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Wait. What?

skeletonmanSKELETON MAN

1.5 Stars  2004/18/86m

“Some myths are real.”

Driector: Johnny Martin / Writer: Frederick Bailey / Cast: Michael Rooker, Casper Van Dien, Sarah Ann Schultz, Nils Allen Stewart, Jackie Debatin, Lisa Oliva, Jerry Trimble Jr., Noa Tishby, Eric Etabari.

Body Count: 39 – yes, thirty-nine!

First-rate Fatality: boom-boom-boom like a hammer to the (explodey) head…


When somebody tells you that something has to be seen to be believed, they’re normally telling you about their trip to the Great Wall of China or some circus sideshow they saw… However, when somebody says this to you in reference to Skeleton Man, they’re not lying.

From Nu-Image, who normally make creature-features about spiders, octopods and crocodiles with imaginative titles like Spiders, Octopus and Crocodile - all of which had sequels, can you guess what they were called? Anyway, this knowledge on board, Skeleton Man is a bit of a departure for them. It’s a slasher flick, make no mistake about it, with some unexplained supernatural elements thrown in for good measure no real reason.

Some archaeologists dig up a skull and then a cloaked figure appears and murders them (plus a couple of more schmucks who get in the way). ‘Tis the skeleton man of course, and he manages to kill one guy by lifting him in the air… From there, some other guys are killed, army dudes, and a few weeks later a group of eight soldiers is sent to the region (which I thought was supposed to be South America but gradually looks more and more like a Californian national park). The group is led by Michael Rooker as the Cap and Casper Van Dien is also there but only says about eight words. He has a scar, ‘cos he’s like, y’know, “seasoned”. Four of the men are Delta Force and they’re joined by four women, all of whom we’re asked to believe are in the military but look like catalogue models and cry when they find dead bodies.

skelmanThrough the medium of flashback part I, we learn what happened to the previous team, they met the Skeleton Man, and the body count reaches double figures within fifteen minutes. The group then stumble upon a blind Indian who uses flashback part II to explain that the killer once killed loads of tribal folk and is called ‘Cotton Mouth Joe’ – almost like the song. Almost. The skeleton man appears, usually on horseback, through weird little CG vortexes (that everybody sees but nobody mentions) and begins chopping and skewering the soldier dudes and dudettes, brings down a chopper with a bow and arrow and appears impervious to bullets, which doesn’t put any of the team off wasting their rounds.

Eventually, skeleton man goes to a chemical plant to kill more people, sending the body count soaring to nearly forty by the time Rooker explodifies the joint. But who is skeleton man? Where did he come from? Why does Casper Van Dien commandeer that truck? Why does it explode for no reason? How come it stops for him to leap out but is still rolling along in the next shot, huh? Well, you’ll never find out, never! It’s like cheap wine, it gets you drunk and you giggle, but you never want to see or hear from it ever again.

Blurb-of-interest: Casper appeared in Tim Burton’s sort-of slasher Sleepy Hollow.

STAY ALIVE

stayalive

STAY ALIVE

2 Stars  2006/15/83m

“You die in the game – You die for real.”

Director: William Brent Bell / Writers: William Brent Bell & Michael Peterman / Cast: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz, Sophia Bush, Milo Ventimiglia, Jimmi Simpson, Wendell Pierce, Adam Goldberg.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “I just met you, like, Goddamn yesterday so kiss my ass!”


The tagline should tell you all you need to know about this lazy effort. Dorky gamers in possession of a demo release, who were foolish enough to read aloud a prayer to start the game, discover that their fate on screen neatly corresponds to their fate in the real world. Thrown into the mix is a CGI witch-slash-serial killer woman, the subject of a conveniently local urban legend.

You can just imagine a group of studio execs around a table saying, ‘you know, The Ring made a lot of money. Let’s copy it but instead of a video tape, we’ll have a video game!’ High-fives and whooping ensue as they decide to chuck in some Final Destination-type deaths and some Elm Street thematics, completed with the requisite undead female villain. Stamp it with a PG-13 rating to pull in the likely crowd and you’re done.

Given the cast features some semi-knowns; grown-up child star Muniz and a pre-Heroes Ventimiglia, it all looks so cheap and rushed. And it takes itself so damn seriously! Check the scene where the assembly line goth chick surmises the entire plot in a deadpan spiel in an attempt to convince her friends of the danger. Manufactured tat with a cash register where the heart of its artistic form should be.

The Joke’s on You

aprilfoolsday

APRIL FOOL’S DAY

1 Stars  2008/15/88m

“She has a killer party planned.”

Directors: The Butcher Brothers / Writers: Michael Wigart & The Butcher Brothers / Cast: Taylor Cole, Josh Henderson, Scout Taylor-Compton, Joe Egender, Joseph McKelheer, Samuel Child, Jennifer Siebel, Sabrina Aldridge.

Bodycount: …is any of it real?

Dire-logue: “This is supposed to celebrate someone coming out, not going out!”


Snotty rich sibs Desiree and Blaine hold a coming-out party for Scout Taylor-Compton’s high-society debutante, which is ruined when an April Fool’s prank on Desiree’s rival, Milan (!), ends up with the poor girl toppling over a mezzanine to land atop a grand piano and totally dying.

One year later to the day, those involved in the joke are summoned to Milan’s graveside where they are confronted with a letter, supposedly from the dead girl, stating that they will each die throughout the course of the day unless the person responsible turns themselves in to the police.

Is it/isn’t it a joke dialogue ensues and, true to her word, the group begin perishing in bizarre ‘accidents’ until numbers are whittled down to the final three and a couple of twists are glued to the end for those dim-bulbed enough to misunderstand the concept of prank-themed slasher films.

afd

By far the worst of the remake scrum, AFD ’08, ignores everything that made the ’86 original so much fun and turns it into a cynical after-school drama production with the most unlikeable characters you could imagine. Ponsing around in their shiny cars and designer clothes, we want these bastards dead! It’s got far more in common with Cruel Intentions than any horror movie, has no heart or soul, no sense of fun, no blood, no suspense – it’s simply devoid of merit. And the twist is simply groanworthy. I wanted to attack my TV screen with a hammer at the end of this.

Scout Taylor-Compton is surely becoming some sort of slasher-remake jinx after trying to fill Jamie Lee Curtis’ shoes for Rob Zombie’s depressing Halloween redux. An obnoxious, insulting film if ever there was. The joke is most certainly on the audience.

FATAL PULSE

FATAL PULSE

1 Stars  1988/88m

“Who is the killer behind the sadistic and horrific murders of beautiful young coeds…and when will this madness end?”

Director: Anthony J. Christopher / Writer: James Hundhausen / Cast: Michelle McCormick, Ken Roberts, Joe Phelan, Alex Courtney, Cindra Hodgdon, Steven Henry, Blair Karsch, Sky Nicholas, Maureen O’Hanlon, Kitty.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Don’t worry, almost nothing can go wrong.”


Trouble with the lexicon of late-80s made for video slasher films, even those that felt the need to remind you they were ‘full length feature films’ on the box, was that the introduction of made-for-video pictures opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of crap. Almost literal crap.

Fatal Pulse - not to be confused with the cheesy, but far superior Fatal Games - is a rubbish arse-wipe of a film in which the dimwitted residents of the Alpha Omega Kappa sorority house are being strangled, electrocuted, drowned and slashed by vinyl records (!) by an anonymous black-gloved killer, who could be the lead girl’s on-off boyfriend, his dumbass buddy, or her nasty ex. But we know it isn’t really. The real killer’s identity is so obvious the character may as well have been holding a decapitated head when he first appears.

It’s one of those scripts where the author hasn’t even tried. If someone was murdered in the room next door to me, I’d move out. These girls, they stick around, told nothing will happen to them (see Dire-logue) and are all presented as witless morons and nasty bitches who are utterly defenceless, cowering pathetically when the maniac leans in for the kill, slashing their bras open first of course! One girl encounters the psycho on a suburban street during daylight hours. Instead of running to a house, she decides an abandoned warehouse is the best means of escape!

If you want to see the film that makes Sorority House Massacre look like Black Christmas then Fatal Pulse is for you! Everyone else is advised to substitute the tape for a doorstop or toilet roll.

KILLER’S MOON

KILLER’S MOON

2 Stars 1978/18/89m

“One endless night of terror!”

Director/Writer: Alan Birkinshaw / Cast: Anthony Forrest, Tom Marshall, Georgina Kean, Alison Elliott, Jane Hayden, Jean Reeve, Nigel Gregory, David Jackson, Paul Rattee, Peter Spraggon, Elizabeth Counsell, Jo-Anne Good.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “One minute you’re a person, then you’re a sheep…all covered in blood.”


I was born in 1978. The year of Halloween, Grease and…uh…Killer’s Moon, a film possibly even more fucked up than The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. ‘Ooh, I must see it!’ you may crow. But wait, remain in your seat with the belt fastened, for this is not a recommendation by any means. Tobe Hooper’s film is screwy in a truly horrific way. Killer’s Moon is shot to pieces. It’s like that mental middle-aged woman in accounts who talks gibberish on eleven different subjects at once.

It’s part Clockwork Orange, part exploitation trash and part girls’ school comedy. Said schoolgirls are in fact a choir travelling through the Lake District – yes, it’s 70s England! – when their bus conks out and they take refuge in a secluded hotel. Meanwhile, we learn that four nutters have broken free of an institute and, thanks for a new type of therapy, believe they’re dreaming.

The loonies eventually crash the big sleepover to rip off blouses, rape and strangle any jailbait they can get their grubby mits on. They abduct others and force them to…prepare food for them! OH MY GOD! The depravity! Sooner or later, a couple of camping buddies team up with the girls to escape and reap their revenge.

Author Fay Weldon rewrote much of the girls’ dialogue but some of what comes out of their mouths is unbelievable. We start off with; “I just want to die and get it all over.” Fine, stupid, but fine. But later, proto-heroine Agatha turns to a friend of hers and tells her: “Look – you were only raped. As long as you don’t tell anyone you’ll be fine.” Only raped!?!? By an insane escaped convict, no less! Oh, don’t worry Lucy, all is well, just internalise the anxiety for the next sixty years and all shall remain just tickety-boo.

Whether or not Killer’s Moon is supposed to be humorous is debatable. It could be that it just sucks. Characters don’t question anything they’re told, trust absolutely anyone and spit venomous insults akin to “you’re just horrible!” at the killers as if they’re all at a seventh birthday party. Throw in a random three-legged dog who saves the day, indifference to bodily violation and nightgowns so cheaply made they simply fall off in a passing breeze and you’ve got one of the weirdest 89 minutes one could hope to experience… Approach with caution.

Blurb-of-interest: Birkinshaw later directed a slasher remake of The Masque of the Red Death, which is immeasurably better.

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