Tag Archives: star power

Rough Crossing

misMOON IN SCORPIO

1.5 Stars  1987/18/84m

“There’s a bad moon rising…”

Director: Gary Graver / Writer: Robert S. Aiken / Cast: Britt Ekland, John Phillip Law, William Smith, Louis Van Bergen, April Wayne, Jillian Kesner.

Body Count: 15

Dire-logue: “They were at each other like two roosters all the time.”


As if Blood Voyage wasn’t excruciating enough, how about a film that seems to want to replicate it? Britt Ekland takes the lead and does her career no favours by playing the sole survivor of a murderous rampage aboard a yacht, when three Vietnam vets reunite with their gals for a pleasure cruise.

Someone in the group has recently escaped from the psyche ward and is now killing off the group with a knife and a weird spear-gun thing after setting them adrift (although land is clearly visible in the background about forty yards away). Along with the three traumatised soldiers provoking suspicion, one of their girlfriends is a sexy oddball who keeps telling everybody that the moon is in Scorpio and, when asked what the hell that means, replies that it’s a time for revenge and retribution. Woooo… This, plus looped footage of the moon, are the only links to the otherwise insignificant title. I personally think Big Ass Yacht Massacre would’ve been better.

When the killer is finally revealed, it has absolutely sod all to do with the set up, the Vietnam flashbacks or half the things Ekland covers in her laughable narration, which includes such remarkable insights to the situation – and indeed the slasher subgenre – as: “Who was behind it?” and “When was it going to end?” Best of all is the mis-timed add-lib when one of the men topples on deck. Once he’s regained his composure, Britt says: “suddenly, John (?) fell over!” This yak-track alone awards an extra half star but this is a film only fit for self-harmers who’ve blunted their favourite razor blade.

Blurbs-of-interest: director Graver also helmed Trick or Treats and was the a cinematographer on Twisted Nightmare and Mortuary. Co-producer Fred Olen Ray has “contributed” to several genre films and directed Scalps.

Dream a grisly dream

nightmare_on_elm_street_three2A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS

4 Stars  1987/18/93m

“If you think you’ll get out alive, you must be dreaming.”

Director: Chuck Russell / Writers: Wes Craven, Frank Darabont, Chuck Russell & Bruce Wagner / Cast: Heather Langenkamp, Craig Wasson, Patricia Arquette, Robert Englund, Priscilla Pointer, John Saxon, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Jennifer Rubin, Bradley Gregg, Ira Heiden, Larry Fishburne, Penelope Sudrow, Brooke Bundy, Nan Martin, Dick Cavett, Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “In my dreams…I am the Wizard Master!”


A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 holds the dubious honour of being the first slasher flick I ever saw, way back when I was about 11 or 12, a group of kids together in a TV room at a camp site, an older brother’s video cassette, fear, horror, Freddy!!, nightmares of my own for about six weeks. Never will I watch a horror film again, I said.

Even now, parts of Dream Warriors still give me a familiar shiver as I hark back to all those “little slices of death” as Edgar Allan Poe’s quote begins the flick, the most slasher molded entry in the series and probably the best of the sequels. Attempting to pick up the pieces left by the misfire that was Freddy’s Revenge (the gay one – which has a charm I’ll explore further when I add it to the site), Wes Craven rejoined the production team as a co-writer and first act in his role was to bring Nancy back into the fold.

Nancy, again played by the lovely Heather Langenkampenfussenschmidt, comes to help out at the Springwood Psyche Ward where a group of nightmare plagued teenagers are failing to convince the staff of the existence of their mutual boogeyman and, more importantly, failing to stay alive. We’re inducted into tale with Kristen (Arquette), who has a particularly eerie nightmare where she’s stuck inside Nancy Thompson’s old house – now Freddy’s – and ends up with a slashed wrist.

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The staff, primarily made up of bitchy matriarchal type Pointer, sassy porter Fishburne and Craig Wasson’s flakey but nice doc, think it’s all down to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll and just want the kids to have a good sleep. Awww…that’s it. Nancy’s arrival is followed by two grim deaths, both of which are inexplicably written off as suicides and she, somewhat a little late, tells the remaining kids about Freddy and what he did to her six years earlier.

elm3aHelpfully/contrivedly (you choose), Kristen has the ability to pull other people into her dreams and Nancy tries to turn the kids into ‘Dream Warriors’ using their most fantastical abilities of their wildest dreams against Freddy: wheelchair dork can walk and is the Wizard Master, ex-junkie chick is bad-ass punk, black guy has super strength and Kristen can backflip all over the joint. All the while, Freddy torments Nancy from beyond, scarring poor comatose Joey in the process…

There really should be a comma after 'him'

There really should be a comma after ‘him’

Throw in a creepy nun that only Wasson can see and John Saxon’s cameo as an alcoholic Lt. Thompson and we got ourselves the best type of 80’s horror flick!

"You are the last of the Elm Street children... Again."

“You are the last of the Elm Street children… Again.”

Things manifest in a joint assault against Freddy in the group dream, some of the kids die, some don’t, the creepy-ass nun seems to know a lot about Krueger (hmmm…), mute kid speaks again and there’s a sub-Jason and the Argonauts skeleton-of-death moment that hasn’t dated so well. The vein puppet sequence and “this is your big break into TV” would likely be close to the top in the Best Deaths in Slasher Movie category when the Oscar’s finally decide that this is a base level requirement ignored for too long.

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Dream Warriors is definitively 80’s: the framing, the hair, the music, the general tone of the picture and it’s inventively brutal effects work, something the later films used as their hook when Freddy had become about as scary as a basket of kittens. Characterisations are sharper than Part 2 and the ensuing sequels and there’s still something grossly repellent about Englund as the villain, although this film was most definitely the turning point of the franchise from high-rent Friday the 13th competitor to all-out pop culture icon status where victims became interchangable and nobody cared about them. It was a massive box office hit (outperformed only by Elm Street 4 and, later, Freddy vs. Jason, smashing the hockey masked one out of the running.

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There’s a lot to like about this charismatic and occasionally downright scary film (that kids bike that rolls into Kristen’s room – argh!!! Not the mention the best use of the creepy “One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you”… rhyme). For one thing, it’s not afraid to kill off once important players or sympathetic victims in the name of horror and, perhaps most impressively, is the end credits song by German spandex rockers Dokken, the video of which appears on the DVD as the falsetto squealings of the lead singer defeat Freddy…

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Blurbs-of-interest: Sagoes, Eastman, Bundy and, of course, Englund all returned for the next film, The Dream Master; Sagoes also appeared in The Back Lot Murders. Langenkamp returned in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare with John Saxon, who had also appeared in Welcome to Spring Break, The Baby Doll Murders, Tenebrae and the original Black Christmas. Wasson was in Schizoid. Chuck Russell previously produced Hell Night.

Meltdown

houseofwaxHOUSE OF WAX

3 Stars  2005/15/113m

“Prey. Slay. Display.”

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra / Writers: Charles Beiden, Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes / Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Jared Padalecki, Paris Hilton, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri’chard.

Body Count: 6


There are a lot of reasons that we should hate House of Wax: it’s a remake, it’s chock full of unrealistically good looking teen stars from various TV shows and Paris Hilton’s in it. Yes, America’s answer to Jodie Marsh (*shudder*) previously had a small role in the craptacular Nine Lives where she played a catty American fashionista (a stretch) and here, as girlfriend to Elisha Cuthbert’s textbook heroine, she does pretty well with the role and had to suffer much of the film’s advertising campaign centering around the opportunity to see her die!

Elisha and Paris are girlfriends to a couple of guys heading to a big football game; Jared Padalecki is Elisha’s squeeze and they are irritated by the presence of her twin brother Chad Michael Murray and his dorky buddy. Paris’s BF is – gasp! – black and doesn’t get much to do for the entire film. They camp out and the next morning find one of the cars immobile so Elisha and Jared stick around to go and find a new car part while the others skip off to their sacred game.

how1They end up in the tiny township of Ambrose, home to Trudy’s House of Wax (“it is wax – literally!”) and Jared is then captured by a looney psycho while Elisha tries to run away from the not-so-friendly gas station attendant. This all happens about fifty minutes into the film, having up until now featured very few scary things, although the DVD features a cut scene featuring the murder of a broken down motorist. Of course, we figured out ages ago that everyone in the town is made of wax and this happens to Jared, who is stripped, shaved and placed in a bizarro wax-shower thing that turns him into another model for the museum.

how6The others return and Chad and his dumbass friend go looking for his sister, split up, and one finds the gas station, the psycho therein and a finger-snipped Elisha while dumbass friend finds waxy-Jared and the sharp ends of a couple of knives that cut his head off. Paris and her BF get murdered next, hers is a protracted chase through a rusty old parking garage, reminiscent of Wendy’s chase in Prom Night, until the moment 95% of the audience bought their tickets for occurs and the killer skewers her with a rusty javelin, right through the head!

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Chad and Elisha are soon running for their lives and set a fire which begins melting the House of Wax from within, which looks pretty cool until the effects department evident got bored and just started to play around with the picture by bending it like the state-of-the-art special effects from Earthquake. In 1974.

how3Grinding on towards the two hour mark makes House of Wax a bit of a chore from time to time, but it’s actually a fun slasher romp with some neat ideas and grisly murders. Paris does okay with her “slutty blonde victim” part and the waxy finale is something we’re unlikely to see anywhere else. Most definitely not for discriminating horror fans, but if you’re game for some trashy entertainment and well-executed executions, then you could do a lot worse.

how4Blurbs-of-interest: Jared Padalecki graduated to a surviving role for the Friday the 13th remake; Jon Abrahams was in Scary Movie. Casting-bod Mary Gail Artz was an actor in Don’t Go in the Woods.

CUTTING CLASS

ccdvdaCUTTING CLASS

3 Stars  1989/18/88m

“Some people would kill to fit in.”

Director: Rospo Pallenberg / Writers: Steve Slavkin & Bill Butler / Cast: Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brad Pitt, Martin Mull, Roddy McDowall, Brenda Lynn Klemme, Mark Barnet, Eric Boles, Dirk Blocker, Nancy Fish, Robert Glaudini, Robert Machray.

Body Count: 7

Direlogue: “I’m gonna change my IQ…is 300 too high?”


When you consider that bona fide masterpiece Heathers was made in 1989, it’s difficult to look at its ‘lesser’ contemporaries without making a direct comparison. In a head-to-head, Cutting Class would surely lose, but then, I don’t think any other teen film from that year would best Heathers

So it’s a slasher film with comic trimmings set at Wurleigh High School, where student Brian Woods returns from five years away in the looney bin, where he was sent for cutting the brakes on his father’s car. Fatally so.

Brian attempts to rekindle his relationship with best bud Dwight, who’s keen on anything but, while his girlfriend Paula can’t help but notice the way Brian…leers in her direction a lot. Behold, in true Final Girl stylee (all credit to her), the many stares of Brian:

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This minor in-any-other-film-it-would-be-romantic quirk aside, there’s a homicidal shadow looming over the school as teachers and students fall victim to a lurking mystery killer, who’s inventive enough to utilise pottery kilns and  photocopiers as well as the usual axes and knives to do away with his prey. There are some convenient suspects in the arsey janitor (“I’m the only teacher you’ll remember!”), Roddy McDowall’s pervy principal who enjoys nothing more than letching over Paula and, of course, Brian himself, who is naturally blamed when the vice-principal is photocopied to death…

cc11aAs things trundle on, it becomes clear that the killer is one of two people – Brian or Dwight. So cast heartthrobs Donovan Leitch or Brad Pitt it is! Would it be too obvious if Brian was indeed the psycho rather than Dwight’s basketball ace? It depends how you look at it. Dwight is an asshole, the type of jock-character we want to see dead in any other stalk n’ slasher.

cc-brad-jillPaula, on the other hand, is not only the archetypal nice girl heroine, cheerleader, comfortable virgin and straight-A student, but she’s also played by the fabulous Jill Schoelen, the lesser-known Jamie Lee Curtis of the later 80’s horror circuit.

Paula’s also the daughter of the local District Attorney (Mull) who put Brian away and was the first victim, shot with a bow and arrow on his duck-hunting trip. He actually doesn’t die there and then and we return to the running gag of his attempts to raise the alarm and get to safety…

Things kick into a more entertaining gear once the killer is revealed via a mathematical equation, no less and the memorable one-liners start firing… The fleeing victims’ failed attempt to outsmart the maniac using chemistry is met with a “nice try though” from him and he later asks Paula to “feel his tingle” as she’s pushed to the limit of using violence when running away proves futile.

cc8aCutting Class is a prime example of everything late-80’s, from the quirky music, to the fashions, the hair, and the cars. It’s fun for a once-over, however it unfortunately wasn’t remastered for the DVD release and looks grainy and cheap, with limited and amateur looking blood-letting, exposing its budgetary and creative constraints, in spite of some real names on the cast roster and an indecisive streak that renders it unable to decide between needing John Hughes or John Carpenter! Give it a try.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Jill Schoelen did a few halfway decent horror films, including The StepfatherPopcorn, The Phantom of the Opera (with Robert Englund) and When A Stranger Calls Back before disappearing from the screen for a long, long time. Nancy Fish was also in Dr Giggles; Dirk Blocker was also in Night of the Scarecrow.

“No tee-veee…”

happyhellnight

HAPPY HELL NIGHT

3 Stars  1991/18/84m

A.k.a. Frat Fright / Hell Night (UK video)

“25 years ago he sold his soul to the devil… Now it’s time to pay.”

Director: Brian Owens / Writers: Brian Owens, Ron Paterson & Michael Fitzpatrick / Cast: Nick Gregory, Franke Hughes, Laura Carney, Darren McGavin, Charles Cragin, Janez Vrhovec, Kate Delay, Ted Clark, Jeffrey Miller, Robert Restraino.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “Technical difficulties – please do not adjust your dicks.”


A rare throwback to the cliches of 80s horror, possibly rendered as such due to its startling similarities to Hell Night proper, the Linda Blair mini-masterpiece about fraternity and sorority pledges being offed by a legendary thought-dead killer. Considering this flick was titled Hell Night for its UK video release and, if you look at the title card, one might think that the producer’s tacked the word ‘Happy’ on as an afterthought once they realised just how alike it was to the older film.

So, it’s 1991 and people were far more attractive than they were in the 80’s.

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A Yugoslavian/Canadian production, HAPPY Hell Night also revolves around a fraternity hazing stunt and the murderous subject of a local legend. The boys of the Phi Delta Sigma frat house are looking to win the competition for the most outrageous initiation prank, which will induct house president Eric’s lil bro Sonny into the brotherhood, thanks to some poking and prodding from dad Darren McGavin, an ex Sigma with some grisly secrets…

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As Hell Night kicks into swing, Sonny and another dorky pledge are sent off to photograph Zachary Malius, a Satanic priest rotting in a conveniently local institution for the last quarter of a century after slaughtering seven Sigma’s and a local girl. Expectedly, they fuck up their assignment and Malius totters from his cell and crashes the party, swinging a nifty ice-axe all the way! A handy powercut ensures most of the party revellers leave and there are some comical shocks; one nymphette is dim enough to handcuff herself to a bed frame and toss the key across the room, and there’s a rocking chair decapitation gag and gobs of nudity as expected.

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In spite of its status as something of a collectible (prior to DVD at least), HAPPY Hell Night is surprisingly well made and adequately violent with a sprinkling of semi-knowns peppered throughout the crowded cast roster: Sam Rockwell plays a young McGavin and future CSI star Jorja Fox is an early victim. One of the inbreds from Wrong Turn also appears as the requisite dorky prankster. The characters are quite intriguing too; brotherly love is tested between Eric and Sonny as they’re both giving it to the same girl, who is the nominal heroine.

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However, Malius is the star, commenting on each kill as he goes with such witty repartee as ‘No TV!’, ‘No sex!’, ‘No hope of international distribution!’ He’s like an overgrown, homicidal E.T., complete with overlarge black blobs for eyes and, admittedly, quite a creepy looking dude. This was one of the first slasher flicks I ever saw and I hated it at the time, but revisits have shown that it’s a fun little timewaster with cheesy dialogue, soap-opera acting and lots of Latin prayer-sayery at the weirdo ending. Try it and see!

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