Lustig and Cohen worked together on all three movies and separately have a few slasher credits between them (notably, Lustig directed the nasty Maniac, which also makes the most of NYC as a player), but this is arguably a stand-out. Although rarely bandied in with slasher movies, it has enough elements to include it, even if some of those were traded in for more mainstream concerns in the follow-ups.

*

maniac cop 2 1990MANIAC COP 2

3 Stars  1990/18/84m

“You have the right to remain silent… forever.” – again??

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z’Dar, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Lou Bonacki, Paula Trickey, Charles Napier.

Body Count: 32

Laughter Lines: “Shooting Cordell is only good for getting his attention.”


At the end of the first one, it was plainly obvious Matt Cordell wasn’t done with his Make New York Obedient Again missive, and so he returns shortly after his ‘death’ to take revenge, quickly doing away with Forrest and Mallory, who transfer the reigns of hero over to Robert Davi’s Detective McKinney and a department shrink (Christian), who has had a hard time believing Mallory, until she comes face to face with Cordell for herself.

After this solid first act, things begin to wobble as Cordell inexplicably teams up with serial killer-of-strippers Leo Rossi, breaks into Sing Sing to finish off the inmates who ‘murdered’ him, and go on a machine gun spree at police HQ, which explains that sky-high body count.

There are still some great scenes, peaking with Landon and Christian in a cab, attacked by Cordell, who handcuffs the latter to the steering wheels and sends her off down the city streets while he takes care of Mallory for good.

Some fun parts, but it lacks the charm of the first one. Joe Spinnell was originally to play the role taken by Leo Rossi, but died before production began and so the film carries a dedication to him.

*

maniac cop 3

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE

2.5 Stars  1992/18/81m

“The wrong arm of the law is back.”

A.k.a. MC3: Maniac Cop 3

Director: William Lustig / Writer: Larry Cohen / Cast: Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Robert Z’Dar, Paul Gleason, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Julius Harris, Doug Savant, Bobby Di Cicco.

Body Count: at least 18


A religious oddball resurrects Matt Cordell for no reason, just as a decorated female cop (Becker) is shot during an armed robbery and set up by the media to be a Cordell-like villain. Our maniac cop develops a bit of a crush on her and sets about clearing her name in the only way he knows how – by killing all of those responsible, as well as anyone else who crosses his path.

Davi returns as McKinney, this time joined by Caitlin Dulany as a doctor who just stands around in designer workwear looking pretty and screaming on cue.

More in the mould of a slasher film than the previous entry, but loses itself in a series of plot holes you could navigate the Titanic through. Still, as before, it’s a fun ride with lush production values and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Had so much time not passed, and Lustig not quit the project (his original cut was shorter than an hour!), from that ending we could’ve expected Bride of Maniac Cop to follow in 1994.

Overall blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in My Bloody Valentine 3D; Bruce Campbell appears briefly in Intruder; Robert Z’Dar was also in Grotesque; Michael Learner was in National Lampoon’s Class Reunion; Leo Rossi was Bud in Halloween II; Robert Forster was in Lustig’s Uncle Sam and also the 1998 Psycho remake; Charles Napier was in Camping Del Terrore and Wacko; Jackie Earle Haley was the new Freddy Krueger; Bobby Di Cicco was in The Baby Doll Murders; William Smith was in Valley of Death.

Express Elevator to Hell… going down

botched 2007

BOTCHED

3 Stars  2007/15/91m

“Russian Mafia, insane hostages, twin serial killers… Ritchie Donovan’s luck has run out.”

Director: Kit Ryan / Writers: Derek Boyle, Eamon Friel, Raymond Friel / Cast: Stephen Dorff, Jaime Murray, Bronagh Gallagher, Geoff Bell, Hugh O’Conor, Jamie Foreman, Russell Smith, Sean Pertwee, Norma Sheahan, Gene Rooney, Edward Duly Baker.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “You have to get the police – various people are trying to kill me.”


Definitely a first for a slasher movie – a virtuoso mix of gore and slapstick comedy, with Dorff as an American grafter caught up in the theft of a sacred Russian artifact. Things descend into chaos when one of his comrades kills somebody and then the thieves and an elevator full of passengers gets stuck on a secret floor in a Moscow building.

Believing the police are on to them, the trio of crap crooks try to bargain their way to freedom with the release of a hostage, who ends up decapitated by a pair of giant shears. It becomes clear that it’s someone other than the cops keeping them at bay – someone with a cache of weaponry, all of it destined to hack, slash, and skewer through the cast.

botched 2007

If this weren’t bad enough, a group of three seemingly nervous religious women decide to take over the situation and turn the tables on the hostages, a jittery journalist joins forces with a wannabe commando security guard, leaving Dorff with a sexy Junior VP (Murray) to go about things the smart way.

The plot makes a few surprising turns as more above the Ivan the Terrible-lite killer and his purpose is revealed, all of it peppered with some great lines, fart gags, and Three Stooges physical comedy, all the while parodying the likes of Hostel with a very British sense of humour. Botched is like nothing you’ve seen before and definitely not for all tastes, but an entertaining hour and half however you cut, hack, or gut it.

Blurbs-of-interest: Sean Pertwee was in Wilderness; Geoff Bell was also in Tormented and Comedown.

The title and tagline are referring to the hair

grotesque 1988

GROTESQUE

2 Stars  1988/18/89m

“There is a fate worse than death.”

Director/Writer: Joe Tornatore / Writer: Mikel Angel / Cast: Linda Blair, Tab Hunter, Donna Wilkes, Guy Stockwell, Luana Patten, Brad Wilson, Michelle Bensoussan, Nels Van Patten, Sharon Hughes, Charles Dierkop, Billy Frank, Robert Z’Dar, Bunky Jones [as Bunki Z], Robert Apisa.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “My ass doesn’t get cold” / “I don’t doubt it, that’s because you think with your ass and not your brain.”


For a few years, when people said ‘I cannot even’ to express their speechlessness over trivial things, I was confused. ‘Can’t even what?’ I thought. But then came Grotesque into my life, sent by my good friend Ross, who was having a DVD clear out (I tried to palm off 12 Deaths of Christmas on him but he’d already read what I had to say about it and dodged a bullet).

Seriously, what the fuck happened here? This entire project appears to be some sort of exercise in LSD experimentation while writing a film script. Read on, but beware necessary spoilers so that I can stress the bizarre experience of watching it.

grotesque 1988

Long boring credits take us into a film-within-a-film intro, where some old lady is brushing her hair while some dude in a cloak approaches. Then suddenly she’s a young chick. Then old again. Ugh. Turns out it’s a screening of a new film, where the FX work has been done by wonderous artist Orville Kruger, who blabs some exposition that he’s having a little family reunion at the cabin in the mountains this weekend…

Next we meet his daughter Lisa and her friend Kathy as they grab dinner before driving up there. Kathy (Donna Wilkes, most famous for her non-stop shrieking in Jaws 2) is sad over man trouble, while Lisa (Blair) is rocking the first of many hair-don’ts Grotesque will spring on us:

linda blair bad hair grotesque 1988

The girls are warned by the local shopkeep that some ‘freaks’ happened by earlier, and we meet them in a scene: Eight punk-rock youths looking like they teleported from 1977, led by the very unstable Scratch, who looks a cross between Billy Idol and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is seemingly modelled on Zed from the Police Academy movies. Their VW bus has run into trouble and they flag down Lisa and Kathy on the road, basically threaten them, and reveal to the audience they’re planning to invade the cabin, that they killed ‘the entire family’ last time, and Scratch yells a lot.

Orville plays some cruddy pranks on Kathy; Lisa asks her mom how Patrick is. Who is Patrick? Hmm… best wait and see. Night falls soon after the ‘punkers’ break in and haul everyone inside to the den, where they assault and kill Orville, shrieking about where the money/jewellery/dope is stashed. The posturing is dementedly bad, with acting so terrible I dread to think what the other takes looked like if they chose this.

grotesque 1988

Anyway, the ‘punkers’ kill Mom and Kathy, while Lisa dives out of a window and runs off up the mountain in her PJ’s, chased by one of the gang. The others split up to look for things and find a secret room behind a bookcase where Patrick resides. Patrick is your off-the-shelf movie mongoloid: Hunched back, moans to communicate, and hideously deformed features. He’s also super strong of course, and wastes no time offing a few of the intruders and chasing the others into the night.

Morning comes and the shopkeeper from earlier drops by to go fishing with Orville and finds several bodies. Patrick kills off all but the two lead ‘punkers’, and Lisa has been strangled into a coma. Now, up rocks Tab Hunter as Uncle Rod, who is a surgeon. He, shopkeeper dude, and some cops head up the mountain and shoot Patrick dead before he can kill Scratch and Shelly, who are arrested, but swear they just stopped by for help with their van and Patrick killed everybody.

grotesque 1988 patrick

There was still about 30 minutes left at this point, so I was clueless as to what the fuck was going to happen: Patrick has gone from gross-face to no-face, Lisa is in a coma, and there are two ‘punkers’ left. The most nasty two. A very long good-cop/bad-cop sequence unrolls, all the time I was watching the clock and it was still telling me there’s 30 minutes left. HOW, universe?

Lisa dies in surgery; Scratch and Shelly are released; Tab Hunter comes back and manages to kidnap them at gunpoint and take them back to the cabin where he straps them to gurneys, reveals he is Patrick’s father and pulls of a latex mask made for him by his late bro. and then operates on their faces, locking them in Patrick’s secret room. This, apparently, is the fate worse than death the tagline alludes to.

grotesque 1988

Wait, there’s still several minutes left??? So, the film melts – it’s all been a screening! And fucking Frankenstein and the Wolfman are in the projection room, bickering about it. They go into the theater and ‘scare’ everyone (they stand there slowly swaying back and forth with their arms out) and we see several of the actors – Blair, Wilkes, Stockwell – run away screaming. Credits.

Well, what the fucking fuck, Grotesque? What are you? How did you happen? Why are there several big names in you? I cannot answer. Perhaps Blair, who served as associate producer, had the dirt of some of them? Who the fuck knows. I’m tripped out though.

Grotesque is crap, but at least funny in that it’s really a series of ‘eh!?’ moments sewed together, maybe it was supposed to be an anthology and suffered too many script changes? I’d recommend it just for the LOLs: The hair, Blair’s natural charm, her amazing sarcastic response to the child who calls to her outside the store, the hair, the diabolical overacting of most of the ‘punkers’, the makeup the girl members of the gang sport, the hair, good-cop/bad-cop 101, fucking bizarre dialogue exchanges, and the hair.

grotesque 1988

Blurbs-of-interest: Linda was, of course, the lead in Hell Night (and thus also Hellego Night) – co-star Nels Van Patten is the brother of her co-star from Hell Night, Vincent Van Patten; Tab Hunter played Blue Grange in Pandemonium; Donna Wilkes was earlier in Schizoid and Blood Song; Bunky Jones was in Hide and Go Shriek; Robert Z’Dar had the title role in the Maniac Cop movies.

“Do you really think it’s a slasher?”

10 to midnight 1983

10 TO MIDNIGHT

3 Stars  1983/18/98m

“A cop… A killer… A deadline…”

Director: J. Lee Thompson / Writer: William Roberts / Cast: Charles Bronson, Lisa Eilbacher, Andrew Stevens, Gene Davis, Wilford Brimley, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeana Tomasina, Kelly Preston [as Kelly Palzis], Iva Lane, Ola Ray.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “If anybody does something like this – his knife has got to be his penis.”


The title of this could be 25 to Four or Quarter Past Eight for all the relevance it has to the film’s content, but perhaps it relates to the time this kind of 80s cop-vs-killer flick always seems to play on late night cable.

Like every other thriller of this ilk, 10 to Midnight pushes forth a rather maverick cop, who has an estranged daughter we know will be targeted by the maniac before the credits roll. In a sort of meta-slasher way, things begin with a crank confessing to murders, stating that when he “catches ‘em breaking the Lord’s Commandments, I slash ‘em with a razor!” while Charles Bronson’s grizzled detective Kessler clacks away at the typewriter.

10 to midnight 1983

Meanwhile, we’re introduced to our skeezy killer, buff young office plod Warren Stacey (Davis), who torments two girls at the movies to serve as an alibi while he creeps out of the bathroom window and drives into the woods where he attacks a pair of lovers going at it in their van, killing the guy straight off, and chasing the nude girl through the trees until she just kinda gives up and cries a lot. What is notable about 10 to Midnight is that the killer is also buck naked when he slashes, so as well as the T&A we expect, there are also some fleeting cock shots, although most of the time his appendage is hidden by branches, bed frames, and other objects in the foreground. Like Austin Powers.

Kessler meets his young new partner, McCann (Stevens), and learn from the victim’s roommate that she kept a diary of every guy she slept with. This information reaches Stacey, who worked with the victim and suspects she may have written about him in her diary, when he attends her funeral. There, he bumps into Kessler’s nursing student daughter, Laurie, who asks if they’ve met before. Stacey breaks into the apartment of his victim to steal the diary – awesomely kept in a a box with ‘My Diary’ emblazoned all over it – and ends up knifing her roomie, who comes home.

10 to midnight 1983

WHAT COULD IT BE???

The cops eventually get to Stacey for an interview and Kessler immediately suspects him, in spite of the cinema alibi, and goes all out to prove it. Stacey takes to stalking Laurie, plaguing her with sexually-explicit crank calls, which leads to McCann hanging around to protect her and them eventually falling for each other, as always happens. This enables the slow repair of father-daughter relationship. There’s a trial, a dismissal, Kessler bugs Stacey until he goes after Laurie and her bouncy nurse friends at their dorm, in the film’s slashiest scene.

10 to Midnight functions entirely predictably when watched anytime after 1990, tidily checking off almost every cliche you could hope for in a Charles Bronson thriller, and is really only memorable for being a bit more exploitative than most, with the liberal attitude to nudity throughout, and the pervy stuff Stacey utters to Laurie during his phone calls.

10 to midnight 1983

It’s clear the character is an amalgamation of Ted Bundy and slayer of nurses Richard Speck: Stacey stalks his nubile victims in his VW Beetle, is athletic and handsome, and ultimately ends up slaughtering most of his victims in their dormitory. When Bundy advised that the cops stage a slasher movie festival to catch the Green River Killer in the mid-80s, he probably would’ve creamed his pants over this one, which borrows heavily from his documented crimes.

Bronson, then 61, looks a little tired out going through the motions, but Eilbacher is a hoot as his sarcastic daughter: “Maybe we should check your prostate?” she says to McCann; “Oh, you’ve got to stop being so shy,” he responds. The other female characters are sketchy at best: Victims who either cower and squeal and make no attempt to fight back, an off-the-shelf mouthy hooker, and the over-acting manager who takes the call informing her of the first murder.

10 to midnight 1983

There’s some surface visual flair, but compared to Thompson’s previous slasher outing, Happy Birthday to Me, which stood out amongst its peers, this seems quite a pedestrian affair. “Do you think it’s a slasher?” someone asks when the murders are being discussed, alluding possibly to early production meetings about what film they were making.

Blurbs-of-interest: Carmen Filpi (the hotel clerk) played the kooky priest who gives Donald Pleasence a ride in Halloween 4; Geoffrey Lewis was also in Out of the Dark and Fingerprints; Wilford Brimley was in Death Valley.

January Sale! 5-for-1 on reviews!

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !

Let’s start 2018 with a 5-for-1 special!

*

class reunion massacre 1976 the redeemer

CLASS REUNION MASSACRE

1 Stars  1976/18/84m

“No more pencils, no more books, no more students…”

A.k.a. The Redeemer; The Redeemer: Son of Satan

Director: Constantine S. Gochis / Writer: William Vernick / Cast: T.G. Finkbinder, Gyr Patterson, Damien Knight, Nick Carter, Nikki Barthen, Jeanetta Arnette, Michael Holdensworth.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “You mustn’t make me chase you – I could die of a heart attack!”


The words most commonly associated with this pre-Halloween outing are surely “what the fuck!?” ’76 wasn’t such a good year for the slasher film; with the much-needed influence of John Carpenter and Sean Cunningham’s groundbreakers replaced by the lamentable likes of Blood Voyage and Drive-In Massacre. It’s not very assuring to state that this is probably the best from that year.

After an unthinkably long and boring shot of a quarry lake and a few credits, a hand rises from the water and a mop-topped child wearing flares and a nasty sweater appears and gets on a passing bus that takes him off to church where he is in the choir. Is it supposed to be abstract? Or is it just mental? What the fuck 1.

Meanwhile, a stranger murders the caretaker of an abandoned school and moulds a mask of his face, then cuts out the yearbook pictures of his six chosen sinners who need to be redeemed for various non-descript reasons. Things finally get underway as the Class of ’67 return for their nine year reunion (What the fuck 2) discover they’re: A) alone, say “where is everybody?” three times in about ten seconds; B) locked in and; C) begin to die by blow-torch, shotgun, knife in the head and drowning.

When lesbian Kirsten is the only one left, you expect a long chase before she gets her own back on the killer… but no. Killer then goes back to the church where the flares-and-sweater boy is, and returns to the lake at the end. What the fuck 3.

Explanations? Drugs would seem to the prime suspect. The film manages to achieve absolutely nothing and so just comes across like a Christian propaganda film. I’m guessing that the hordes of other graduates from ’67 were absolutely delightful in every thinkable way then? Hope their nine year reunions were more fun.

*

STAGE FRIGHTstage fright 1980 nightmares

2 Stars  1980/80m

“Screams of terror silenced only by the splintering of glass!”

A.k.a. Nightmares

Director: John Lamond / Writers: Colin Eggleston, John Lamond & John Michael Howson / Cast: Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis, Max Phipps, John Michael Howson, Briony Behets, Edmund Pegge, Sue Jones, Adele Lewin.

Body Count: 8


An erratically paced and schlocky Aussie production that plays as a kind of homage to Hitchcock, with a killer who favours shards of broken glass to do away with the cast of an independent theatrical production called A Comedy of Death.

Could the nutter be no other than schizophrenic beauty Helen (Neumann, pre-Hell Night decapitation) whose nasty daddy blamed her for causing the car accident that killed her mother seventeen years previously?

There’s not a whole lot of mystery going on here so the supposed ‘twist’ is no more than an invitation for the viewer to groan at the lack of imagination the writer has shown. Nevertheless, it’s not all bad. Stage Fright has a mixture of impressive and wonky performances from its cast, which ties in quite ironically with some of the rantings of hack director Phipps, who is tormented by bitter gay critic Howson (both of whom are expected to meet with the sharp ends of a smashed window sooner or later…)

The UK pre-certificate release is notably shorter than the rest of the world’s, even skipping a couple of early murders and leaving a yawn-worthy long gap between the assembly-line ‘trauma from the past’ opener and the first murder; and the incessant POV work in the backstage area becomes annoying. An amusing take on the Psycho shower-scene in the rain is an eyebrow-raiser towards the end but the film is just way too weird to be more than a passing interest for genre dorks.

*

frightmare 1981 the horror star

FRIGHTMARE

2 Stars  1983/83m

“He was terrifying in life. But even more in DEATH!”

A.k.a. The Horror Star

Director/Writer: Norman Thaddeus Vane / Cast: Ferdinand Mayne, Jennifer Starrett, Luca Bercovici, Nita Talbot, Barbara Pilavin, Jeffrey Combs, Carlene Olson, Scott Thomson, Donna McDaniel, Alan Stock.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “We did something bad! I know something is after me!”


There are so many extraneous elements in this one… A group of film students decide to steal the body of recently departed Christopher Lee-esque star Conrad Razkoff from his extravagant mausoleum, and use him as the centerpiece for a party.

Disgusted by the theft, Conrad’s wife employs a medium to communicate with his spirit and inadvertently brings him back to life to kill his captors. Although it sounds pretty inventive when compared to the stack of its contemporaries – more so as it was shot in 1981 and left for two years.

The paper-thin teen characters are dispatched in quick succession, some by Conrad’s puzzlingly unwarranted psychic abilities, some hands-on, but in all cases with little blood. Under-lit scenes plague this film from start to finish – most of which is set in a gothic mansion that the kids inexplicably have access to, but the scenery is sorely underused. It looks a little like Hell Night but isn’t half as good.

*

PLAYROOMplayroom 1989 a.k.a. schizo

2 Stars  1989/18/84m

“Last stop… is hell.”

A.k.a. Schizo

Director: Manny Coto / Writers: Jackie Earle Haley & Keaton Jones / Cast: Chris McDonald, Lisa Aliff, James Purcell, Jamie Rose, Vincent Schiavelli, Aron Eisenberg, Petar Bozovic.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “He sounded like the fucking Exorcist!


Passable supernatural slasher from the same director as Dr Giggles, and co-written by the future Freddy Krueger! Nicely shot in the former Yugoslavia, where Chris Hayden’s family were murdered years earlier during his father’s archaeological dig of an old tomb. Haunted by fractured memories, Chris is attracted back to the site and takes his magazine editor girlfriend, a photographer, and photographer’s vacuous model significant other.

No sooner do they arrive then his ‘imaginary’ childhood friend Daniel reappears to torment him. Is Daniel actually an immortal Prince who took pleasure in torturing local peasants with a variety of nasty devices set up in the hidden chamber Chris’s father died searching for?

Chris eventually locates Daniel’s ‘playroom’ and the fun begins when he offs his cohorts, while girlfriend Jenny is abducted by the man accused and incarcerated for the murders (late professional weirdo Schiavelli) who has escaped to put an end to the madness.

Although there’s a fair bit going on plotwise, Playroom doesn’t go anywhere with its ideas, quickly doing away with the handful of victims before a laughable store window mannequin (representing Daniel’s true form) stalks Jenny for a short while, and Chris prances around with his pickaxe before his gory comeuppance. The stock threat-isn’t-over ending is a letdown considering how annoying Daniel is, but this is one room that should be off limits hereafter.

*

sleepy hollow 1999SLEEPY HOLLOW

2.5 Stars  1999/15/102m

“Heads will roll.”

Director: Tim Burton / Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker / Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Marc Pickering, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Lisa Marie, Steven Waddington, Claire Skinner.

Body Count: 17


Gothic fantasy movies just don’t come more lush than Tim Burton’s efforts, and in this thinly disguised slasher film,  based on the novel by Washington Irving, a legendary headless horseman lops off the noggins of the inhabitants of the small north eastern town of Sleepy Hollow in 1799.

Johnny Depp (looking much more comfortable than his debut in A Nightmare On Elm Street) plays Ichabod Crane, the constable from New York sent to solve the mystery. As it turns out, the horseman is in fact real and is being controlled by whomever has stolen the skull from his grave. Gorgeous Christina Ricci is his beau, and together with Marc Pickering as the orphaned son of a recent victim, they make an attractive team.

The entire supporting cast ends up decapitated by the murderous ghoul, played to the hilt with some fabulous FX and gory enough slayings. The only drawback is that it lacks a certain something in that when it does get going, it’s never for long enough to excite, and the plays for laughs become too frequent, especially when it could have been really eerie. Apart from that, this is everything you’d expect from a gored-up Tim Burton flick.

Blurbs-of-interest: Stage Fright: Briony Behets and writer Colin Eggleston were later in Cassandra; John Michael Howson was in Houseboat HorrorFrightmare: Luca Bercovici was later in Stag Night; Jeffrey Combs was in Castle Freak and I Still Know What You Did Last SummerPlayroom: Aron Eisenberg was in The Horror Show; Chris McDonald was in The Collection; Jamie Rose was in Just Before Dawn; Vincent Schiavelli was in MiloSleepy Hollow: Depp was in From Hell; Christopher Lee was in Funny Man and Mask of Murder; Lisa Marie was in Silent Night; Marc Pickering was in Kill Keith; Casper Van Dien was in Skeleton Man.

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