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Scream if you’ve had enough of these parodies

shriek if you know what i did last friday the 13th


2 Stars  2000/15/83m

“It’s a scream!”

Director: John Blanchard / Writers: Sue Bailey & Joe Nelms / Cast: Majandra Delfino, Harley Cross, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Tom Arnold, Danny Strong, Julie Benz, Simon Rex, Aimee Graham, Chris Palermo, Coolio, Shirley Jones.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “I killed my cousin, my heart’s broken, and my sister’s dead.”

In a race against the Wayans’ Scary Movie (originally titled Scream if You Know What I Did Last Halloween), you could feel a bit sorry for Shriek… as it didn’t make it past the cutting room quick enough and was consigned to a video release, while Scary Movie inexplicably carried on to generate several increasingly cringe-worthy sequels, not to mention Epic MovieDate MovieDisaster Movie ad infinitum.

Regardless of whomever got there first, Shriek… is largely a Xerox of its competitor, as we’re thrown into the lives of the exaggerated stereotypes who go to Bulimia High, who did something last summer that they’d rather forget about.

Ergo, much silliness ensues and death abounds – but not at the hands of the killer, which only makes it more annoying. In a (failed) attempt to try and be funny and original, the characters actually die from other things before the nutter has a chance to get them: Bee stings, coronaries, etc.

So there’s no murder count and 88% of the jokes are the same as in Scary Movie. To its credit though, there is an inspired parody of VH1’s old Pop-Up Video during the final chase scenes, and a couple of other almost-laughs along the way, but it all weighs down under the forehead-tappers of fart jokes, erection jokes, gay jokes, and a killer with absolutely no motive, most likely thought up at the last second.

Blurbs-of-interest: Delfino was in RSVP; Simon Rex was in several of the Scary Movie sequels.

Valley of the Mid-Range Franchises: The Stepfather

For a long time I didn’t really consider The Stepfather movies to be slasher flicks: Slightly too-highbrow (the first one, at least) and more in common with the rush of late-80s demented family member/one night stand/roommate/nanny thrillers.

However, the titular character does kill his way through the three movies, laying to waste those who disrupt his vision of familial bliss. That the films are less about a string of victims and more focused on the facade created by the stepfather is relevant, but they’re cool films so let’s love them anyway…

the stepfather 1987THE STEPFATHER

3.5 Stars  1987/18/85m

“Jerry Blake loves taking care of the family. Any family.”

Director: Joseph Ruben / Writers: Carolyn Lefcourt, Brian Garfield & Donald E. Westlake / Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack, Stephen Shellen, Charles Lanyer, Stephen E. Miller.

Body Count: 4

Laughter Lines: (to the grieving sibling of a murder victim) “Why don’t you get on with the rest of your life and forget about it?”

As the product of a family where the parents have stayed together for over 40 years, I don’t have much insight into what it’s like to grow up with a single parent and have a prospective new partner enter the scene, disrupting the routine that you likely cling on to in the wake of a divorce or loss.

I can only imagine what it must be like to have someone try to be your new best friend, especially if they glow with a plastic Ward Cleaver aura, one that feels so forced that, in the wake of films like this, you’d automatically suspect them of having some literal skeletons in their closet.

For Stephanie Maine (then-burgeoning scream queen Jill Schoelen), this is a nightmare come true as, after her father’s death, her mother has remarried Jerry Blake – smilin’ family guy, realtor, doting dad, unhinged psychopath. Beyond the expected issues of coping with her loss, Stephanie gets expelled from school and blames all of her problems on Jerry and his transparent attempts to reach her: The usual ‘champ’, ‘slugger’ platitudes, buying her a puppy etc…


Of course, we know better having seen ‘Jerry’ dramatically alter his appearance and walk out on his slain previous family in the prologue, slipping effortlessly into a new life.

At a party hosted by the family, Stephanie gets a glimpse of Jerry’s hidden persona as he throws an anger hissy in the basement where he thinks he’s out of sight. Over hearing the tale of the still uncaptured family-slayer, Stephanie begins to believe Jerry is that guy.

Like the thrillers that came in its wake, a large midsection of The Stepfather concerns Jerry thwarting Stephanie’s attempts to out him, while mother Susan looks on, thinking all is rosy. He also finds time to murder Steph’s shrink and mocking up an accident, the event that eventually brings them closer, that is until he flips about her kissing her crush on the doorstep.

stepfather 1987 jill schoelen

Jerry finally decides enough is enough and begins sculpting a new life in preparation for getting shot of Susan and Stephanie and starting anew elsewhere, but unfortunately for him, not only does he confuse his identities, but the brother of his last wife has been busy tracking him down and is about to show up with a gun in hand. Things shunt into slasher gear when Stephanie is attacked and has to save herself.

O’Quinn’s commitment to what could easily have been a campy, over-hammed role as Dad is what carries both this and the sequel beyond the contrivances of the plot (more pertinent in the follow-up). His natural intensity, later seen in Lost, and a talent for balancing his below-the-surface psychotic tendencies with the outward guy-next-door charm is genuinely unsettling – the way he posits “maybe they disappointed him?” as a possible motive for the murders is chilling – and a series of glares serves to remind the viewer that we know a lot more than his family and friends.

stepfather 1987 terry o'quinn

The many stares of the Stepfather

For her part, Schoelen oozes likeability – as she did in all her horror roles – and rises to the challenge of final girl-dom with aplomb, using broken mirror shards and sledges to her advantage. The only weird thing about it is that, despite being in her early twenties during production, her brief topless shower moment seems wrong as her character is said to be fifteen. It’s buoyed in a way by some frontal nudity of O’Quinn, courtesy of a reflection in a mirror, but still seems weird.

A fine film, albeit with a narrative that’s been aped too many times to reap its rightful returns, but it seems over a little too soon and, I think, could work well in mini-series format if they ever wanted to resurrect it. Oh wait, they did…


stepfather ii make room for daddy


3 Stars  1989/18/88m

A.k.a. Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy

“Tonight – Daddy’s coming home to slice more than just the cake!”

Director: Jeff Burr / Writer: John Auerbach / Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Meg Foster, Caroline Williams, Jonathan Brandis, Henry Brown, Mitchell Laurance.

Body Count: 5

Having miraculously survived the wounds inflicted on him at the end of the first film, Jerry is now locked up in an institution in Puget Sound, where the new doctor, Dr Danvers, is keen to help him and find out his real identity – but we know Jerry will have other plans.

After winning the doc’s trust, he dispatches him and a security guard before making his escape and rocking up in a Los Angeles suburb ‘for the family’ where he sets himself up as Dr Gene Clifford, a therapist specialising in familial stuff.

Before long, Gene is involved with local divorcee Carol and her sad son Todd. While he disappears her ex husband forever into a compactor, Carol’s friend Matty (Williams) begins to suspect the good doctor is not all he seems, using her access as local mail handler to find out that the actual Gene Clifford is not only dead, but was also black.

stepfather 2 terry o'quinn

Of course, Jerry/Gene isn’t going to let anybody ruin his plans for suburban family bliss and engineers her out of the picture so he can hurry up and wed Carol. A violent climax at the aborted wedding ramps things up the camp-o-meter a fair way, but, as before, O’Quinn’s performance always teeters on the brink.

The infamous Weinstein’s insisted on more gore for this follow-up, which O’Quinn flat out refused to participate in, which explains some of the insert-shots of various pools of blood etc, moving the property closer to a sort of Freddy-down-the-block slasher series, which probably explains why the leading man opted out of returning for any more rounds.

Either way, Meg Foster’s eyes are still the scariest thing in this film.


stepfather III


3 Stars  1992/18/106m

A.k.a. Stepfather 3: Father’s Day

Director: Guy Magar / Writers: GM & Marc B. Ray / Cast: Robert Wightman, Priscilla Barnes, Season Hubley, David Tom, John Ingle, Dennis Paladino, Stephen Mendel, Mario Roccozzo.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “Maybe he’s not who he says he is?” / “Yeah, well with any luck maybe he’s Kevin Costner or Tom Cruise?”

Terry O’Quinn’s (wise) decision to not return to the series, probably for fear of being typecast, means that this third and very final entry required the biggest convolution of all: Plastic surgery.

That’s right, fresh from escaping from the same institution again, Family Guy gets back-alley surgery from a greasy, chain-smoking dude who then gets his throat cut with a surgical saw for his trouble.

Nine months later, ‘Keith Grant’ is the new guy in the small town of Deerview, working at the plant nursery, volunteering to dress up as the Easter Bunny at a church fete, and hunting for a new mother-child combo to call his own. Although, Stepfather III smells like it’s trying to create some kind of mystery as to who it is who’s had surgery, but entirely fails to disguise it in any way.

stepfather 3

Said schmuckette is Christine (Barnes), amicably divorced and with wheelchair-bound son Andy, whose condition is psychosomatic (so we all know he’ll rise up outta that thing at the perfect moment). After three dates, Keith and Christine are married, but detective-mad Andy is suspicious of his new stepfather.

The perfect family illusion Keith has been desperate for begins to shatter when Andy goes to stay with his father for awhile, leading psychodad to begin courting another single mom, Jennifer, and hatching plans to get rid of Christine, but abandons them when Andy comes back earlier than planned.

Andy, meanwhile, becomes convinced Keith is Jerry Blake/Gene/whoever else, and recruits Father Brennan to help him prove it, but of course those who get in the way end up shoveled to death, raked, or driven off the road.

A woodchipper-tastic finale brings forth the moment when Andy finally lifts his feet from the wheelchair, accompanied by some rousing superhero music, and he’s forced to finish ‘dad’ off with some ferocity, ensuring there’s no amount of plastic surgery that can resurrect the Stepfather for Part 4.

stepfather 3

The video sequel needs to be trimmed along with Keith’s plants, clocking in about 15 minutes longer than necessary, but Wightman does fine in O’Quinn’s big shoes, though the script leans towards tacky elements here and there and Christine is the most naive of the Stepfather’s victims to date. In fact, all through the series women are made to look a bit dumb, eager to get married ASAP despite knowing fuck all about this man, and it’s down to the children to strike the final blow at the end. Hope they use those guilt coupons wisely going forward.


THE STEPFATHERthe stepfather remake 2009

2009/15/101m  2 Stars

“Daddy’s home.”

Director: Nelson McCormick / Writer: J.S. Cardone / Cast: Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, Sherry Stringfield, Paige Turco, Jon Tenney.

Body Count: 7

I saw this once ages ago and can’t remember much about it, beyond the fatal error of switching out the final girl to a final boy, a guy from a military background, no less – where’s the fear for our hero(ine) in that?

At the time it was just the latest in the factory line of people-remember-this-title-so-let’s-remake-it churn-outs, written by Cardone, who had also penned the risible Prom Night upchuck (directed by McCormick) and, back in ’81, The Slayer. O’Quinn was reportedly offered a cameo and sensibly said no. Sela Ward has an utterly thankless role as the new wife and Amber Heard spends most of the running time in a bikini, highlighting just how little thought went into this watered-down PG-13 retread.


* * *

So, a quality series in terms of production values. O’Quinn was definitely the high point and the conservative/anti-conservative subtext of the whole thing is interesting even today, with all this “I like tradition,” rhetoric Steppie likes the spout.

As a slasher series, it’s definitely low-key, with far more emphasis on the character’s manipulative psychosis over a blade-wielding maniac chasing skimpy babes, which is refreshing in a way. Remember it next time you’re messaged on Tinder.

stepfather 2009

Blurbs-of-interest: Jill Schoelen was also in Cutting ClassThe Phantom of the OperaPopcorn, and When a Stranger Calls Back; Stephen Shellen was also in American Gothic; Stephen E. Miller was in Funeral Home and Matinee; Jeff Burr directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Night of the Scarecrow; Caroline Williams had final girl duties in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and was also in Hatchet III; Guy Magar later directed Children of the Corn: Revelation; Priscilla Barnes was in The Back Lot Murders; David Tom was in Dead Scared; Stephen Mendel was in Jack Frost; Amber Heard was the title character in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

“You piss me off!”

fall down dead 2007FALL DOWN DEAD

2 Stars  2007/94m

“Seven strangers. Trapped. Hunted. Carved.”

Director: Jon Keeyes / Writer: Roy Sallows / Cast: Dominique Swain, Muhmet Günsür, Udo Kier, David Carradine, R. Keith Harris, Monica Dean, Austin James, Karine Darrah.

Body Count: 8

In 2006-07 I went backpacking around Asia for six months and, with a lot of time on buses, waiting at train stations etc., devoured an awful lotta books, trading them in at backpacker stops and hostels. I was particularly into James Patterson’s Alex Cross series at the time, finishing a book in about three days usually.

However, anyone who has read this series will surely attest that the awesome beginnings of Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls soon descended into my-first-psycho-thriller crap Double Cross and The Big Bad Wolf. (Mary Mary was the last one I got any mileage out of).

Anyway, the serial-murder-by-numbers nonsense this once great series has become is like a blueprint for Fall Down Dead, a film so dated I could swear somebody found an unsold giallo script from 1978 in a drawer and filmed it without bothering to bring it up to date.

The Picasso Killer is busy slashing up the women of some nameless big city, which is also victim to recurring power outages. He removes parts of their skin or whatever and uses it in his art, blah blah blah. One night, forward-thinking waitress Christie is assaulted by a homeless guy and does what all victims should: She runs into a dark alley.

fall down dead 2007

There, she finds a woman dying of razor wounds and is accosted by the Picasso Killer, eventually getting a security guard at the Hitchcock Building to let her in. A couple of detectives show up just as another blackout occurs, knocking out the phones and lights, essentially locking them in, plus a couple of office workers having after-hours nudie time, and a cleaner, inside the building. With the killer. On Christmas Eve.

Fall Down Dead is one of those late night cable affairs where you can pick out who will die and in what order from the moment they grace the screen. Somehow it made it to a theatrical release in certain parts of the world! Areas where they still think Patterson is anything but a marketing brand in the guise of a serious writer, I guess.

Suffice to say, Picasso slashes or shoots (aww…) his way through everyone who isn’t Christie or the down-on-his-luck cop until it’s a cat and mouse game.

Kier’s accent and would’ve-been-scary-pre-Lecter performance saves things from total meltdown, but just about everything else should warrant a title change to Fail Down Dead: Swain, who began her career in the title role of Lolita, and then Face/Off, is cookie-cutter single-mom-working-as-waitress stuff, but the script is so steeped in its mandated view of gender politics that she can’t fire a gun and needs a man to save her at every turn.

fall down dead 2007

The other characters are just as contrived, from the troubled cop, to the happy cop, the Latino cleaner who clutches her rosary beads and whines instead of kicking the killer in the balls and running for it, David Carradine’s crotchety nightwatchman, and the sex-couple with as much depth as a petrie dish. They also come complete with Captain Obvious dialogue: “I can’t believe the power went off – now I have to walk down all those flights of stairs.”

Kier’s theatrics towards the end are amusing (“You piss me off!” he growls when Christie won’t just surrender and let him slash to to ribbons), but sadly even he can’t resuscitate this lost cause.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kier was also in Pray for Morning and (apparently, but I didn’t notice) Rob Zombie’s Halloween plus The Editor; Carradine was in Children of the Corn VDetention, and Trick or Treats; Jon Keeyes also directed American Nightmare.

Are slasher films misogynistic?

I don’t love slasher films because I’m a gorehound – quite the opposite in fact. I love them because I like to see people survive against the odds, because I love it when a ‘weak’ opponent manages to find in themself the strength and ferocity to turn the tables on their attacker.

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while now and, after reading some academic film theory of late (plus struggling with non-review ideas for the site), thought I may as well just go for it.

Way back in 1997 when I started my film degree, there was almost nothing to read on slasher films. Games of Terror and Men, Women & Chain Saws were it, both academic texts, both well written, both by female critics.

This last point matters because both texts erred towards the intonation carried over into the mere mention of the sub-genre in other books as ‘women-hating’, ‘anti-feminist’, and ‘misogynistic’.

The common assumption of how a slasher film goes down: Young women menaced by a phallic weapon at the hands of a male aggressor.

The common assumption of how any slasher film goes down: Young women menaced by a phallic weapon at the hands of a male aggressor.

Games of Terror is about the formula far above and beyond gender ins and outs, but touches on it occasionally. In Men, Women & Chain Saws (hereafter MWC) Carol Clover pretty much tells porkies to illustrate her point, beginning with a meta-description of a slasher film that says a killer picks of ‘mostly female victims’, before using a bunch of films for reference where male victims outnumber females. Duh.

Still, numbers aren’t everything. The main point made in MWC is that terror is ‘gendered feminine’ and that can’t really be denied. Think back to almost every piece of slasher movie artwork commissioned, be in a quad poster, VHS cover, or DVD redesign, the recurrent theme is of a babe in peril, sometimes partially dressed, often screaming as a shadow/blade/pair of straddled legs threaten her.


Various girls-in-peril artwork, often featuring a phallic penetrative blade at the hands of a male aggressor.

This is evidenced in the mention of slasher films in other entertainment: In an episode of Will & Grace, a male character proclaims he feels “like a sorority girl in a bad slasher film”; in Sister Sister, girls at a slumber party watch a movie and narrate: “Freddy’s going after the girl.” A character in Dawson’s Creek refers to slasher films as being nothing but “masked men slashing up girls.” The popular myth of the genre appears to be that the slasher film is almost entirely about the torture of teenage girls.

The films lean heavily on the prolonged torment of their female characters – from the ‘quick scream and chop’ murders, the long chases down dark halls or alleys, to the final girl’s initial reluctance to fight back. To pin it down – how often do we see male characters tormented in the same way?

A large majority of slasher films are about a killer chasing girls, who happens to kill boys who get in the way: Sorority House Massacre, for example, is an exercise in babes in peril: The killer wants only to kill girls who resemble (to him) his sisters, the male victims (who incidentally outnumber females 5 to 3) just happen to cross his path and must be eliminated.

mask maker

Boys scream and flee too

My argument would be that the expanded terror afforded to teenage girls in slasher films is in part ‘made equal’ by the greater number of male victims over all. 697 films in, male fatalities outnumber the fairer sex 61% against 39% with only 20.5% of films featuring more murdered women than men.

I raised this on a blog to which the author responded with a surly comment that the fact men ‘also’ die doesn’t detract from the misogyny at work and that slasher films serve to play to male fantasies of women being cut up. If so, why have male victims at all, let alone more male victims? I don’t for a second believe that Terror Train‘s singular off-screen female homicide out of TEN murders plays into any such nonsense, same goes for Happy Birthday to Me, and the two-vs-six body count in Hell Night. Do dead men matter less?

The point was compacted by the fact that in their essay, the writer didn’t namecheck or reference a single post-Halloween slasher film. Not one. Dressed to Kill, some 70s proto-slashers, and giallo films do not your point make. If I’d handed in an academic essay on film without citations, no matter how well written, I’d have failed. It’s baseless, anecdotal at best.

7eventy 5ive

That said, critics would often state that the way in which women – particularly attractive teenage girls – are killed tips the balance. Despite box office receipts for Halloween and Friday the 13th showing 55% of under-17s were girls, most teen-horror is still written, produced, and directed by straight men, and thus the inextricable link between slasher films and T&A has never died out – look no further than IMDb boards for hordes of complaints when a slasher film doesn’t feature any nudity.

Clover made a point of stating that boys die because they make mistakes, whereas girls are murdered because they are girls. While this might resonate in low-end exploitation films where the killer targets only females and a male happens to get in his way, early plot-driven slasher films heavily leant on mystery angles where the killer targeted a specific group of young people, always mixed gender. The boys in Terror Train die because of their prank against the killer; boys in Friday the 13th are doomed as much as their girlfriends because the killer is hellbent on obliterating them all; same goes for Graduation DayHell NightMy Bloody Valentine… Errors in what dark room they should or shouldn’t enter aside, nobody in these films is killed ‘because of their gender’.

The boys and girls of Camp Crystal Lake: Equally doomed

The boys and girls of Camp Crystal Lake: Equal opportunity doom

The sequences leading up to the murder of a female character is usually more drawn out than that of her male friends. One might say that the quick from-behind hijacking of boys in slasher films is to prevent a physical retaliation less likely to occur when a girl is stalked. This could also feed into the lack of instances across the board of a male in terror: Weak men scream (see Trent in the Friday reboot) and run away; ‘real’ men stay and fight (see Julius in Jason Takes Manhattan) even if they almost always fail. The myth that is upheld is that when it comes to fight or flight, men will choose the former, women the latter.

Taking the Friday films as an example, in the oft-seen sequence where a couple’s sex is interrupted, most of the time the boy will leave the girl to get ice, beer, investigate a noise, and be killed first, usually quickly. This leaves the girl alone in the house/cabin with the killer, the scene slows down, the photography fragments, framing her from a variety of angles to confuse the viewer into wondering where he will pounce from, while she takes a shower, calls out for the boy, or flees having stumbled across his body.

In the 2009 remake of My Bloody Valentine, this was cranked up to a scene where the male half of a recent tryst dresses and leaves, while the female follows him, completely naked, and is then pursued by the killer after the man is suddenly offed with a pickaxe. His death is swift, over in a second, while she is subjected to being accosted, stark naked, screaming, hiding, hopelessly trying to defend herself.

It’s worth noting though that fellow 2009 slasher, Tormented almost reversed this scenario with a buff guy in pants partially pulled up, runs across a school campus from his killer.

my bloody valentine betsy rue naked

Naked, tormented victim in My Bloody Valentine (2009)

Then there are the films where female characters are punished for ‘sins’ that pale in comparison to those of their male contemporaries, who are spared: Valentine begins with three girls refusing to dance with a dorky boy, while a fourth accuses him of attacking her so that a group of boys pour punch over him, strip him to his underwear and kick the crap out of him. Years later, the girls are stalked and slashed, the boys seemingly forgotten. The same thing applies in My Super Psycho Sweet 16, where several jocks beat up the dorky friend of the heroine, but only the ringleader is killed, whereas the female friends of the bitchy girl are beyond redemption, even when one of them expresses remorse for the way they’ve treated the final girl, and all are summarily murdered.

In Girls Nite Out cheerleaders on a scavenger hunt are slashed by a killer who roars “Slut! Bitch! Whore!” while a roster of extremely annoying frat boys, the nominal hero of whom cheats on his girlfriend, escape the blades. That the killer turns out to be female may be a half-hearted effort to side-step the misogyny in play as a woman judging the promiscuity of other women rather than a man. The Prowler is another early film where the killer targets girls, after his ego is bruised by being dumped 35 years earlier. The three male victims (out of seven) killed are either attacked from behind without even seeing the killer or shot out of the blue. The Burning sees a group of boys roast a caretaker almost to death, yet when he returns for revenge several years later, his victims are primarily female.

Few films have tried to flip this trend: The Slumber Party Massacre may have been meddled with during production, but aspects of the initial missive come through – the boys die quickly, shrieking and thrashing as they’re stabbed or drilled, while the girls pool their resources and strike back with ferocity, figuratively castrating the killer by lopping the end of his phallic drill-bit, playing up to the notion that the male killers are impotent men incapable of sexually pleasing a partner, so opting to stab her over and over with a phallic weapon in a grotesque perversion of the sexual act.

The ending of The Slumber Party Massacre is an excellent celebration of oestrogenic fury as the trio of final girls retaliate, and still the film was eventually pushed out with a ‘traditional’ emphasis on the babes-in-peril angle:

slumber party massacre cover 1982

Equating violence with sex doesn’t come much more obvious than that.

Later on in the cycle, the tropes began to be parodied. In Cut (2000) the tyrannical (female) director yells at the actor playing the killer for forgetting to cut open a victim’s blouse before slashing her throat; the slasher film being made in Brian De Palma’s Blow Out is also run by a producer who wants girls for “tits and a scream”.

The Scream movies have often been cited for portrayals of strong women. However, it’s worth noting that in those movies, the stalking element is exclusively geared towards girls – the Halliwell Film Guide even summarised the plot of the original as “a killer is murdering girls” in spite of the fact that more males die. In each Scream however, the opening scene shows a young woman (or women) being tormented by the killer. Her male companion is usually killed off quickly. The third film flipped it and the male character’s death was more protracted, and the fourth opted for a clever joke of an opening with two fake-outs before the real double-murder, ultimately amassing five deaths of young women. This is a series that may push Sidney Prescott and Gale Weathers to pound on their male aggressors, but is pivoted by men who are always attacked either from behind or with no time to act, and girls who run and scream before they’re killed.

Double final girl power in Scream 2, offsetting the run and hide nature of other female victims in the series

Double final girl power in Scream 2, offsetting the prolonged torment of other female victims in the series

More recently, in the 2015 indie pic Bastard, all relevant roles are taken by women: The killer, final girl, and her would-be saviour. This is a film where the only on-screen murders are of men.

Conclusively, there’s no way to call it. There are exceptions to every rule the slasher universe has ever thrown out: Protracted male chase scenes occur in Mask Maker and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, but they lack the fear on behalf of the viewer for the fate of the victim. Do we care more about the girls than the boys? Read a few IMDb boards and you’d think anything but.

The back and forth could go on and on, but given that the slasher realm offers meaty leading roles for women, I’d say that trumps most accusations of misogyny. It’s got to be far more empowering to watch Jamie Lee Curtis, Amy Steel, Heather Langenkamp, or Neve Campbell fight off a killer with ferocious gusto than see them playing the wife or girlfriend of a guy who has all the adventures in any other genre.

Personally, a slasher film without screaming girls running about is usually a bad one, but I tend to get tetchy when the motif is repeated more than once per film, or when asshole guys are given a free pass while their much nicer girlfriends are brutally slain (see Honeymoon HorrorBerserker, even the recent Most Likely to Die). The best genre examples levelled it out: Kill some boys, kill some girls, but always leave one girl to save the day.

So are they misogynistic? I’d say largely – intentionally – no, but some certainly have their moments.

Slither n’ Slash

venom 2005 dvd


3.5 Stars  2005/15/87m

“He never hurt a soul until the day he died.”

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten & Brandon Boyce / Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Rick Cramer, Laura Ramsey, Meagan Good, D.J. Cotrona, Pawel Szajda, Bijou Phillips, Davetta Sherwood, Method Man.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “You stole it?” / “Well, I wasn’t gonna buy it, it’s too ugly! I felt bad taking a nice one – I have a conscience.”

Kevin Williamson produced this ill-failed feature, for which he was reunited with I Know What You Did Last Summer director Gillespie. It ended up being released within days of Hurricane Katrina – not good for a Louisiana-shot, voodoo-centric teen horror film. Predictably it tanked, raking less than $1million.

In spite of this misfortune, Venom is a handsome critter, which benefits from above average production design, and a brutality absent in other recent slasher films. And there weren’t many around theatrically in 2005. Initially, the film was conceived as a backstory for a pending video game, Backwater, which featured an antagonist known as Mr Jangles. Whether that ever surfaced I do not know.

venom 2005 meagan good agnes bruckner

A mambo priestess in the deep south retrieves a suitcase full of snakes possessed by the evil of people whose bad mojo they’ve sucked out in a ‘milking ceremony’. Whilst transporting it to safety, she, grimy local mechanic/outcast Ray Sawyer, and sexy teens Eden and Eric, are involved in an accident on a bridge, which culminates with the hulking Ray trapped inside the sinking car with the loose snakes.

Ray’s body is retrieved and the mambo also dies from her injuries, but the former is soon up and about, killing the coroner, Method Man’s deputy (what happened to him!?), and a string of teens leading back to the mambo’s house, where her granddaughter CeCe (Good, who is, uh, good) is mourning her loss.

venom 2005

Meanwhile, the demon-formerly-known-as-Ray sandblasts a light-fingered teen to death before heading in the direction of the house where the depleting teens gather to comfort CeCe. After finding their VW Beetle turned on its head (at least it wasn’t completely trashed, gorgeous thing that it is) the assault begins with a ripped-off arm, death-by-crowbar, and even house-wrenched-in-half when CeCe’s voodoo powder-scattering blocks his entry.

Venom goes to some lengths to provide creative demises for all involved, but by doing so adheres to that is-it/isn’t-it true stereotype of killing the black characters first: The first three murdered aren’t white and the ripe opportunity to finally cast a black girl as the heroine is squandered.

venom 2005 bijou phillips

That said, Agnes Bruckner, as Eden, does just fine with the role – running and retaliating where required and I’d forgotten just how long the third act of Girl vs. demon-formerly-known-as-Ray carries on, so her dues are well and truly paid.

Despite reliance on some real contrivances – one of the teens is Ray’s illegitimate son, perfect to make a voodoo doll with – there’s much to enjoy here, from the swampland locus (although why does nobody have a southern accent?) to the comparably luxury production qualities. The characters blue together somewhat, with little to them beyond final girl Eden wanting to go be a doctor in New York, her boyfriend moaning about it, the gay boy, the drunk boy, and a host of ‘other ones’.

venom 2005

Venom isn’t likely to be regarded as a classic by any metric, but it’s definitely worth a look for its surface gloss appeal alone, which is rare in low-end slasher fare, and some MTV hyper-edits aside, ticks all the boxes a fun horror ride should.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gillespie also directed D-Tox; Laura Ramsey was in Cruel World.

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