Monthly Archives: January 2013
Directed by: Colin Eggleston
Starring: Tessa Humphries, Shane Briant, Susan Barling
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Australia left an often unnoticed but essential mark on the slasher genre and it could be argued that after Canada, they probably had the biggest input outside of the US. Their entries can generally be spliced into three categories: Very Good (Small Town Massacre, Coda), Average (Cut, Stage Fright) and absolutely awful (To Become One, Houseboat Horror).
Thankfully, Cassandra is a member of the first grouping and is one of the rare few psycho-killer flicks that has an endearing macabre sheen. The bogeyman here has taken a liking to writing ‘who killed cock robin’ on the wall at the scene of his gruesome slashings, which measures up nicely with the killer leaving a broken doll beside his victims in The Baby Doll Murders and the spooky appearance of that creepy dolly in the classic Curtains. Of course, there’s bound to be some kind of deluded motive for this psychotic creativity and it’s down to us viewers to figure out the not so obvious connection…
It begins with cool credit sequence that boasts a notable theme tune and a great graphic for the title. Following that, we’re given one of the creepiest openings that I ever remember witnessing in a slasher flick. A young girl is shown throwing stones into a lake beside a remote cabin in the woods. A car pulls up outside the hut and out steps a woman and a creepy looking child who’s singing the nursery rhyme, ‘who killed cock robin?’ Next we see inside the cabin and the woman is turning a shotgun on herself in a suicide bid, while the boy mutters ‘do it’ in a spooky voice reserved only for horror maniacs. The young girl jogs up to the hut in excellent steadi-cam, but arrives too late; the woman had already pulled the trigger. It’s a great launch for the feature, which is skilfully photographed and smoothly edited, giving it enough power to keep your hopes raised for the rest of the movie. It brought to my mind the spooky commencement from that all but forgotten Ozploitation classic, Alison’s Birthday. At first, I wondered if the two movies shared some kind of connection other than both hailing from Australia? But I haven’t managed to find any notes that would confirm this to be true.
Next we learn that the spooky occurrence was only a dream, one that has been plaguing Cassandra (Tessa Humphries) quite regularly just lately. It seems so realistic that she believes it may be a memory recollection from her childhood, but she’s confused and just can’t remember the truth. She asks her mother and father if she could have ever witnessed a similar course of events, but they suspiciously convince her that it’s all in her mind. To be honest, they look as if they have more skeleton’s in their closet than the local morgue has corpses, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn out to be hiding a few shocking secrets beneath their obviously false exterior.
Cassandra’s father, Steven, is a photographer with more than just a ‘photographic’ eye for the ladies and pretty soon we learn that he’s shoulder deep in an affair with one of his projects. Cassandra catches her dad and his mistress, Libby together, just as the model was in the middle of telling him that she’s fallen pregnant. On top of her continuous restless nights that’s not what Cassandra, the troubled youngster, needed to hear at this time. She heads to the local bar, where she pours her heart out to her friend Robbie, who lends a sympathetic ear.
The following night, Libby heads out to a remote beach house after an argument with Steven over why he wont tell his wife about the baby . After an extremely gratuitous shower, an unseen maniac creeps into the house in superb first person cinematography, picking up a bread knife ‘en route a la Michael Myers. Some time later, Steve discovers her corpse in his bed with her throat slashed from ear to ear. He also finds a creepy message left at the scene by the killer, which reads: ‘who killed cock robin?’
The police turn up and question everybody and we find out that Cassie witnessed the murder through a psychic link that she mysteriously shares with the killer. From here on out the majority of the runtime resolves around the mystery, as we learn more about the characters and their shady backgrounds – and boy have they got shady backgrounds. To break up the dialogue, Eggleston chucks in some suspense as the shadowed maniac puts in another appearance. This time, he tries unsuccessfully to murder Cassie’s mother in yet another sequence that’s packed with credible tension.
Eventually the assassin manages to get everyone that’s on his list of would-be victims in the same place at the same time, including the unsuspecting heroine. After a cool decapitation by shovel (the first I remember seeing) and another brutal murder, it’s left up to Cassie to try and save herself and her family from his malevolent rage.
It’s looks a little more than obvious that Colin Eggleston was greatly inspired by the American titans of eighties horror, such as John Carpenter and Sam Raimi. Previously, he had penned the screenplay for 1980’s slasher misfire, Stage Fright and to say that he had ‘borrowed’ the basic plot pointers from Halloween for that script would be a considerable understatement. He showed much more potential once behind the camera, but still kept the horror references pouring thick and fast. Check out some of the flowing photography in the dream sequence, which clearly owes a great deal to Raimi’s first-person-possession from The Evil Dead. Still, don’t hold that against the man. I mean, you show me a slasher movie that doesn’t steal from its fellow genre-men and I’ll show you a pink elephant with wings and a driving licence.
As a matter of fact, Cassandra’s imaginative use of the camera is perhaps its most alluring attribute. Take for example the first murder, which packs a great deal of suspense into a short sequence and skilfully manages to keep the tension running high all the way through. We look on in traditional hand-held shots as the victim climbs into bed, leading us to successfully believe that we’re watching from the eyes of the killer. However as the camera zooms in on the female, the knife appears from a different location than the one we were expecting, which provides a great jolt and a decent shock-tactic that can be credited as one of Eggleston’s own.
Let’s just say for argument’s sake that Stage Fright was Eggleston’s Halloween. Then I guess Cassandra could quite easily be labelled as his Eyes of Laura Mars. The two movies share a great deal of story points, most notably of course, the use of a psychic link between the killer and heroine. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Mars, so I didn’t notice many other similarities that I could immediately remember. I’m pretty certain though that it was somewhere on his list of inspirations before he sat down to pen the synopsis for this closely themed thriller.
Ian Mason’s screeching score helps to provide the tense atmosphere and Josephine Cook edits with a visible confidence that was one of the strongest elements in the brilliance of the opening sequence. It’s also stylishly produced for an underground slasher flick and doesn’t deserve to have become such an obscurity since it’s release. Initially the feature was going to get a cinematic run, but it ended up creeping out direct to video. I had never even heard of Cassandra until I found the DVD in my local newsagent’s bargain bucket. Later I learned that it was briefly distributed in the United Kingdom sometime in 1987, but vanished from existence pretty soon after.
The performances here are a bit of a disappointment, although I quite liked Tessa Humphies (Dame Edna’s daughter) as the protagonist. Despite obvious limitations as an actress, she at least offers some charm and a good screen presence. Surprisingly enough, the lack of any truly outstanding dramatics really didn’t spoil the movie too much and I still thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
There are of course a few flaws to be found throughout the runtime that may ruin the story for the more critical viewers. As I said previously, it isn’t greatly acted and some may find the character driven storyline a slightly disappointing alternative to a numerous body count. It’s also pretty easy to guess whom it is that’s actually killing everyone and I was expecting a slightly more intelligent conclusion than the mediocre and somewhat uninspired result that we ended up with. But the odd stylish sequence lifted this above the majority of its counterparts and almost every murder is neatly staged. Suspense is one of the toughest things to be found in underground slasher movies, but Colin Eggleston successfully manages to create quite a few credible sequences that give the movie a noteworthy professional sheen.
As far as Australian stalk and slash efforts go, it’s actually one of the best of its kind…
Final Girl √√
Fatal Games 1984
aka The Killing Touch aka Olympic Nightmare
Directed by: Michael Elliot
Starring: Sally Kirkland, Sean Masterson, Lynn Banashek
Review by Luisjo Joaquín González
Fatal Games was released a couple of years after the largest peak in the slasher cycle’s popularity period and it was one of the first additions to my collection on big box VHS. I have watched it many times, but it is never one that I have held a particular fondness for and it rarely gets mentioned alongside other genre favourites. It lacks even the charm of say, Graduation Day, which is a film it is often accused of imitating.
Many eighties slashers that don’t deserve their cult status managed to live on simply because they became rare, which meant that enthusiasts like me, dedicated weeks (sometimes years) trying to to find them. A fair few were also castrated by censors upon release, which meant that the human nature of us wanting to see the things that we weren’t allowed, gave them a notoriety that they would never have deserved without such intervention. In cases such as the one that befell The Dorm that Dripped Blood, the honour of being chucked on the video nasty list and banned for public consumption was a golden ticket to a longer life expectancy as bootlegs would surface and interest would sustain.
This entry lacks any nostalgic benefits and therefore only offers what it says on the tin. However no one can say that a film featuring a hooded-javelin wielding maniac can be totally devoid of interest, so I was keen to give it another look after years of it collecting dust particles in my garage.
An athletic training school is preparing for a National contest and all the young hopefuls are being put through gruesome training routines. Things take a turn for the worse when a javelin brandishing nutjob begins slaughtering the students when they stay behind to practice after hours. It becomes apparent that the disappearances are linked, so who or what could be behind the occurrences?
It seems bizarre to accuse a movie of ripping off Graduation Day, because the film’s director, Herb Freed himself, will probably admit that his cheeseball is hardly a title worthy of such adulation. It’s hard not to level that accusation at Fatal Games however, because there are a few otherwise inexplicable similarities between the two. Everything from the athletic teens getting slaughtered and then their faces crossed off of a team-photo to the javelin stick being used as a murder weapon seems to reference the former sports-themed genre piece. They even start with almost identical credit sequences, which show the characters training in slow-mo shots with a funky rock tune setting the vibe.
Do you remember during the eighties when almost every film had a sugar-coated message and an equally mushy theme tune to hype up headband wearing audiences (which we all were back then)? Songs like Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ are postcards from a lost generation that fortunately thus far hasn’t found its route to return. Now if you thought, “Everybody wants to be a winner” from the opening of Freed’s Graduation Day opus was taking the biscuit in terms of eighties pumping up tracks, then Fatal Games runs away with the whole biscuit pack. Here we have lines such as ‘winning is everything’ and ‘take it to the limit’ (clearly ripped from Scarface’s ‘Push it to the Limit’) and the song is so laughably energetic that I almost jumped out of my bed and began doing press-ups.
It’s a shame that first (and last) time director Michael Elliot never ‘took it to the limit’ as his direction is so flat that it feels like the print was placed under a steamroller before it received distribution. What we have here is two gears: bland and even blander and things don’t get any better than that. There’s one very good shadowy ‘studio shot’ that must’ve been filmed by the next-door neighbour or perhaps it was stock footage, because it is re-used continuously every time the killer strikes and nothing else from Elliot comes close to matching it. Like the maniac from Baby Doll Murders, this guy is a bit of a fashionable psychopath. When on massacre duties, he dresses in a shiny striped tracksuit with matching trainers and it’s easy to see that this is an assassin with considerable eighties style. Of course we are all meant to be trying our hardest to work out who it is hiding under the hood, but the conclusion, upon revelation, is completely implausible if fun all the same.
There’s no real tomato juice goo on display here, but there’s some creative ways to finish off a teenager with a javelin. The guy under the mask has a ‘supernatural slasher villain ability‘. These are much like super hero powers and many eighties psycho killers had them. Like, for example, this guy is able to magically transport to appear exactly in front of a fleeing victim or being able to move a corpse and clean litres of blood in seconds without any products available to do so. The nut job here can throw the said javelin with enough power to impale someone from as far out as 500 yards! That’s a necessary skill however, because the director doesn’t believe in close-ups on the action and everything is filmed from football-pitch length distances. I really enjoyed the swimming pool killing, which was obviously lifted from The Prowler, but it is a real slice of fun as well as being grimly effective. The assailant puts on a full scuba kit and climbs in to the pool, before swimming underneath his intended victim and waiting for her to pass by, before adding her corpse to his collection. How the girl managed to remain oblivious to someone with a bubble-bellowing scuba tank attached to his back and a two-foot pole in his hands was quite amazing, but the sequence is amongst my favourites simply for that.
The only thing that this can really be remembered for is the extremely high levels of nudity on display. All the bunnies (and most of the guys too) are naked at one point throughout the runtime and there’s a hilarious sequence where a girl flees the killer in her skin suit, which goes on for about three minutes. The cast also warrants a mention, with Sally Kirkland who would later get an Oscar nod and comedian Sean Masteson as one of the youngsters. The performances are pretty lame throughout, but I think most of the student-aged cast members were hired more for their gymnastic abilities than their dramatic credibility.
What else can I say? Well the finale is quite well staged, as a guy on crutches finds the bodies of his colleagues stashed in lockers and there’s a chase sequence that ends on a scaffold tower, which was a novel idea. But that’s pretty much the best it gets to be honest.
So this is somewhat lacking in charm and it’s flatly directed, but it’s not necessarily that bad of an entry. I would pick this over 90% of the modern day slasher trash anyway...
Final Girl √
Directed by: Doug Robertson
Starring: Brien Blakely, Blake Pickett, Michael Schwitzgebel
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The nineties certainly didn’t begin with a bang for the slasher genre, which was to be expected after its prolific population of horror cinema throughout the previous decade. Censorship restrictions and an extreme lack of originality meant that the category had become a dumping ground for low-budget and lower-quality independent movies that had lost the allure that made them popular in the first place. It is widely considered that the last glory year was 1988, because the dying breath of the cycle unleashed solid titles like: Maniac Cop, Intruder, Evil Dead Trap and Edge of the Axe. From then on it was a downward spiral into mediocrity, as throwaways like Zipperface and Live Girls put the final nails in the sub-genre’s coffin. Hauntedween was another feature from the ‘lost years’ – a term that describes the gap between 1988 and the Scream rebirth in 1996.
If you check on the web, you will find a lot of Hauntedween reviews and a large number of them praise the flick as if it were the slasher equivalent of Citizen Kane. Closer inspection however, shows that the majority of these positive comments are from the vicinity of where the feature was shot because it has a somewhat legendary status amongst locals. Almost all of the actors were picked up from West Kentucky University and the producers held casting days in the town centre. Many residents were given parts as extras and local businesses got involved with the marketing. It reminds me so much of my home town, Aracena, where community projects are exactly like that.
In the prologue the camera heads along a country road that leads to a haunted house. There’s a young child at the gate collecting an entrance fee from revellers that all comment on his Halloween mask. Eddie Burber looks like a great prospect to become a junior serial slasher, mainly because he doesn’t speak too much and as we all know REAL bogeymen are inexplicably muted. The point is proved when he enters the house of horror and chases a young girl until she ends up impaled on a bizarrely misplaced spike. Accidents do happen, but that can’t be the excuse for young Eddie. He confirms his murderous intent by finishing the job with a huge machete that he conjured up from thin air. He escapes the scene of the crime and heads back home to his mother who informs him that they’re going to have to go away for a while.
Twenty years down the line, we bump into the fully-grown Eddie and his mum living at a secluded ranch. Whilst chopping some firewood with a huge axe that I presume will play a part later in the feature, his mother drops to the floor, seemingly suffering a heart-attack. The still-unseen bogeyman picks up the corpse of his parent and tells her “It’s time to go home“.
Reguaws, Kentucky hasn’t changed much over two decades, except now there’s a new gang of thirty-year-old students in the Topshill State College. They’re struggling with the threat of having their Sigma Pi fraternity closed if they can’t come up with 37, 000 dollars in the next couple of weeks. Despite some bemusing moneymaking plans that include car washing (I estimate that they’d have to scrub about 20,000 cars!?), they settle with the idea of a haunted house at the home of the murderous child from the prologue. We all know how much Eddie enjoys attending these events, and he doesn’t disappoint when he turns up with a creepy mask and a few tricks up his sleeves…
Whilst watching Hauntedween for a second time, I noticed that my opinion has changed considerably over the twenty years since I last gave it a viewing. Back then, I remember thinking that it was boring and badly shot; but today I found a lot more to appreciate. When rating a small production like this you have to take into account the meagre budget and inexperienced crew, which probably amounted to little more than a few men and a dog. They do however go about things with a dollop of self-referential humour and I found it easier to see that Hauntedween is as subtly tongue in cheek as the imaginative title would lead you to believe. Horror/comedies never really click; and aside from the odd stand-out addition, they generally struggle to achieve the feat that they set out to. Thankfully, Hauntedween manages to avoid falling into the realms of slapstick, because the laughs are not forced and come across more as a production team that realise that their movie is never going to be anything more than a cheesy slasher. I think that they just wanted the viewer to join in with the fun that they were having and it’s hard to criticise them for that.
When the killer starts his rampage, he proves to be a real showman by murdering victims in front of a baying crowd that believe they’re watching a ‘theatrical performance’. Luckily for him, he can keep up the act without any fringe of suspicion, because the special effects are as hokey as a Rolex at a car-boot sale. There’s an ambitious decapitation and half a dozen or so victims that all get their chance to thespian-up their final breath whilst covered with a gallon of fake blood.
The movie stays true to its slasher heritage and writer/producer/director Doug Robertson was definitely a fan of the genre. Despite the title, ‘Ween doesn’t mimic Carpenter’s classic as much as you’d think, and instead it tries to spice things up a bit with some slightly different branches to the plot.
You can almost feel the enthusiasm of the whole crew streaming out from the cheap plastic video cassette because it is that contagious. It’s clearly evident that a good time was had by all behind the scenes and whilst this is no substitute for great filmmaking, it allows you to accept Hauntedween for what it is. I mean, let’s make no mistake about it, this is a shoe-string movie. It’s a shoe-string movie though that knows its limitations and makes the most of them, without trying to achieve more than could be possible. That doesn’t make it worthy of the inflated purchase price that it sells for on VHS, but if you come across it cheap, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a whirl. The final twenty minutes of mayhem are worth seeing for some cheapskate slasher shenanigans and at least this flick managed to capture some of the eighties charm that for us, is generally so hard to find. I’m not sure if I am breaking any copyright laws by telling you this, but hey, whilst looking for more info I noticed that it is on YouTube. Sssshhhhh!!
A few buckets of blood, some topless chicks and a masked killer – what can be so bad about that? Take it with a pinch of salt and it might be worth a look…
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl √
Slaughter Studios 2002
Directed by: Brian Katkin
Starring: Nicholas Read, Amy Shelton-White, Tara Killian
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Personally, I never got the whole comedy/horror thing. I understand that opposites attract and all that, but are you really telling me that it’s good to laugh and be scared during the same sequence? Wouldn’t one emotion done well, be better than the two mixed poorly together? I recently saw Decampitated, which is a fairly watchable film for the simple fact that much like Scary Movie, it is really just a comedy that’s been set in a horror universe. That’s ok if you know what audience you are targeting. It’s when writers aim for the best of both worlds that things seem to really get messy. I can’t think of many entries at all that made the combination work: Scream, Cherry Falls, Blood Hook; but they were only marginally comedic… Erm… I’m struggling for more… Maybe it’s just my sense of humour?
Slaughter Studios was originally pencilled to be a Slumber Party Massacre remake. It was only when producer Damian Akhavi managed to rope in Roger Corman and access to his soon to be demolished studio that the idea was scrapped in favour of a whole new story. They went for the goofy dialogue approach and have attempted to interweave toilet humour with some cool deaths and a whodunit storyline.
A group of film school students get together to make a horror film in a dilapidated studio. ‘Slaughter Studios’ has been closed down since the fateful night when one of their lead actors was killed by a real loaded gun that was accidentally used as a prop. The rapidly cobbled together crew decide to shoot the whole picture in one sitting and have only nine hours to finish the photography. Almost as soon as they arrive however, an unseen someone begins killing off the cast members one by one. Could it be that the unfortunate star has returned from the grave with murderous intent…?
When my family first emigrated to England from Spain in 1987, I was six years old and shared a bedroom with my older brother, Oscar. There’s eight years between us, so I was little more than a nuisance to him then, even though we get on real well now. To look at and speak to, you would never guess that we even know each other, let alone that we are siblings. Aside from the stereotypical Latino dark hair and olive eyes, we share no similarities in our appearance and our lives have traipsed in separate directions. He worked from the age of sixteen, found the perfect wife a couple of years later and has three lovely children with her. I was a total wild child, bounced from girl to girl and on top of that, we even support rival football teams (he’s Spurs/R.Madrid I’m Real Betis/Arsenal).
When we lived together, as you can imagine, we were completely non-compatible. Him and I leaving the family abode brought us closer and was a blessing in disguise for our relationship. Watching Slaughter Studios takes me back to those times so well, because its two opposing styles are a combination that don’t see eye to eye in a 90 minute runtime.
Firstly, Greg Salman deserves a massive pat on the back for his art direction here. We are treated to well crafted sets that look fantastic and make superb use of horror ‘prop stereotypes’ such as cobwebs and low lights. The photography is also top notch and visibly stylish with a real emphasis on keeping the runtime as energetic as possible. Cinematographer Mark Lulkin drapes the film in a gothic darkness that helps to keep the tone ever threatening. The first few killings are off-screen and bloodless, and so on the 45 minute mark, I had written a note that it was somewhat disappointing considering the OTT theme of the feature in other areas. During the final half though, things go on a rampage and the blood begins to flow. There’s a couple of really grisly murders, including a fitting demise for the spoilt slut character that I won’t ruin for you here. I also cringed at the drawn-out slaughter of one guy who tried to jump to safety from a second-floor window. He ends up breaking both of his legs on impact and crawls away with his smashed limbs trailing behind him only to be stabbed and decapitated with a pitchfork! Christopher Farrell’s score is well composed and manages to evoke various moods when the momentum does briefly stagnate.
Most of the time though, things move at a neat pace and I was really excited to see who it was that was killing everyone. There’s a fairly large body count and all the usual post-Scream slasher movie stereotype characters. This almost borders on being one of those semi-erotic slasher flicks and chucks in bundles of nudity and a Lesbian clinch. It’s not as adult focused as say, for example, Porn Shoot Massacre though and does try hard to stick with the original plan of action.
As you have probably already guessed by what I have said earlier in this review, it is the stupid attempts at goofy humour that really damage Slaughter Studios. The script is all, pretty much, tongue in cheek tosh and I didn’t find any of the jokes funny. I read a review of this somewhere online that said, the film can be digested much easier if you take it as a comedy. Ok cool, then tell that to the marketing bods who made it look like a gore extravaganza on the cover. Also, I am the last person in the world to stand up for political correctness, but why turn the only Asian character in to a cowardly, perverted fool with a stammering accent?
The revelation of the killer was equally annoying and a bit of a cheat too. After the credits had rolled, I was left thinking, what was the point of the opening scene? In fact, what was the point of any of the story before it? It just came across as rushed, unexplained and effectively hollow. There’s a predictable false climax that feels drawn out because its obviously a red-herring and it all ends with an overall feeling of disappointment.
On occasion I was really impressed by some of the stuff in Slaughter Studios. I kept thinking to myself, maybe it will come good from this moment onward. Despite a brazen attempt at an exciting finish though, the damage had already been done and I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. The producers made the movie look incredibly slick, but the comedic aspect should never have been given the go ahead. An impressive amount of technically adept filmmaking flair is wasted in a stupid attempt at a mix of genres.
It’s no surprise that this has become such an obscurity and it really is its own worst enemy. Gone and quite simply well forgotten, it doesn’t warrant a place in your collection.
Final Girl: √√
Directed by: Greg Huson
Starring: Scott Weinger, Lindsey Mckeon, Holly Towne
Blood looks great on sand and blood looks great on snow. Also, psycho killers look awesome in ski masks!
Shredder is one of the more recent ‘icy’ slashers that has taken the genre’s trappings to the ski-slopes in order to give us some frosty set-pieces. We’ve been here before of course in one of my favourite eighties cheeseballs, Iced from 1988. Other snowbound entries include Ghostkeeper, Satan’s Blade and I spent ages hunting this one out only to find that it’s not a slasher at all, but Demon Possessed is also set in sub-zero surroundings. After the 1996 Scream revolution, every genre piece to hit shelves was intent on mimicking Kevin Williamson’s satirical wit. The success of that feature meant that filmmakers were happy to just copy and paste those elements with no invention or creativity. That remained the general theme of things for a while in slasherland, but over the past three years, we have began to see more and more entries returning to the retro classics of the eighties for inspiration. Greg Huson’s Shredder came out over a decade ago and was definitely using Wes Craven’s slasher as its prototype for success. With a set-up so similar to the aforementioned Iced however, I was hopeful that we might get a new-age slasher with an old-age mentality…
A gang of snowboard ‘dudes’ and a couple of hotter than a solarium chicas head off to a secluded resort to do some shredding (snowboarding). Upon arrival they soon notice that the locals don’t take too kindly to them due to a fatal accident that occurred on the site sometime earlier and was blamed on a group of snow boarders. Before long a killer with a black mask and ski suit is stalking the slopes and killing off the posse in imaginative ways. Who could be behind the murders?
Unlike the majority of features that were released on this kind of budget during the early noughties, Shredder was shot on film and the visual benefits are obvious from the start. The colours are vivid and crisp and the white slopes were gleaming like luminous tinsel on my plasma. We jump straight in to the action with a sequence that I can only describe as ‘ski and slash’ and there’s an awesome decapitation that sets things off in audacious fashion. The copy that I own is the UK DVD and what is interesting to note is that it was given a less-stringent 15 rating. This quite surprised me, because it was my first example of BBFC leniency after their Gestapo-like crimes to the horror genre during the video nasty days. Shredder is quite a bloody picture and it’s nice to see that it wasn’t persecuted and therefore ruined.
We soon get to meet the characters of the story and this time around, they seem particularly clichéd. There’s the slutty girl (in fact we have two), a nerd who knows the rules (he says to the maniac that he can’t be killed because he’s a virgin etc), sensitive guy, obvious final girl and they even chuck in a European stud with a really bad accent. Was this in place of the token black dude? Well you’d have to ask the screenwriter. Scream’s modus operandi was to mock the overuse of repetitive trappings that had characterised the category since 1978. That was the genius of Kevin Williamson’s screenplay; – that was the gimmick. To make a movie that imitates a parody of genre imitations is somewhat missing the point. I didn’t particularly feel that we were in the hands of someone who had a true knowledge of the genre prior to 1996. There was a shower stalking sequence that I guess was a homage to Psycho, but I got the feeling that the whole movie was somewhat shallow.
It’s impossible for me to watch this without comparing it to Iced and there’s no doubting that Shredder boasts a much higher level of technical ability. It makes the most of its decent budget and we do actually get to see some killings on the slopes. It doesn’t come close to capturing the charm of the aforementioned flick though and that’s why it doesn’t reach the same cult status. Even the good guys here came across as conceited and there was no one to relate to or root for. Greg Huson has stated that he hadn’t previously seen Jeff Kwitny’s ski-bound slasher cheese-bucket (Iced) and so we can’t look for inspirations from that feature here. Well that’s a real shame, because his movie was crying out for a Carl-type character or hell, even a Jeanette.
Recently, I was invited to give a speech at a film festival in London in regards to the attraction of action movies. My point was that not every film has to have a moral to its story or a synopsis that makes you analyse yourself and the world around you for days after. Cinema is all about moods, and sometimes humans just want to escape reality and spend a couple of hours watching something that excites them without altering perceptions. We walk out after the final credits and leave it all behind us and get on with our lives. A quick snack of escapism is like a dose of vitamins for everyone, no matter where you are from. Shredder has a couple of ingenious killings, some cool gore, a fun score and a lightweight mystery that allows you to feel like a mastermind when you work it out in thirty minutes. Therefore as a timewaster, it is almost everything that you need it to be. Its only downfall is that it lacks any kind of charisma; and that my friends is equally as important.
I watched Shredder when it first came out ten years ago and enjoyed it a whole lot more. Did it catch me this time in a bad or tired mood? I hope not, I always try to evaluate things with an open mind. I want to state clearly that Shredder is a good effort that does the basics right. It’s just that it had the potential to be a lot better. There’s enough here for you to enjoy though, so I say still give it a shot.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √
Evil Judgement 1981
Directed by: Claudio Castravelli
Starring: Pamela Collyer, Jack Langedijk, Walter Massey
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is an update of the review that I posted on the IMDB way back in 2004. Enjoy…
Looking at the cheesy cover, one could be forgiven for immediately passing off Evil Judgement as just a typical bottom of the barrel slasher from the years when studios were knocking them out faster than the time it takes to boil an egg. Due mainly to the huge amount of slasher films released during the golden period, many struggled to find an audience and rapidly vanished without recognition. Although the likes of ‘Movie House Massacre‘ and ‘Click: The Calendar Girl Killer‘ were perhaps deserving of such a fate, the excellent ‘Terror Night’ and the two ‘BloodStreams’ (both 1985 and 2000 respectively) proved to be worthy of a more prominent status.
As I have said before, 1981 was a fine year for fans of slasher movies. Not only were enthusiasts treated to a sequel of Halloween, which was arguably the movie that started it all; but also they were given excellent features such as Small Town Massacre, Friday the 13th Part 2, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine and Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse. It was also without a doubt the most lucrative period for the cycle and it is reported that over 60% of box office receipts were from slasher flicks.
Evil Judgement was also completed in 1981, but missed out on the chance to become a part of the peak year influx, due to post-production problems, which have remained undisclosed. The movie sat on the shelves for 3 years and was released direct to video in 1984. Usually such a fate is reserved only for the worst of entries (Twisted Nightmare anybody?), so initially the signs were unconvincing for this Canadian effort.
Everything kicks-off stereotypically as an unidentified patient escapes an asylum, murdering a doctor and an unsuspecting orderly along the way. Next up we meet our heroine, Janet (Pamela Collyer), who is hardly the virginal alter-girl that so often dictates the stereotype for the female protagonist of a slasher movie. Working in a grimy café really begins to get her down and so after much convincing, she decides to accompany her friend, who is an expensive hooker, on a money-spinning night of erotica. Janet’s prostitution début doesn’t go specifically as planned, because an unseen maniac turns up on site and attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to murder her. Despite his failure to relieve us of our leading lady, the killer does manage to slaughter both her friend April (Nanette Workman) and their unfortunate client. The killer realises that he has left a surviving eye-witness and begins to stalk Janet throughout the rest of the feature, gorily slaughtering everyone that gets in his way. Numerous twists and turns in the plot keep the audience guessing until the surprising conclusion…..
Evil Judgement has become something of an obscurity and is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine. It’s a real shame, because actually Castravelli’s slasher is one of the better peak-year murder-mysteries. The film’s strengths lie in the ambition of its synopsis and an excellent characteristic performance from Jack Langedijk as the anti-hero, Dino. When first watching, I had the feeling that he had turned up on the wrong set and was meant to be playing a wise guy in the Mafia flick that was shooting next door. But in fairness, he quickly began to grow on me and made a likeable persona from an audience boo-boy, which is no mean feat. Despite an obviously low production budget, the director manages to build an immensely atmospheric puzzle, which includes characters that break the monotonous slasher clichés. The story enters realms of the unknown in terms of plot development (how many slashers can you name that mix Mafioso with a demented psychopath?) and it deserves credit for its flair for the ambitious.
Judgement is not a gore film like so many that populated the genre at this point in the period, but there’s something notably gruesome in the manner that the killer dispatches his victims. The murders are bloody; and the camera never shies away from the graphic corpses. Some may argue that more creativity was needed – every victim suffers the same gooey throat slashing. With that said, Castravelli does well to build a fist-full of tension in the right places and the stalking scenes in the mansion are dark and memorable. Mixing a few decent shocks with a talent for building a gothic atmosphere, the movie makes the most of its plus-points and rarely struggles to keep up a comfortable momentum.
Whilst Jack Langedijk is excellent as the problematic Dino, Pamela Collyer is irredeemably poor as the one-toned Janet. In fact, the couple perform arguably the worst ever sex-scene (I’m not an advocate of gratuitous sex in a movie, but hey, this sucked) in the history of cinema. The words two, wooden and planks spring to mind. At times, the lighting dims to keyring-torch illumination, which is usually a big negative for slasher flicks. On this occasion though, the darkness adds to the sleazy feel of what’s going on, so it doesn’t effect things too much. When we are not steering into the dimension of sleazy, things get surprisingly cheesy, which is a strong selling point to many retro fans. The OTT eighties fashions are pushed to the max here and the dialogue and music help to bolster the film’s inadvertent comedy factor. Swapping between the two moods is something that not many trash slashers can claim that they have mastered, which is why I am surprised that Judgement is so rarely acknowledged as a decent slice of genre garlic bread. With cheese, bacon and all the toppings too…
Its lack of a fan-base means that Evil Judgement may never get the respect it deserves, but if you have time then I recommend that you give this one a shot. Compelling and alluring, Castravelli’s part slasher/part crime movie is well worth a revisit.
Final Girl: √√
Happy New Year!!!!!
I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and a pound of suerte for the new one!!!
So I am sending this a bit late. Blame the beer or the food. Blame it on the sunshine, the moonlight! There’s an excuse somewhere honest…! 2012 wasn’t the biggest twelve months in the history of slasher cinema, with the highlight being the disappointing Smiley and little else. It’s been seventeen years now since the release of Scream, so maybe we will never get another genre rebirth. I was thinking, you know. Quentin Tarantino loves slasher films. If he were to make one, it would start all over again. Rumour has it that he was set to direct one of the Halloween sequels, but somehow that didn’t happen. Imagine what he could do to the genre? But how do we get him to make one? Anyone got any blackmail worthy videos? Anyone know how to make one lol – only kidding!!
So keep it locked in to a Slash above and thanks as always for your constant visits. Peace…
Terror Train 1980
Directed by: Roger Spottiswood
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Hart Bochner, Ben Johnson
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
The girls and boys from Sigma Phi. Some will live. Some will die… Taglines don’t get much better than that now, do they? Thankfully Roger Spottiwood’s debut has a lot more to offer than just imaginative promotion, it was actually one of the best flicks of the peak period. Add on top of that the fact that it was the first post-Halloween slasher to set in stone the ‘revenge of the bullied nerd’ premise that would become a signature in movies like Slaughter High and Iced throughout the decade.
The three and a half million-dollar budget that was thrown at the feature acts as proof that way back in 1980, a lot of studios were serious about backing the slasher cycle.
To keep with the holiday theme, it kicks off at a massive outdoors New Year’s party where youngsters converse and dance around a bonfire. A group of Medical students secluded from the rest of the revelers set up a prank in which one of their colleagues enters a (smartly lighted) room to find ‘love’ for the first time. Elaine (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been pressured into taking part, although she is unaware of the full implications. Unsurprisingly, something goes wrong and they end up creating a maniac that’s bitter, twisted and eager for revenge.
After the credits have rolled, we see that its New Years Eve once again; a couple of years down the line. Doc (Hart Bochner) has arranged a party on a locomotive train and all the culprits from earlier have shown up with the rest of the students from their year. The theme is fancy dress and the mood is set when an old lady that works at the station comments, `With a party like that, I’m always afraid some kid’s going to hurt himself’. The Conductor (Ben Johnson) replies `I wish to hell they’d put a radio on that train…’ So basically once the wheels are set in motion, everybody’s stranded until they reach the next station, which is a fair few miles away.
There’s an uninvited guest aboard for the ride and he doesn’t take long to begin slicing his way through the guilty revellers. Can Elaine avoid him for long enough for them to reach the next station?
Let’s face it – any slasher movie with Jamie Lee Curtis at the height of her scream queen prowess has got an instant advantage over its peers. Here she’s got some decent support from Hart Bochner and Sandee Currie, who herself in the same year had been working on Curtains, which was released in 1983. Screen mogul Ben Johnson brings some class to proceedings. His ‘is it worth it‘ speech was especially memorable. Director Roger Spottiswood had worked previously as an editor on various movies, including Straw Dogs. Here he proves, beyond a doubt that he can handle horror and build suspense, which is especially tight in places. The parts in which the guards search carriages with very little light were superb and you’re always aware that the killer could strike at any minute. Doc’s deserved fate was exceptionally handled and it was fun watching the once-brash bully turn into a grovelling coward.
The silent-killer stuff still felt fresh this early on and even though we’re pretty certain who’s under the various masks (more on that in a second), there’s still an intriguing mystery, because we don’t know whom he’s actually disguised as. Could he be the creepy magician? Or perhaps the driver that disappears? The conclusion is not one you’ll easily be able to solve.
The maniac here steals and then sports the attire of his most recent victim and with it being a fancy dress party; he is spoiled for choice. A similar idea was visible in both Class Reunion Massacre and Hide and Go Shriek, but it is utilised to the best effect here. He dons some really disturbing guises, but my favorite was the creepy robe (well it looked like a robe) and mask that he wore in his confrontation with Elaine. In a fantastic sequence, the killer who is splashed in blood, proceeds to smash out the lights in the carriage with a spear, as he constantly pursues the petrified final girl. In terms of horror sequences, it’s a real classic and stands comfortably alongside the similar scene from My Bloody Valentine. Whilst Terror Train isn’t exactly a gore hound’s delight, it’s still graphic enough to satisfy most and it’s one that will stay with you after the credits have rolled.
Sadly there are a few flaws that prevent total praise, mostly due to the intermittent pacing. Terror Train has a truly terrifying antagonist, but he isn’t used as often as he should have been on a train filled with passengers. The between scenes mainly consist of obnoxious magician David Copperfield looking for excuses to give yawn-inducing magic shows or using them to try and score with Elaine. I found these parts to be an especially tedious form of padding; – padding that an otherwise slick film really didn’t need. They could have cut him out completely and just trimmed it to eighty-minutes and it probably would’ve worked much better. John Mills Cockell’s award-nominated accompaniment wasn’t used as much as it could have been. Such a great score should’ve had a lot more screen-time. It proved to be effective in working up the suspense and heating up the climax towards the end, when the flashes of brilliance made-up for some of the slower patches that were evident earlier on.
One thing I did find interesting were the various talks about trains dying out and how they would become just a memory in a few years time. Well, that was 1980 and over thirty years later, they’re still as over-crowded as they’ve ever been…
Terror Train mixes relentless gloom, compelling mystery and good performances to achieve fairly decent results. Everything’s neatly photographed and it’s a refreshing change to see a healthy budget put to good use in a slasher flick. Trains are a claustrophobic location anyway and Spottiswood does enough to work it to the flick’s advantage. I like it much better than the other genre piece that Jamie Lee accepted, Prom Night, but it still can’t touch Carpenter’s Halloween. Despite a very mean-spirited tone and some really dark and disturbing scenes (a vibe much similar to Class Reunion Massacre, which coincidentally has much in common with this), it is far too heavily padded with long, boring and unnecessary David Copperfield moments to be a complete classic.
Buy yourself a ticket if you love slasher movies, but don’t expect just a fun-filled high-speed ride. This journey will take you on the odd snooze-laden diversion instead of a direct line on the horror express…
Final Girl √√√√√