Tag Archives: weird-ass twist

Say what!?

SCARED

3.5 Stars  2005/82m

Director/Writer:  Pakphum Wonqjinda / Writer:  Prachya Pinkaew / Cast: Borvornipoch Jaikunta, Napapa Tantrakul, Chitjun Rujiphan, Amonphan Gongtragan, Sumonrat Wattanaselarat, Thandthai Auramornrat, Wongtep Kunrattanawat, Sudprach Aungtrakul, Park Wannasiri.

Body Count: 18


Detailing the plot of this grisly Thai dead-teenager flick could prove problematic, ’cause the DVD has no English subtitles, despite the film itself coming with English translations of the credits.

A large group of freshmen students set off on a hazing trip, which runs into entry problems and they foolishly follow the advice of a local vagrant who knows of a bridge they can cross to their destination. About half the kids decide to give it a go and end up stranded when the rickety old bridge collapses, taking their bus, the driver, and several of their friends to the bottom of the river…

 

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Clambering ashore and splitting into two groups after some kind of disagreement amongst themselves, three boys quickly fall into a variety of lethal traps that skewer and impale them. The other, larger group (mostly girls) finds a deserted old town, but also cross paths with a brutal killer, who uses car windows, exhaust fumes, and regular garden tools to do them in – nearly every slaying here is bloody.

Thailand has taken a few ‘stabs’ at creating gory slashfests before, ranging from the entertaining but cheap 999-9999, to the predictable and dull Crying Tree. Scared is probably their best effort yet, fusing ideas lifted from the Final Destination films (the bridge collapse is well choreographed, with a nasty pole-through-the-face for the unlucky bus driver), old school kids-in-the-woods slashers, and ending in a cruel twist that’s reminiscent of Battle Royale.

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There are some memorable gore-drenched moments, especially when the shyer kids fight back: A girl goes for a maniac with a corn-saw, clearly having seen enough violence for one day.

The lack of subtitles and linguistic differences mean that characters become indistinguishable when we don’t really know their names in the first place, though there are some genuinely sad moments as kids find their dead friends and weep for them, but with a plot this simple, you’ll be having such a good time you won’t even notice!

The horror of… The Unexplainedening!

ROOM 33

1.5 Stars  2009/92m

“A ghostly presence has awoken.”

Director/Writer: Eddie Barbini / Writer: Donnie Dale / Cast: Nina Hauser, Austin Highsmith, Chad Collins, Adam Key, Dee Kevin Ace Gibson, Kim Manning, Olivia Leigh, Nicole Dionne.

Body Count: 9

Laughter Lines: “This place ain’t right, man! Can’t you feel it?”


In life, points for trying rarely get you anywhere – and the same is sadly true of this Los Angeles-lensed supernatural slasher flick, which looks like it was shot waaaay earlier than 2009 and stirs up best forgotten memories of Doom Asylum. Brrrrr.

Because Room 33 opts for what I’ll call “the generic approach”, here’s a checklist to make sure it covers the expected bases of its genre:

  • A group of (mostly) attractive young people are going somewhere in a van
  • Something happens that strands them far from assistance
  • Said location is shared with a creepy old place for them to take shelter for the night
  • Thereafter, members of the group find various reasons to venture off on their own
  • Death! Death! Death!

In the case of Room 33, our group is comprised of a team of three roller-derby chicks, their coach, and driver dude, and a couple who’ve hit a tree and need a ride. The reason for their enstrandening is they’re outta gas, and the nearest thing is a disused mental institution.

They later find a crazed girl running about and soon they’re spooked, some go outside to find the girl who went to practice her skating (in the middle of a road), and a teleporting man in black crops up and murders some of them off-camera. The others find their friends sans eyes, requisite macho-asshole character (a girl!) blames the girl, fall outs ensue…

In the final third, Room 33 goes a bit weird. Well weirder. The titular location is not mentioned until 64 minutes in and even then, its significance is never clarified. I’m not even sure anybody even goes there. More people turn up, some of them die, then the villains well… I’m not sure. Were they real? Unfortunately, I watched this only in the company of my dog, who, though more enthralled than I, seemed perplexed by it as well.

So it’s a bit like Doom Asylum, part Savage Lust, with a touch of Session 9 (just a touch, mind, don’t go blaming me if you think it’ll be as good), and a whole side order of What-the-Fuck!? I didn’t hate it, just had no frickin’ clue what was supposed to be happening and then it just sorta…ended.

Catfishing

SMILEY

2.5 Stars  2012/15/92m

“Evil wears a smile.”

Director/Writer: Michael Gallagher / Writer: Glasgow Phillips / Cast: Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Roger Bart, Liza Weil, Keith David, Toby Turner, Michael Traynor, Jana Winternitz, Nikki Limo.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “If you believe everything you’ve told us, you need to see a psychiatrist.” / “I AM seeing a psychiatrist!”


“Over 30 million trailer views” boasts the UK DVD box. Fine, but there’s a Justin Bieber song that has had over 917 million views – does that attest to the quality of his music “music”?

Given this claim, it must be doing something right and, as the disc began a-whirlin’ in my DVD player, it looked like Smiley could “do a Mask Maker” and surprise the hell outta me by being, y’know, awesome. “But 2-and-a-half stars!” you say, “it can’t be that good?” ‘Tis a tale of woe, that be true… One that unfortunately must contain SPOILERS to convey the emotion found in this yarn.

Bloody Mary, the Candyman, Madman Marz – say their name any number of times and something bad will happen. So go the respective urban legends, why not add Smiley to that motley crew? How about because it’s all a big cheat…

So goes this cyber-myth, log into any old chatroom – preferably one with a cam-to-cam facility – and engage in chatter with a stranger. Type “I did it for the lulz” three times consecutively and Smiley will pop up their end and KILLIFY THEM!

‘Lulz’, for those grammar pedants among us, is cyber/text/Twitter slang for ‘merriment’ usually at the expense of another. Why and psycho would latch on to such poor spiel is a mystery the film refuses to investigate. Why not ‘I did it for the jollity’ or the ‘gaiety’?

Anyway, this befalls the usual teen babysitter and, in another place and time, college girl Ashley (Gerard) moves into new digs with perky roomie Proxy (Papalia), who introduces her to a group of anonymous web-pranksters and their quirky brand of humour, including the legend of Smiley, which nobody knows to be true or not.

Later, Ashley and Proxy choose to put the theory to test with a horny naked guy, who ends up getting stabbed in the chest after Ashley types the dreaded phrase in thrice. Was it real? How could it not have been if it’s a randomized chat site?

Ashley soon begins seeing Smiley everywhere. Nobody believes her kerr-ayzay story and repeatedly tell her to forget about it and not tempt fate by snooping. Her ____ teacher (Bart), fills his students’ heads with all sorts of theory regarding higher intellect and the possibility that we create our own fate yaddah yaddah. All of this influence begins driving the girl mad and, when members of the anonymous group begin dying, she tries to convince the cops of the legend (see Laughter Lines).

Eventually, Ashley decides the only way to stop Smiley is to have him summoned to her, so she gets Proxy to, over a video chat, type ‘I did it for the lulz’ and face her fate.

Didn’t this gag used to read “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”

But no. Smiley comes. Then more Smileys. Ashley takes a fatal dive through her window and they all unmask themselves – the anonymous web people. It was all some social experiment-cum-joke that they hoped to spread over the net.

If you’ve seen Cry_Wolf then this outcome will be totally new territory, only here it’s even more annoying because, up to this point, Smiley was a pretty good horror film, kinda like Candyman Jr: The College Years, all meta’d up with ATRL/YouTube-speak and a post-Scream 4 “I just want to be known” vibe on behalf of the horrible group of students we wish would DIE!

Naturally, the last-second twist is that the legend IS real after all, nothing anybody with half a brain wouldn’t have seen coming.

A real disappointment of a project in the end. Whatever social comment was trying to be made is ruined both by the unpleasantness of the characters and their cruelty, and then re-ruined by the stupid second-twist. Essentially it’s saying “It’s not real! The horror is made up because people are gullible! Oh no wait, it IS real now!” and then not punishing the whole lot of them.

Two stars are for production quality and some performances and quirky dialogue, another half for being interesting enough for the most part. All other stars were lost somewhere in cyberspace. Yeah, ha ha, I’m funny – must be that I did it for the lulz.

I did it for the lulz.

I did it for the lulz.

Blurb-of-interest: Keith David was in Chain Letter – another urban legend slasher flick.

Who do you think you are?

IDENTITY

3.5 Stars  2003/15/87m

“The secret lies within.”

Director: James Mangold / Writer: Michael Cooney / Cast: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, John Hawkes, Clea DuVall, Alfred Molina, Rebecca DeMornay, John C. McGinley, Pruitt Taylor Vince, William Lee Scott, Jake Busey, Leila Kenzle, Carmen Argenziano, Marshall Bell, Brett Loehr.

Body Count: 14


Big names for a $30million high-profile “thriller”, Identity is one of those movies that does all it can to deny it’s merely a dressed up slasher flick. Annoying, yes, but it’s good enough to let that slide.

In true Sixth Sense style, Identity trades on the probability that it’s going to unleash a massive “wowza” of a payoff in its twist. Watch it once, maybe it’ll getcha. Watch it twice, play solitaire or something.

Some shrinks and legal eagles are debating the validity of the imminent death sentence due to be carried out on Malcolm Rivers, who committed some gruesome murders X years before at a motel. Meanwhile – or in flashback? – a group of strangers find that fate drags them to a dump of a motel in the middle of nowere, Nevada, during a brutal storm.

Chauffeur John Cusack is driving Rebecca DeMornay’s egotistical actress when he runs over the mom of a family stranded by a flat tire. They go to the motel where the others begin showing up after finding the road is out: Amanda Peet is a call girl on the run; Ray Liotta a cop transporting murderer Jake Busey; and a  couple of unhappy young newlyweds.

Stranded by the weather, little to no phone signal, and the unhelpful manager Hawkes, the murders begin, each body found with a room key starting at ten, then nine, then eight… But it soon looks as if whomever the culprit is is either very lucky or possesses supernatural powers as fatal accidents are also in keeping with the countdown.

What’s more, once numbers have dwindled further, the group discover they all share the same birthday and have several other coincidental things in common too.

The big revelation comes some two-thirds of the way through the film, one that’s kind of obvious in hindsight and more than hinted at a few times beforehand. While the twist is relatively original, it’s not too far removed from those of other recent big budget horror thrillers, though it’s given more time to take effect rather than being a sudden reveal, which works in its favour.

Still, Identity relies heavily on the cliches of the subgenre while still trying to evade them: The storm, the isolated locale, red herrings, and stupid reasons to wander off alone are all checked off in turn, though Cusack’s appearance renders the election of a final girl somewhat void. Having never really been a fan of his ‘every-guy’/can-do-no-wrong approach, personally I couldn’t invest much in the lead characters, who were all a bit lifeless – another irony given the eventual twist concerning who they are.

Identity is good – better than good, really – but it thinks it’s smarter than it is and doesn’t do enough with its trickery to pack the punch it reckons it’s gonna serve. Still, it’s always good seeing ‘proper’ actors try to deliver their predictable lines of dialogue and manage scenes we’ve all seen done a gazillion times before. It’s one of those watch-once deals, maybe twice if you’re keen on spotting the clues.

Blurbs-of-interest: John Hawkes was in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Night of the Scarecrow; Pruitt Taylor Vince was in non-slash but decent Ally Sheedy psychic serial killer flick Fear; Marshall Bell was the pervy gym teacher in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2; Carmen Argenziano was in Graduation Day and When a Stranger Calls; writer Michael Cooney directed both Jack Frost movies.

Penis envy

PIECES

3 Stars  1983/18/82m

“You don’t have to go to Texas for a chainsaw massacre!”

A.k.a. Chainsaw Devil

Director: J. Piquer Simon / Writers: Dick Randall & Joe D’Amato [as John Shadow] / Cast: Christopher George, Frank Brana, Lynda Day George, Paul Smith, Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Jack Taylor, Isabelle Luque.

Body Count: 7

Dire-logue: “The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed.”


A quick run of the plot before we look at the ‘unique viewing experience’ that is Pieces. At a Boston college campus, which looks an awful lot like Madrid, a maniac is chainsawing off various appendages of the female students in accordance with the nudie jigsaw he’s obsessed with. Who is it and why blah blah blah…

Even though I’ve dolled out a generous three stars, Pieces cannot be regarded as a good film by any standards. It’s truly horrendous no matter how you cut it (with chainsaw or not). But nevertheless, it’s a funny-as-fuck 82 minutes. To truly convey the spirit of Pieces, we’re going to need a few pictures.

Beginning in 1942, the killer-to-be is caught by his strict mom playing with the nudie jigsaw. She loses her shit, smashes a mirror and photo of her husband, and tells sonny she’s going to burn the filth. In turn, he whacks her in the head with an axe and saws off her head, pretending to the police that he has merely survived the attack when they force their way in, after nobody answers the push-button phone. Hmm… looks a bit advanced for 1942, don’t it?

Forty years later at the college campus, a girl skateboards into a giant mirror. Then she goes to lie down and study, but along comes a chainsaw-toting loon and cuts off her head.

The cops (cheese favourite, Christopher George and Frank Brana) come along and the college Dean (Purdom) requests that they keep quiet, saying he’s told the staff it was an “unfortunate accident”. Would like you see how he explained that… she tripped and fell on a running chainsaw then her head rolled into a storm drain?

The killings continue in a clunky, idiotic way… The next victim is a cute blonde girl who first introduces us to one of our leading men, ‘Campus Heartthrob’ Kendall.

I know, right?

Anyway, cute blonde girl goes off to the swimming pool for a topless dip and is soon attached by the most frightening predator of all: THE POOL-SKIMMER KILLER!

Echoes of the killer’s garb at the start of The Burning don’t you think? With the lethal pool skimmer, our loon pulls cute blonde girl out of the water and lays her out flat while he fetches his handy chainsaw and comes at her with it. Does she do what the rest of us would and just roll back into the pool and swim away? No. She’s sits there quivering, allowing him to remove all her limbs and head and make off with the torso.

At this point, the finger of suspicion is pointed at beady-eyed custodian Willard. The actor playing him (Paul Smith) was a shoo-in to play Bluto in the 1980 Popeye movie that starred Robin Williams. No question, the guy is Bluto. And he has a big chainsaw that he strokes. And loves. It’s his friend fo’ sure.

The killer tries once and fails to capture his victim of choice – the dancer in the blue ‘tard – but catches up with her later in the first scene that really began to show just how phallic a movie Pieces is. The girl leaves the dance studio alone and, as she closes the door, another one opens and the killer skulks through holding his big, penis-shaped chainsaw. And, because he appears as a shadow, it looks like he’s just walking along with a giant stiff one. Regardé:

See?

Like, really see?

There you go. Big and brutal. What ensues is one of those classic Jason-style chases where the girl flees through an endless maze of corridors but the killers feet mope along slowly, and yet he’s still apparently only just behind her. Eventually, she reaches the safety of the elevator and bumps into the killer – GASP! – she knows and trusts him!

In one of Pieces‘ many ridiculous moments, the killer climbs into the lift behind the girl wielding the fuck off massive ass chainsaw and somehow conceals it!? A few seconds later, out it comes like he’s flashing her with it and he takes her arms off.

Despite being outside and quite far from the building, Kendall hears the commotion from inside a concealed box halfway between floors and, with two cops, breaks in to find the poor girl minus her upper limbs.

Christopher George recruits real life wife Lynda Day George – who is some tennis-pro-cum-detective called Mary – to investigate the college. Posing as a tennis pro. Kendall fancies the pants of her and even cuts short a shag to spy on her. This scene is something to behold and one that compounds the borderline uncomfortable misogynistic taste of the film. While he leaves the bed to gaze upon Mary, his female companion promises she’ll try not to let herself get so carried away and then tells him he can tie her up and gag her if it means they can continue!

Nevertheless, the scene is noteworthy for a little equal opportunity gender objectification. As ‘college heartthrob’ Kendall climbs out of bed, the nude-o-meter pings to the seldom used male end of the spectrum for a quick, profile cock shot!

What a hunk. Ladies and gay fellows watching must have been be so overjoyed to see it.

Randomly, Mary is attacked by an Oriental dude outside and Kendall comes along and saves her, even though she manages to strike him down. He gets up, as introduced as Kendall’s Kung Fu master, says something about eating bad chop suey, and buggers off. IMDb trivia tells us the actor – Bruce Le! – was something of a tribute act to his neo-namesake and a friend of the producers, so they made up this totally random scene to crowbar him in. Gotta love that.

Next on Pieces death-to-PC-values toboggan ride is the killing of the snooping reporter. Naturally, it’s a she, and said lady finds herself accosted by the killer in some random building where there’s a waterbed. Things go into slo-mo for what’s possibly the most overtly sex/death crossover on screen. The killer’s big, shiny, dildo-sized knife keeps coming down at her and the victim grunts as blood spunks over her face and, when the blade pierces the waterbed, it resembles some kind of twisted porno the patrons of Elite Hunting would jack off to.

While the scene is high art in terms of what Pieces is capable of (i.e. very little), it’s got a disturbing edge to it. The slow motion seems to prolong the victim’s suffering in some belief that the audience will enjoy the spectacle.

The killer doesn’t even require a body part from this victim, she was merely the curious one who gets too close. I wonder what the scene might’ve been like had they cast a male actor in the role… Probably a quick, from-behind knifing with none of the waterbed theatrics.

The female victims in Pieces are pathetic idiots, the kind of useless girls that don’t really exist beyond the realms of cheap-ass exploitation movies like this. That they freeze up, fail to even try and save themselves when there are ample opportunities must be riling for the non-stupid female viewer. Hardly any of them are given names let alone any facets of character of motivation; they exist purely to strip off and then die, making Pieces possibly the most aggressive film when it comes to pointing out the ones that feminists are actually right about.

The final kill does nothing different. Kendall and Mary go to play tennis and are put off by loud, annoying big band music blaring from the speakers. In the meantime, some random girl who lost a game to Lynda earlier, is chased around the changing rooms (topless, of course), cornered, wets her pants, and is sliced in two.

Yes, the dildo-saw blade strikes again. There are couple of neat shots in this sequence though, and it’s soon followed by the film’s most hilarious moment. When Kendall, Mary, and the custodian guy find the body, she yells out: “While we were fumbling with that music, the lousy bastard was in there killing her!” then she shrieks; “Bastard!” and then; “Bastard!” and a beat later; “Bastaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard!”

Where did her career go, we must ask ourselves?

Eventually, everyone involved seems to grow bored and they decide to reveal the killer and bring proceedings to a close. Lynda George is sent to talk to the Dean with questions she has about her various suspects, only Kendall and the non-Chris George detective find out that the Dean was the boy who axed mama!!! Too late for Mary though, because Evil Dean has laced her coffee with a paralyzing drug and intends to cut off her feet.

The cops and Kendall show up and shoot him, saving the day for all yaddah yaddah yaddah… As they clear out, the non-Chris George cop leans against a wall that spins around, throwing the stitched-together human doll right on top of Kendall. But here, Pieces does what Pieces does best. Fucks with us.

*

It’s like a totally different girl in two seconds.

Pieces‘ final shock, and possible apology for its kill-the-stupid-girls extravaganza, is that the corpse suddenly animates and rips off campus heartthrob Kendall’s balls! Random shit.

In conclusion, Pieces is funny now, in 2013, but thirty years ago, when the people looked regular and their hair and fashion tastes weren’t repulsive, it would be a worrying sight to behold: countless pretty girls being horrifically cut up, all with their tits out, acting like morons – it’s really not that long ago. That said, it’s more idiotic than spiteful, probably just a box-ticking exercise on behalf of a couple of guys who said: “People like gore and tits.”

I don’t particularly like the film and my third star was added for the sheer laugh-at quality/failing that Pieces is stacked with. It’s a pitiful piece of crap, but viewed in the right mindset, it’s bloody hilarious.

Blurbs-of-interest: Christopher George, who died the same year, was in Graduation Day and, with his surviving wife, in Mortuary; Purdom was in Don’t Open Till Christmas and Absurd; Jack Taylor was in fellow slasher Espanol, Edge of the Axe.

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