Monthly Archives: September 2013
Directed by: Chris Notarlie
Starring: Ted Prior, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok so I’ll openly admit that I wasn’t clucking with anticipation to see Methodic. I’d been told that it was a tribute to John Carpenter’s Halloween and the last one of those that I’d watched was Offerings. Yea, exactly, someone pass me the Xylazines. Then, however, I saw that it had been directed by Chris Notarlie and I felt a slight flutter of interest in my brain. Like the last flaps of a dying moth, there was something there. The silver lining in the cloud? The light at the end of the tunnel? The wood between the trees? Well, maybe.
You see Notarlie has generated a buzz in the world of fan films for his cult shorts that you can find scattered across the Internet. These include tributes to icons of the superhero and slasher genres, which is great because the second of those categories is the one that we discuss every week. Zipp-a-dee-doo-daa! Amongst his lengthy résumé is Friday the 31st, a 22 minute story that pitches Jason Voorhees against Michael Myers in a fairly impressive setup. Whilst not being totally convinced that I was in for a good time, I did feel keener than I had previously. Like the last flaps of a dying moth? No, I’m talking butterflies baby…
After murdering his parents with a hammer, a nine-year old child is sent to an asylum. When his younger sister attempts to connect with him, it stirs his anger and he breaks out to confront her and murder anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way.
If you’re a fan of slasher flicks then you can consider yourself to be a unique individual because to be honest, there’s not very many of us about. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of meeting someone who shares this same passion, because it makes you feel connected in some miraculous way. The fact that Notarlie broadcasts his love for the genre everywhere possible, means that I automatically took a shining to him and wanted to like his debut movie so much. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that there’s a big difference between a thirty-minute short and a full length motion picture, but even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I got with Methodic
Ok, so things started positively. There’s a Cloverfield-alike camcorder launch to the proceedings and the characters discuss the likes of Madonna to set the retro eighties vibe. The dialogue and interactions between the people on the screen feels genuine and unforced and I was impressed by the tone that was building. We are introduced to a slightly peculiar child who seems sure to be our bogeyman and we don’t have to wait long to see that this is the case. Within ten minutes, he has taken a claw hammer to both of his parents and the screen fades to black. With the end of that intro not only are we waving goodbye to the period references, but also to the impressive level of filmmaking ability.
I picked up on this fact for sure after the scene twenty-minutes in, that involves two cops sitting in a car chatting. Instead of the typical shot reverse shot setup, Notarlie incorporates some strange camera angles and it just feels like the cuts are harsh and in all the wrong places. I was guessing that these were supposed to be hard as nails officers of the law, but their first conversation is about how they found out that their women were cheating on them and with how many men. Are you sure tough guys really talk like that? Can you imagine Dirty Harry; ‘Do you feel lucky punk? Luckier than me because I just caught my wife in bed with the milkman? Well, do ya?’ Or Pulp Fiction, ‘I’ve given a million women a million foot massages and they all ran off with the cable guy.’ I mean I’m all for cutting out the clichés, but this just felt weird.
Generally in a slasher movie, it takes, what, ten minutes for the bogeyman to have broken out of the asylum. Here we get to twenty-eight and fifteen of them could have been left on the cutting room floor. One line of dialogue from the psychiatrist would have summed up everything that happens between the kid killing his parents and then escaping the institution. So he’s a silent weirdo that hasn’t responded for fifteen years, ok comprendo, let’s move on. This time may have been spent developing the personality of his younger sister, our obvious final girl, because thus far we know only that she swears and has a great ass. Now I love great asses, but I don’t invest emotionally in every chick that’s got one. Physically, maybe; but that’s another story for another day.
The action really starts after the breakout part, which was strangely intercut with another sequence, but was quite exciting and well conveyed all the same. I was impressed that for someone that hasn’t been able to move unaided or respond for fifteen years, the bogeyman knows how to drive and make a scary mask with a sewing machine. My ex-wife couldn’t even turn on a sewing machine or drive a car and she responded all the f**king time. Especially when I didn’t want her to. This nutjob though is blessed with a lucky streak that makes me wonder why he didn’t take a moment’s break from slashing to do the lotto. Inside the first house that he breaks into, he finds not only the aforementioned stitching apparatus, but also a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that a tailor couldn’t fit for him any better. It takes me forever to purchase a decent 38″ chest and 32″ waist damn it.
Soon after, he begins cruising the streets and stalking his little sis and her buddies. These include two lesbians that give us an exploitive and totally unnecessary sex scene. To be fair, there are a couple of creepy shots and a bit of ingenuity in the final third and a ‘borrowed’ twist that I really wasn’t expecting. I recommend keeping the sound low though, unless you want your ear drums damaged by some hideous death metal. Why can’t we have a maniac that goes around slaughtering people to something melodic? Pat Boone anyone? Forget melodic peeps, this is Methodic, but exactly what that method was, no one knows. It sure as hell wasn’t the acting.
Now let’s be frank about this whole situation. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Chris Notarlie is a talented filmmaker and most definitely one to watch for the future. Not everyone has a strong debut and I’m sure that he has a good career in front of him. Methodic however is plagued basically by bad pacing, lighting, continuity and editing, but these are elements that can improve with practice. This may not be an entry worth much of your time, but I will most definitely look out for other stuff from the same director
The potential is there. I’ll be the first in the queue when it’s realised
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√
Directed by: David A. Prior
Starring: Ted Prior, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
During the eighties, the entertainment industry was rocked by the explosion of Sledgehammer’s unexpected success. Combining styles from the sixties, seventies and its own period to create something unique and fresh, it is still to this day remembered as a trend innovator and remains globally recognised and admired. Oh, yeah, and I guess that I should also mention that aside from Peter Gabriel’s classic 1986 hit, there was also a DTV slasher flick released three years earlier under the same name that was barely noticed and sunk without trace. That would be the one that I’m reviewing for you today.
People often forget that filmmaker David Prior didn’t only bless the genre one time with that notorious slasher/fitness-vid crossbreed, Killer Workout. His first film was also a Halloween knock-off, which is far less renowned. Prior should have been eligible for an award of some kind for his achievements with Killer Workout. I mean, putting spandex, silicone, sweatbands, cheese-ball pop and a hooded killer all on one VHS cassette does take some cojones grandes. I uncovered this movie a couple of years later and was generally excited to watch it. The only way that a film can make up for being totally rubbish is by being totally rubbish in a funny way and I was hopeful that this flick had the strengths in that area that its older brother boasted so brazenly
It starts with a mind numbingly long shot of the outside of a country house. We are awoken by the camera panning inside and we see a mother struggling to silence a young child who doesn’t look too interested by the fact he’s in a movie. The alarm bells in my head were already screaming ‘abusive parent alert’ by that point; and the woman proved that I was right, by locking the boy in a closet for the evening. She then returns downstairs to her boyfriend and tells him, “Don’t worry about the kid, I took care of that little b*stard, he won’t be bothering us again tonight.” This means that the couple can start getting jiggy, which leaves them blissfully unaware that the little b*stard has escaped and is creeping up behind them with a sledgehammer, looking all menacing and stuff. Before you can say ‘by the book’, the unsuspecting lover gets cracked on the back of the head with the aforementioned tool – great gore scene by the way. After the mother is also measured up for a body bag, the screen fades to black…
Fast-forward fifteen years and a van pulls up outside of that same now-abandoned abode. Out pops a gang of outrageously mulleted muscle bound jocks and their scrawny girlfriends, who have presumably turned up only to party-party-PARTY! So they begin doing all the things you attribute with a good fiesta, including throwing food at each-other, jumping around like headless chickens and then having deep discussions about relationships. What a party! If that wasn’t enough, they decide that the beer is flowing so of course it is time for a… séance. Eventually, this proves to be a silly idea as the customary killer turns up and a battle for survival begins….
In all honesty, I can think of no finer example of something that when stripped down to its bare components doesn’t look ideal, but taken as a whole is surprisingly efficient. You see, Sledgehammer doesn’t boast many of the core ingredients that you would consider to make up a good movie, but I kind of enjoyed watching it all the same. It all takes place in a large empty house that is exactly that: a large empty house. There’s no set design at all and the backgrounds are pale with a bed here or a cupboard there just so that we don’t mistake the location for a padded cell. They didn’t even bother to decorate the walls with the usual fake cobwebs, candles and clichés, which was likely because the art director quit pre-shoot as he was offered some work in a bar or something. I mean the house was supposed to be derelict for fifteen-years, but looks like it was vacuumed and feather-dusted just that morning. Did Prior and co book a viewing of an abode that was up for sale and secretly get a key cut so that they could film their picture there on the sly? That could well be the case. You have to love zero budgets!
Anyway the action commences after the usual sloppy dialogue and padding and we eventually get to see some slasher shenanigans. There’s a blessing in disguise, because the dull and misty photography on the print gives the movie a surreal, almost dream-like vibe, which was surely unintentional but worked quite well. To be fair the tone switches effortlessly from inadvertently cheesy to actually pretty creepy and the psychopath’s large and hulking frame compliments the narrow lens to make some claustrophobic scenes. At first glance, a transparent plastic clown mask and lumberjack shirt seem suspiciously cheapskate, but the more that we see of the assailant, the more threatening he becomes. Prior demonstrates some neat flourishes to maintain the tone of apprehension, including a great slowmo door-opening sequence that is unpredictable and genuinely effective. He showed a much stronger flair for horror direction here than he did three-years later when he made Killer Workout. It’s also worth noting that he drew some surprisingly credible performances from a couple of the inexperienced actors. Sandy Brooke, who I I remember mentioning in my review of Terror on Alcatraz, offers another good characterisation and Ted Prior and Linda McGill overcome their weak parts by being believable when it matters most. It’s a shame that Brooke didn’t do more genre movies, as I feel that she always made the most out of the material and it would have been nice to see her play the ‘final girl’ just once. Chuck on top of all that a couple of decent gore scenes from Robin Beauchesne and we have slasher movie that’s miles better than anyone would have imagined it to be.
Perhaps the only attempt at any originality was allowing the killer to appear and disappear as if he were being beamed up by Scottie every time that he needed a rapid escape from a set piece. This could have worked really well if utilised in the right places, but Prior’s decision making left a lot to be desired and he ended up overusing it to the point of, ‘enough already!‘. As per my example that I noted in the paragraph above, slow-motion at the right time can really make the most of a tense moment, but using it in almost every kill scene is just too much. Also look out for the ‘cardboard’ sex scene, which reminded me of those puppets that used to be seen in the likes of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and more recently Team America: World Police. I mean I’m guessing that was two humans playing the lovers, but I can imagine more enthusiasm from a pair of mannequins. It begs the question, why include it in the first place?
Sledgehammer is as clichéd as an Elvis look-alike contest and makes no attempt to conceal what it wants to be. Nowadays you can find a million films that have exactly the same setup as this, but the fact that it was one of the first gives it a retro feel and sometimes that’s all you need. Whilst It is certainly not good enough to be up there with the classics of the golden years, it could sit quite comfortably with Graduation Day, Embalmed, Scalps and the rest of that second tier.
Killer Guise: √√√√
Final Girl: √
Directed by: Christopher Reynolds
Starring: Loretta Leigh, Tobe Sexton, Jerry Brewer
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Halloween was such a great movie. Seriously, it was just amazing. Stylishly shot, perfectly acted for the material and scary as hell. I used to enjoy judging the amount that other slasher films ‘borrowed’ from that masterpiece, but the ones I liked most were those that took the least. Curtains, The Prowler, Friday the 13th Part II and My Bloody Valentine were all influenced by Carpenter’s baby, but because they went about it the right way, no one really paid attention. There are a few however that took the pilfering just a little bit too far.
You see it’s ok to pay homage to a brilliant film. Scorsese has done it, Almodovar too and hell even Carpenter got his lead from Señor Hitchcock. There comes a time though that highlighting your inspirations begins to look like blatant theft. I watched Offerings well over a decade ago and I remember thinking that it was a turgid rip-off that added nothing new to those ideas. Now that I’m a bit older, I was wondering if my analysis from back then was spot on or if I had been suffering from one of those temporary cases of movie bipolar? Let’s see…
After mute child John Radley is pushed down a well by a gang of bullies, he is sent to an asylum for the rest of his life. Eighteen years later he escapes and heads back to his town to cause problems once again…
If John Carpenter ever finds that he is short of a few quid, I recommend that he hunt out one of those no win no fee lawyer types and gets to work on a case against the production team behind Offerings. Instead of just nicking the odd idea – hulking killer, final girl, heavy breath etc – Christopher Reynolds has duplicated entire scenes shot for shot. I’ll pick one of the many just for an example: Remember when Sam Loomis visited the grave of Judith Myers to see if Michael had gone there after escaping his asylum? Well here, some psychiatrist (can’t recall his name, although he may have also been Sam Loomis) does exactly the same thing. It’s like WTF? The film feels like a picture that has been photocopied a thousand times. The quality’s degraded, but the content is exactly the same. I remember reading about how much effort Carpenter and his team had put into making the ‘Haddonfield’ sets look like it was the 31st of October and not the true filming date of mid-Spring. This crew have put a similar level of work into making some random US neighborhood look like it was identical to Haddonfield. But why? What kicks would a filmmaker get out of completely ripping something off? What came first, the second bottle of vodka or the blind drunkenness whilst watching? These are all questions that I just can’t answer.
Anyway you all will be aware of this already, it’s been written in tonnes of reviews tonnes of times and I need to take notice of my own criticism on lack of originality. So what else happens? Well in fairness, not much. We know the story by now. One thing that I will say is that there is one decidedly nasty killing. Radley ties up some poorly acted dweeb, turns on a chainsaw and then it stops working. He reaches for a power drill and the same thing happens. The victim musters up all 2% of his acting ability to say something like, ‘So now you won’t kill me?’ It’s not his lucky day however and he gets his cabeza squished in a vice. It’s a surprisingly strong set-piece in fairness. There was also a self-depreciating scene, where the two leads are watching a zero budget (slasher?) movie. They hurl insults at the characters and show signs of mimicking the genre’s weaknesses eight years before the release of Wes Craven’s Scream. See Kevin Williamson, eat your heart out 😉
One perhaps slightly more original aspect of the story is that the nutjob makes ‘offerings’ to Gretchen, our final girl. These turn out to be stuff like chopped up body pieces (a nose, an ear, some ‘sausage shaped’ human parts, which have been placed on top of their pizza – (ooh err misses!) and he leaves them on the doorstep for her to collect; or for her dog to chew upon. Whilst I’m sure that there’s some Freudian meaning to all this, we don’t really get an explanation as to why it happens. Well if you’re looking for logic peeps, go read an encyclopaedia. These scenes did leave one question though; what the hell happened to the pizza delivery guy? We also learn that Radley murdered his mama before he got sent away to the looney bin. It’s great that they tell us this, because they sure didn’t think that it was something important enough to demonstrate to us on the screen. You know, there’s no real point in showing us why we should fear the antagonist in a horror film at all. Oh and by the way, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE F**KING PIZZA DELIVERY GUY?
So that leaves us to deal with our heroine with the authentic name. Well the best way to describe young Gretchen is like going out on a date with a semi-hottie that sits opposite you and looks at the floor all night. You would get bored pretty quickly, eh? Fill your film with rubbish actors Mr Reynolds and this is what will happen. And whilst we are on the subject of rubbish actors, I must mention the waistband-edly challenged buffoon that wins the ‘idiot cop of the year award’. He achieves this because he knows full well that John Radley is on the loose, but when young Gretch and her scrawny buddy call him because they have found a dismembered ear in a pool of blood on their porch, he tells them to go upstairs and go to sleep whilst he does a big pile of NADA. I’m reminded of Grandma Carpenter from the film, House of Death, when she says the unforgettable line, “If brains were dynamite, he couldn’t muster a good fart!” Also, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE F**KING PIZZA DELIVERY GUY?
It is what it is, and what it is is not an Academy Award winner. It’s basically Halloween with all the good parts left out. They even ripped off the score! So should you go out and buy Offerings? Well there are worse things that you could do, but don’t expect anything that’s going to make you search your pizza box for ‘sausage shaped’ body parts. Silly dialogue, bad acting, amateur directing, basic script, ripped off scoring, scruffy sound, yawn-inducing editing and blurry cinematography aside, it was an almost perfect piece of filmmaking. Just one thing remains, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE F**KING PIZZA DELIVERY GUY?
Slumber Party Massacre Part III 1990
Directed by: Sally Mattison
Starring: Keely Christian, Brandi Burkett, Maria Ford
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
I feel a bit strange posting a review of Slumber Party Massacre III. It’s mainly because I’ve never covered the first chapter, which is one of the biggest and most popular slasher movies of all time. Still I watched this one more recently; and I decided that none of you would really care or even notice the chronological order of which I work through the series and so I took them from behind. (Oooh yeh!)
I’ll go in to this in more detail when I get round to tackling Amy Jones’ cheese and marinara extravaganza (number 1) that launched the franchise, but I always felt that it was one of those movies that was blessed with a reputation that was built upon the back of a Brontosaurus. What do I mean by that I hear you ask? Well, it became successful based on elements or an element that didn’t actually exist in reality. Or in other words, it gained a legion of imitators and a legendary status whilst not really bringing anything new to the template. Oh, you didn’t know that Brontosauruses were fake dinosaurs that never really existed? Well, you learn something new every day my friends. Everyday is a school day.
A young girl decides to enjoy the final hours of having her parent’s house to herself by inviting some friends over for a slumber party. Before long, their boyfriend’s gate crash and the frolics begin to flow. Little do they know that a psychopath is amongst them and he’s brought a large power tool along for the ride…
Let’s be honest with each other here; Part II was as good as a single disco in the abandoned Pripyat town centre and the series really needed to up the quality levels if it wanted to sign off in style. In the end, they did what everyone that’s having a bit of a visionary nightmare should do when the chips are down… went back to basics. By doing so they created not only the strongest entry of the entire trilogy, but also one of the best slasher movies of the late eighties/early nineties.
Número tres doesn’t play by the rules of either of its predecessors and instead begins as something of a mystery/whodunit. Not a huge amount of time or effort is spent on disguising the identity of the nut job though, and he reveals himself about halfway through, which allows for a pulsating final rout. Instead of him waiting around for victims as they wander off to do something stupid like making out in a deserted place or searching for a missing friend, he just confronts and goes after the remaining five or six as a group and it’s something that we don’t get to see often enough in the category. It also allows the stranded girls to work together in conjunction to save themselves when the maniac finally traps one of them alone. This leads to a gobsmacking moment when sexy semi-scream queen, Maria Ford’s character, Maria, who had fought valiantly to protect two of her buddies moments earlier, is slowly murdered whilst those same ‘friends’ watch on without doing anything to help her. No fair! I’ll come back to that scene in a bit.
For the first slaughter, which happens after only eight-minutes, the maniac remains off screen, but for the next couple he dons an awesome guise that’s exceptionally creepy. One of the things that I thought was weak about part one, was the fact that the killer looked like such an ordinary guy. So much had been borrowed already from John Carpenter’s Halloween that I was somewhat disappointed that they settled on a bogeyman in a denim jacket and jeans that just didn’t look threatening. Thankfully, this time around we get a full-on, masked, power-tool clenching nut job and in effect, the complete slasher package.
Whilst SPM 3 can hardly be classified as a gross out classic, it does have a few extremely brutal murders and the film feels credibly menacing when compared against the two earlier efforts that share its branding. The comedic slant has been lessened to an almost bare minimum and an eerie score from Jamie Sheriff builds some credible tension. Director Sally Mattison does well to enlighten the tone on only the rarest of occasions and the feeling of dread remains consistently strong all the way through the runtime. Aside from a couple of flat shots that I felt could have been more creative, she did a solid job on her debut and pulled off some decent stuff. It’s interesting, because the SPM series are famous for having female screenwriters and directors, but you’d never in a million years guess that was the case by what you see on the screen here. Some of these chicks get a pretty horrific time, especially Maria in the scene that I said I’d come back to earlier. After being pinned down, stripped and sexually assaulted (almost raped), whilst her friends just stand there and look, she’s disembowelled by a power drill after begging for her life. It’s pretty grim to be honest and not what I’d have expected.
We cut away from the action now and then to a bumbling cop who ignores various calls from the girls and thinks that they’re just having a drunken party. This is of course is the most basic and simple screenwriting method of removing the chance of any armed-police attending the scene. Midway through, he introduces a plot-branch about a cop that had committed suicide very recently. Then we learn immediately after, that the father of Jackie, the likely heroine, is a successful lawyer. I was sure from that chain of events that we were going to be given a really good back-story and motive that unravelled more as the flick came to a close. I mean why else put those sequences in that order? Was it an investigation from Jackie’s dad that forced the cop to kill himself? Did he leave behind an orphaned deranged killer that’s seeking revenge on the lawman’s daughter and her friends? It seemed fairly logical by what we had seen to expect something along those lines, but what we got was; well, not quite what we’d been promised.
It looks as if they rushed the back-story parts and left too many loose ends. I mean, who was the long-haired guy from the beach? Why did he climb into the basement? What was it exactly about the uncle? Was he an abuser? Was that sexually or psychologically? Is the girl watching this with me really not wearing any knickers? Well at least one of those I can find the answer to, but the rest are ongoing mysteries. Excuse me, ahem…
Still, whining aside, as far as slasher movies go, this is a rip roaring one and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of the reasons that I fell in love with the genre in the first place. Cheesy pop-rock tracks, beautifully dumb women, awful acting, a threatening masked killer, some effective scares, oh and Marta Kober! Did I tell you that the busty brunette that got speared in Friday Part II turns up for a cameo and gets a pretty good kill scene? When I was younger, I was so in love with Marta Kober, it was embarrassing. She’s not Hollywood beautiful, but she has huge boobs. You see, me; I am not a man that thinks Natalie Portman or Keira Knightley are sexy. Beautiful yes, but flat chests turn me on as much as another man and I am not gay. For me, it has always been big boobs. I’ve never dated a girl without them and I never will. So busty Marta Kober, good suspense and a dark tone, is that enough? No? Well how about death by vibrator? Does that tickle your fanciful spots? (No pun, honest)
SPM 3 is not a perfect movie, but what it does well, it does really well. I have added it to the 30 greatest all time slashers list. Let me know of you agree. Peace…
Killer Guise: √√√