Tag Archives: star power

Shoot the cute

SWEET SIXTEEN

2 Stars  1982/18/84m

“All the boys are dying to meet Melissa.”

Director: Jim Sotos / Writer: Erwin Goldman / Cast: Bo Hopkins, Susan Strasberg, Patrick Macnee, Don Stroud, Dana Kimmell, Aleisa Shirley, Don Shanks, Steve Antin, Sharon Farrell, Logan Clarke, Michael Pataki.

Body Count: 6


A jumbling mess of a film, somewhat forebearing All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

Promiscuous teen Melissa Morgan (Shirley) is approaching her sixteenth birthday. She likes boys and boys like her right back. But all of those who seem to take an interest sooner or later end up stabbed to death. Did Melissa do it?

Bo Hopkins is the local sheriff and freakin’ Dana Kimmell (!) is his goody-goody daughter who keeps finding bodies and somehow immersing herself into the centre of things. They’re both annoyingly cute. So much so they keep saying “don’t be cute”, “no, you’re being cute.” After the 43rd time Kimmell says it, I wanted Jason to appear and lop off her head as promised.

The killer is eventually revealed to the surprise of nobody in spite of their overwrought gasping. Amazingly, Dana’s response doesn’t feature the term “cute”. Could it have been more obvious? Does Jason shit in the woods?

Muscular cast brushed aside, Sweet Sixteen is a real struggle from start to finish, a mess of odd pacing and cringe-inducing dialogue, with no vibrancy commonly found in early 80s death-to-teens movies. A real shame.

Blurbs-of-interest: Hopkins was also in A Crack in the Floor and Uncle Sam; Michael Pataki was in Graduation Day and Halloween 4; Susan Strasberg was the teacher in Bloody Birthday; Don Shanks played Michael Myers in Halloween 5, the fisherman in I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, and the coach in Urban Legends: Bloody Mary; Dana Kimmell was, of course, shrieky heroine Chris in Friday the 13th Part III.

Hometown glory

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN

3.5 Stars  2014/86m

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rajon / Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa / Cast: Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, Gary Cole, Anthony Anderson, Joshua Leonard, Travis Tope, Ed Lauter, Edward Herrmann, Denis O’Hare, Spencer Treat Clark, Wes Chatham, Danielle Harris.

Body Count: 14


Who remembers Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows? Anyone? No? OK, so it was critically slain and sank without a trace, but that was one sequel that picked a particularly smart way of being a sequel without actually being one. Sorta.

Instead of sending more teens into the woods to be messed with, Book of Shadows was set in a world where the phenomenon of the movie, The Blair Witch Project, was observed. It was once-removed and so was able to comment on the 1999 film as a film rather than events true to the world of the sequel.

This is also the tack of this not-remake of 1976 creepy-sleeper of the same name, which is a true story concerning one undetected masked killer who did away with five people in the small Texas/Arkansas border town of (imaginatively named) Texarkana in 1946. Sixty-seven years after the murders, the thirty-seven-year-old slasher flick is shown in the town on Halloween. At said event is shy Jami, whose jock-date Corey agrees to go someplace else when it becomes clear she’s not enjoying it.

Unfortunately for them, their little private party in a lovers lane is crashed by a hooded killer who orders them out of the car at gunpoint and knifes poor Corey to death, allowing Jami to escape on the condition she tells “them” it’s all for Mary. The town goes into shock at the copycat murder and it’s not long before a second couple are attacked, this time both are slain, and the paranoia of the 40s makes an unwelcome return to Texarkana.

Meanwhile, Jami, intrigued by the killer’s message to her, begins conducting research into the murders of the 40s and who the killer might’ve been. Police forces from both sides of the town attempt to cooperate, shadowing Jami’s every movement. She finds an unlikely ally in old classmate Nick, with whom she pays a visit to the son of the director of the 1976 film (inhale!), who believes he knows who the original killer was…

Interspersed with clips from the old film, Sundown 2014 is more of a slasher flick, albeit set over a period of months rather than days, but as the killer has gone to school on the movie, the infamous trombone scene is recreated in a gruesome murder of two bi-curious boys (producer Ryan Murphy’s presence in force), and there’s a bleakly realised mass-shooting at a gas station.

Considering the identity of the real killer has never been resolved, it’s strange that here everything is quite neatly wrapped up. In this sense, and the fact that there was so much story to wade through, The Town That Dreaded Sundown would have made a really good miniseries. There’s a lot to cram into 86 minutes: Jami’s black past, her grandmother’s (the always adorable Veronica Cartwright) hinky demeanor – is she keeping secrets??? – a budding romance between the teen leads, police forces from neighbouring states, and the duo mysteries of who the killers were and are.

Thus, it’s never boring, not for a second. And that cast!! Cartwright! Cole! Anderson! O’Hare! Leonard! Herrmann! Again, they would be even more excellent if only there was more time.

The production is handsome, far more sophisticated on a visual level than most other contemporary slasher films, and really brings the Americana of the locale to the forefront, with particular attention to accents and attitudes. Aguirre-Sacasa has made a beautiful looking horror movie, a rare beast if ever there was, and, typically, one that bypassed a theatrical release completely.

Blurbs-of-interest: Ryan Murphy later created the TV series Scream Queens; Danielle Harris has a cameo role as ‘Townsperson #2′ but be damned if I could spot her!; Gary Cole was also in Cry_Wolf; Anthony Anderson was in Urban Legends: Final Cut and Scream 4; Edward Herrmann was in Death Valley; Josh Leonard – of The Blair Witch Project - was in Hatchet and Madhouse.

Get well soon

HALLOWEEN II

3 Stars  1981/18/89m

“The nightmare isn’t over.”

Director: Rick Rosenthal / Writers: John Carpenter & Debra Hill / Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Hunter Von Leer, Nancy Stephens, Pamela Susan Shoop, Dick Warlock, Gloria Gifford, Tawny Moyer, Ana Alicia, Leo Rossi, Ford Rainey.

Body Count: 10-13 (depending on who’s counting)

Laughter Lines: “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.”


Lovers of this sequel (and that guy who stalks its IMDb message board claiming it’s better than the original and proclaiming anybody who doesn’t agree to be a moron) may question why it never featured in the Top 100 here. Well, wonder no more as we enter the topsy-turvy world of Halloween II

Things begin so well, picking up from the moment Doc Loomis shoots Michael Myers out of the window at the Doyle house. When he sees Michael has vanished, he hits the streets looking for him. Meanwhile, the cops and reporters arrive on the scene as word spreads as to the murders… Michael is using backyards to escape and find Laurie, who’s been whisked off to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.

Carnage breaks out in town, Loomis misidentifies a trick or treater as Myers, who is subsequently hit by a squad car and burnt to a cinder (and turns out to be the crush Laurie had mentioned to Annie!). All the while, Laurie is put into an unguarded room at the world’s emptiest hospital, and it’s not long before Michael works out where she is.

Thus, the knife fodder in Halloween II comes in the form of the hospital staff: Sexy nurses, horny paramedics, dumpy security guards. Unusually for an 80s slasher film, it’s the middle stalk n’ slash act that is the least interesting here. The cast of victims are largely indistinguishable, with so little dialogue bandied out between them, there’s nobody really to feel sorry for when they bite it. And it features that most annoying quirk in horror: People who might have died. Jimmy. Gone, or not gone? He was absent at the end, as per Paul in Friday the 13th Part 2, so I’m voting gone.

Halloween II also carries an erring sexist undertone: Male victims are killed quickly and forgettably or off camera, whereas the young nubile nurses are subjected to longer, far more voyeur-heavy demises. The reactive element to the box office bell ringing of Friday the 13th and its gorier imitations is evidently strived for here, with more blood than atmos, and the less savory genre elements ticked off in order: There are boobs, drugs, and lots of wandering off to investigate strange sounds. The original film may have invented half of these tropes, seeing them approached in such a blase way here is just sad.

Things eventually come down to Laurie on the run through the hospital basement and car park in a series of near-misses that simply shift what happened in the Wallace house to a new locus. While that’s going on, Dr Loomis has learnt that Laurie is actually Michael’s other sister, and speeds off to the hospital. A decent showdown ensues and the story comes to a very final end. One would think.

Carpenter and Hill’s script is as weary as Curtis appears to be of playing the same final girl role for the fifth or sixth time (and her wig sucks); Pleasence throws himself in admirably, but the crowded supporting cast blur into their one-note roles without leaving much of an impression.

Functional and occasionally brilliant (possibly the inserts Carpenter supposedly directed to amp up the violence in post production) but so off-kilter with the excellence of the original that it could only ever disappoint, though something of a minor masterpiece compared to the bewildering Halloween III.

Blurbs-of-interest: Curtis returned in Halloween H20 and Resurrection, plus was already in Prom Night, Terror Train, Road Games, and The Fog as well as the TV series Scream Queens; Pleasence came back for all Michael Myers Halloweens until his death after shooting the sixth. He was also in Alone in the Dark and Phenomena; Nancy Stephens returned for Halloween H20; Jeffrey Kramer and Lance Guest both appeared in Jaws movies (1/2 and The Revenge, respectively); Rick Rosenthal later directed Halloween: Resurrection and had a cameo in Lost After Dark.

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.

Showin’ out – VeVo chats to Phil Hawkins

Vegan Voorhees ventured a little bit outside of its comfort zone this week by using that NCTJ qualification and conducting an actual interview!

The subject of my horror-inquisition was Phil Hawkins, director of about-to-drop Robert Englund-starring Brit horror The Last Showing, which enjoys it’s European premiere on August 22nd at FrightFest, and features that unsung head-bands and cannibals Craven-shamer, The Hills Have Eyes Part II. My life’s mission to up its rep from ‘absolute shite’ to ‘mediocre’ was on.

Read, and be excited…

VeVo: Hey Phil, how’s it going?

PH: I’m very good thanks.

VeVo: For the benefit of anybody who doesn’t know, can you give a summary of what The Last Showing is about from your perspective?

PH: It’s about a life-long projectionist (Englund) who is made redundant at a multiplex that he’s given his life to and decides to exact his revenge on a generation that seems to no longer require his skills. Because we know everything’s gone digital in multiplexes now, and it’s a shame all these very talented projectionists have effectively become extinct. A lot have given their lives to the craft, in some cases it’s been a skill handed down through generations, so that was the inspiration behind that character of Stuart, but given a nice psychological horror twist.

VeVo: What caught my eye when I was scanning the FrightFest line-up was the inclusion in the film of The Hills Have Eyes Part II, which is a film I am genuinely quite fond of, despite it’s ornate naffness…

PH: [Laughs] Wow! One of few I imagine… I think even Wes Craven disowned it.

VeVo tries – and fails – to justify strange love for awful movie: What are your thoughts on it?

PH: I have to say I’m probably not in the same camp as you, though I’ve obviously watched it a number of times. The thinking behind it was that as The Last Showing is a sort of meta-horror, so it’s allowed me a kind of canvas to sort of air my frustrations on what modern day horror has become. You’ll see a lot in the film of Robert Englund’s character ranting about the modern day movies, and that’s effectively my voice really. What I wanted to do was highlight the difference between horror on film and the “real horror” of what the couple is about to go through. So I wanted the most ridiculous, over the top horror movie that could be found. Given our budget we couldn’t have had the pick of anything, and also because it’s Wes Craven, and he’s a legend of horror, and we’re able to reference him in the movie, which is fun because of the connection between him and Robert. I hadn’t actually seen it beforehand, I’d heard of it because of what you hear about it, but it made me smile.

My favourite horror movies are things like Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, The Exorcist, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, films with a bit more of a psychological slant on horror. Any film that affects your perception of reality or your own mind, that’s ultimately scarier than torture porn for me. So The Hills Have Eyes Part II was useful to show the sort of slapstick of horror, and contrast that with the couple watching it. I also like that Allie (played by Emily Berrington) is the one who is the horror nut and convinces Martin (Finn Jones) to attend a midnight screening. It does exactly what we needed it to.

VeVo: What do you hope The Last Showing will be able to bring to horror that’s kind of absent from recent output?

PH: Hopefully just that people enjoy it as a movie, but it gave me the opportunity to kind of comment on horror as a whole. I could take the tick-boxes that horror audiences enjoy and slightly twist them, because we have Robert Englund as a movie maker creating his own horror, so we’re almost able to have those cliched moments with the film-within-a-film aspect.

[We take a couple of minutes to correctly sing the praises of The Orphanage]

It’s certainly not to say that all modern horror is awful, because that’s not the case, but for my personal tastes I wanted to air a few frustrations through hopefully what is a fun and entertaining horror thriller. I wrote the kind of film I would want to see, and it’s good that it’s been embraced by horror fans and got it’s slot at FrightFest.

VeVo:  I’m sure you’re sick of being asked, but considering his legendary status, how was it working with Robert Englund?

PH: The thought of it was more nerve-wracking than the practice, but he read the script very quickly and we had a two hour phone conversation talking about the script and his character, and he had so many ideas about it and he responded so well to it. He has this encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema, he got all the little references I’d written in. It’s also a whole arc for his character, he’s not just a cameo, and he saw the fun in it. I never thought we’d get him in a million years. He has an amazing commitment and dedication on set, because he genuinely cared about the project, so it was a pleasure working with him. He has a real respect for the fans and the genre.

VeVo: So, comparably, how did the young actors (Berrington and Jones) cope as the protagonists, with the weight of acting against Robert Englund?

PH: Both are rising stars in their own rights, Finn was in Game of Thrones and Emily in The White Queen, 24, and The Inbetweeners 2, so it was an amazing crop of talent with a horror legend and the ‘fresh blood’, as it were. They brought so many ideas and different ways of approaching a scene that you might not have thought of, which is always fascinating for me as a director. The amazing energy of someone like Finn against the old-school energy of Robert creates a really interesting dynamic in their scenes together.

VeVo: I saw Finn in Wrong Turn 5 a couple of years ago.

PH: I’ve not seen that one, but I think Finn probably had some fun with that. He has a speech in The Last Showing about Hollywood photocopying something over and over against with diminishing quality, so it kind of ties in nicely. If they do so many wrong turns, do they eventually make it back around to the beginning?

VeVo: Well, Wrong Turn 6 is playing at FrightFest, so there’s a chance…

We talk for a bit about production quality (95% of The Last Showing was shot via a crane to avoid the handheld shakiness the plagues British cinema), the ‘up north’ cinema where it was shot, and return to my love of The Hills Have Eyes Part II. Phil is still not convinced.

VeVo: What’s next for you?

PH: I run a production company, so we have a slate of film we’re producing. A film called Baptism, shot on the London Underground with a slightly bigger budget than we had here. It’s a really exciting time at the moment and hopefully the horror fans at FrightFest and beyond will enjoy the film.

Phil Hawkins (centre) with the cast of The Last Showing

There we have it, British non-zombie horror is far from DOA after all. Catch The Last Showing at FrightFest on August 22nd, where Phil – and Robert Englund – will be taking some Q&A and then on DVD from the 25th.

Then return here where it will totally be reviewed in the near future… possibly as part of a double bill with HHE II. Which I still think is awesome.

Thanks to Paul Bradshaw for the tips.

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