Monthly Archives: February 2016
Directed by: Todd Jason Cook
Starring: Rebecca Torrellas, Mike Gebbie, Lisa Whiteman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Running a site that is purely dedicated to reviewing only the truest of stalk and slash entries is great, but I must admit that sometimes there are films that I’d like to cover, but can’t because they don’t fit the template. I believe I’ve stayed faithful to only posting genuine entries, but the one that I’m most unsure of is The Dead Pit. My rationale for including it was because, sure, it’s a zombie movie, but there is really so much in the first half that reminded me of our favourite film style. The hulking masked doctor, the terrorised final girl, stalking sequences and heavy breath POV shots; it’s hard not to look at those ingredients and think: stalk and slash.
Actually, it’s interesting that there have been so few true crossbreeds, but that’s where Zombiefied stands apart. Director Todd Jason Cook has said that he set out to make this picture the truest amalgamation ever released and so I was keen to see what he could achieve. Would this be a post that I would be confident could sit comfortably with the rest and tick the right boxes?
Well, it all kicks off in a bedroom with a naked chick and a guy sharing lines of coke. As if on cue, the girl says with a knowing nod, “I’m off to take the obligatory shower”. Whilst she’s scrubbing away (in gratuitous close-up), her partner hears a noise in the kitchen and goes to investigate. He comes across a creepy mannequin that’s holding an MP3 player, but before he has a chance to raise the alarm, he is stabbed from behind by an unseen killer. Next up, the maniac goes to take care of his bathing girlfriend, but just as we are waiting for the anticipated slashing, out jumps the ‘zombiefied’ corpse of her recently deceased partner and it begins chewing on her neck! So, a zombie, a hulking killer, blood, a jump scare, a fantastic pair of (natural) boobies and cocaine. It’s fair to say that there have been worse opening scenes.
Next up we head over to a heavy metal club called, Röcbar, where a concert is in full flow. As the group perform, the nut job from earlier (who’s now sporting a Nixon mask that’s identical to the one from Horror House on Highway 5) subtlety murder’s the DJ and inserts a CD into the music system. The new sound seems to have a strange effect on the crowd and they begin morphing into zombies and attacking those that haven’t yet turned – cue pandemonium. After a violent struggle, one band and their singer manage to escape the carnage and flee into the streets that are now filled with roaming re-animated corpses. We soon learn that a similar occurrence has happened once before, but not on such a grand scale. With the Police unwilling to assist, it’s left up to the gang of rockers to prevent the plague from spreading and find a cure. They’ll have to do so whilst avoiding the flesh hungry zombies and a malevolent masked killer…
It gives me great pleasure to tell you that Zombiefied is a truly entertaining horror flick that may be rough around the edges, but delivers a rugged ride that’s unlike anything I’ve previously seen. It’s full to the brim with bloody action and it rarely allows you to catch a breath as the corpses drop. The plot unravels amongst hordes of murderous zombies that chow their way through an impressive number of victims. The director flings everything into the cooking pot to conjure up a gore-laden stew. Your taste buds may not be totally tickled by every mouthful, but it’ll leave your belly too fulfilled to complain about the service.
Director Todd Cook has had a film reviewed here on a SLASH above previously of course, but Evil Night was a totally different beast that simply had no structure. People would walk on screen with no introduction, get killed and the same thing would happen once over. He does revert to a similar technique at times here, because there are a lot of nameless and eminently pointless victims that are lined up like pins only to be bowled over with minimal fuss. Zombiefied overcomes that though, because everything’s held together by a central concept that’s progressively intriguing and addictive. We follow a group of likeable characters that are desperately trying to find a cure for the epidemic and even if the way that the story choses to write out the authorities is laughable, there are various tweaks that maintain our engagement.
Not everyone agrees with my stringent view on what makes up a true ‘slasher’ movie, but seeing as I am strict with my idea of the guidelines, I wondered what I’d make of a zombie/slasher cocktail. In fairness to Cook, he shows respect to both genres and their principles. The living dead are the modern kind that sprint after their prey, but the slasher scenes are traditional, with a hulking masked killer that has a calling card (aforementioned mannequin) and a traditional slo-mo stalk. The army of gut-munchers are under the control of the boogeyman and sometimes he uses them to devour his prey instead of a blade or axe. Even if this concept sounds like it may be tough to digest, I have to give credit to Cook for making the blend so palatable. He pulls off a number of moods; and even chucks in suspense on occasion, which magnifies during the slasher scenes. We also get a fair amount of gore, a couple of hot-ish chicas, a riveting mystery, an open-ending and the chance of a sequel, which I’d personally like to see. Perhaps the best thing of all is that an hour and forty-five minutes is a long time for a horror movie, but it really flew by. I was watching without alcohol too!
From a technical perspective, Zombiefied is not a perfect movie experience. The thrash metal soundtrack is not for all tastes, it’s a bit casually scripted and it suffers the flaw that ‘plagues’ all zombie movies, which is, how much can really be done with the same MO? I honestly believe though that there’s so much here that works that you can accept those minor gripes, because it’s a real extravaganza of horror excess. I liked it so much that I was disappointed to see that Cook doesn’t have any other projects currently in the pipeline. I would never have said that when all I knew of his work was Evil Night and Night of the Clown. I can accept titles like that if they lead on to a wider plan and Zombiefied may well be his masterpiece.
Finally we have a zombie/slasher that truly can fit in with its brothers here.
Los Inocentes 2013
aka Bloody April Fools
Directed by: 12 Directors
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bárbara Mestanza, Mario Marzo
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Ok, I have to be honest; I just couldn’t live with it. You see, despite my respect and gratefulness to the country I live in (UK), I’m a patriotic Spaniard and I’m one that sees beauty in all things de España. Well, except maybe bull fighting. Oh and Magaluf. Anyway, I’m proud to state that I was the first slasher critic to give Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche a reputable ranking and here you’ll find an equally complementary review of José Larraz’s, Al Filo Del Hacha. I defended Jesus Franco’s cheese-tastic video nasty, La Sierra de la Muerte, and didn’t wince once during the corny closing of Los Ojos de Julia. So with this in mind, how could I live with the knowledge that the most recent Spanish slasher film to be reviewed on a SLASH above was the awful Altrapados en el Miedo. Since watching it, I’ve felt depressed, panicked, I’ve suffered insomnia, began drinking and smokin… Ok, I’m exaggerating, but still, something needed to be done.
I had to quickly find a film that could regain my home country some credibility, but with my copy of El Arte de Morir miles away in Spain, I was somewhat struggling. Then I remembered that I hadn’t yet got round to watching a DVD that I picked up a year back, called Los Inocentes. I came across it in a small shop in Aracena, purchased it and then totally forgot that I’d done so. Last Wednesday, I was tidying up my room and there it was staring at me, almost as if to subtlety say, “llevarme, verme, yo te ayudo… yo te salvo!!” – Could I have found the cure to drag me from the gutters of despair..?
A gang of kids get lost on the way to a party and so decide to spend the night in an abandoned school. It was the site of a gruesome accident a few years earlier, where a student was killed during a practical joke. Now someone haunts the corridors and the joke is most definitely on the partying teenagers…
It seems that when I watch slasher movies, I go through phases. I’m sure that as readers, you notice that I’ll post one or two ‘one star’ movies in a row and then a couple of much better ones. I don’t do this deliberately, it’s a coincidence, but I’m back on a roll, because Los Inocentes sits comfortably with Kill Game as one of the best modern slashers that I’ve recently seen. Much like a bottle of Sangria, it doesn’t blur the lines of what it has been produced to achieve. It’s a straight up slasher movie for fans of the genre and ticks and underlines the things that we expect and most importantly WANT it to do.
I guess that you could call it a mix between the stories of both Slaughter High and Friday the 13th, but it’s refreshing how the script never feels the urge to over-elaborate the homages. In a pre-launch interview, the crew openly admitted that they were referencing the peak period, but it’s a natural vibe that doesn’t overpower. We get a more typical final girl, ‘the have sex and die’ rule, heavy breath POVs and even a romantic sub-plot that is intelligently conveyed. Perhaps because the main characters are given emotive scenarios, we want them to prevail and I was extremely surprised by a couple of the deaths. Los Inocentes is a merciless movie at times and this tone is set from lift off, when the old ‘prank that went wrong’ chestnut is delivered with a starker more graphic flair than usual. In fact, this is quite a gory little movie that is filled with creative deaths of the like I’ve never seen previously. My favourites were the bee attack and a bizarre one with a girl’s brain, which is gooey, erotic and somewhat artistic in its delivery. The screenplay attempts to inject pitch black humour on occasion, including a genius play on words with the Spanish slang for a lighter; – ‘fuego’ (fire). In honesty though I preferred the moments when the atmosphere was more macabre.
The idea stemmed from a collaboration of twelve writers/directors that had met and studied at the notorious ESCAC School of cinema. Whilst some would question the concept of so many varying ideas on a production, one member of the crew, Laura García, said that she found it extremely natural and that she wanted the film to act as proof that ‘being a team’ really works. What we’re left with is an entry that strives to provide some deftly shot set pieces. The lighting is exceptional in places and the filmmakers do their best to bring the large dilapidated hi-school backdrop to life. We also get a nod to the recent ‘found footage’ trend where the action is shown through iPhone cameras, which leads to a pulsating escape sequence as the survivors hotfoot it through the woodland. There’s no killer guise for the antagonist and he isn’t even given a physical presence until the climax, but we do get a ‘killer calling card’; – a kind of ‘ginger bread man’ that’s left upon the corpses of victims. Writer Lluís Segura describes his vision of the classic slasher structure as starting out with 10 or so characters and killing them off throughout without knowing who’s doing it or the reasons why. You can see that they stayed true to this formula.
At times the film pushes the boundaries of reality and begins to feel a bit fairytale-ish. It’s not supernatural in any way, but some of the murderous set-ups defy logic, which seemed out of place with a concept that was so traditional. I was also disappointed with the performance of the actor that played the killer. In general, the acting was solid, but the best villains are restrained and not over-played. It looked like the person given this role (I won’t reveal so as not to ruin the mystery) knew what to do, but somehow didn’t really convince. Still, we get some truly beautiful women and a cute lead in Charlotte Vega – a girl that was born in Spain from an English mum and a Spanish/British father – who I predict that we’ll see more from.
Los Inocentes is pretty much a Slaughter High remake (El día de los Inocentes is like April Fool’s Day in Spain), but it is far more gritty and ruthless. There are a bunch of smart twists and gimmicks that bring the film to life, with the only real weakness being the killer’s revelation, which lacks the explosion of the source code that it was borrowed from. All is thankfully salvaged by a downbeat ending that we’ve seen before (even in a great eighties Spanish slasher), but was still a surprise. The DVD that I own comes with English subtitles so you should definitely check it out. I’m excited about the sequel that may already be on the cards…
Memorial Valley Massacre 1988
aka Valley of Death
Directed by: Robert C Hughes
Starring: John Kerry, Cameron Mitchell, Julie Jachim
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Those were the days… The intrigue… The tension… The excitement… Oh hello a SLASH abovers and excuse me, I was just reminiscing about the times when I first discovered the Internet and opened the door to a world of slashers that stretched beyond my local video emporium. Strange as it may seem to you all, I was collecting these things even before I knew that they were part of a genre called ‘slasher’. Instead, I’d just pick up similar looking video covers and hope to see certain things that I recognised from the one that started it all for me, Halloween. Nowadays, you can check the web and know instantly whether a prospective picture is actually an entry to our beloved category or not. In moons gone by however, it was all about lucky dip.
When I eventually got onto the IMDB, I would use various investigative techniques to uncover entries to add to my list of ‘desperate to see features‘. One of those was typing the word ‘Massacre’ into the search bar and examining each title to see if they were slashertastic enough for a purchase. It didn’t take long for me to uncover this beauty…. but upon discovery, a new challenge arose… locating a copy!! During the late nineties, Amazon US weren’t keen on International delivery and despite them having twelve copies available on VHS at a reasonable price, I just couldn’t find a seller that’d distribute across the pond to sunny UK :(.
There I sat, staring longingly at the picture from the listing, dreaming of the slasher fun that lurked inside the cardboard cover. For you pups, I guess it’s a lot easier, because additions such as this have become free content and can be downloaded in an instant from YouTube. Times have changed for the better for slasher buffs. Eventually I came across a Spanish language version in Jaén and I rushed home in excitement, eager to to witness whether Memorial Valley Massacre would satisfy me in all the ways I’d expected…? Well…
It tells the tale of a city businessman that has bought a huge piece of land and wants to open it as a camp site for people to bring their Winnebagos and spend a few days in the wild. During pre-launch, the production has suffered some unexplained events, including the deaths of a few construction workers. Despite no running water, the openning goes ahead as planned to coincide with Memorial Day, and the campers pull up in droves. Little do they know that they are sharing the grounds with a cave dwelling maniac that is out to kill….
I often go to Spain to visit my dad, younger brother and the rest of my family. Last year, whilst laying on a beach in Punta Umbría, I realised how much I miss Andalucía and felt sad that the branches of life had led me away from my true home. I returned to England and the weather was atrocious, which added to my gloomy feeling. In a semi-drunken stupor, I booked another vacation for the next couple of weeks and effectively went straight back to the Andalusian beaches. From the moment I got off the return plane, it began raining; – and it continued to do so throughout my trip. ‘Tienes mala suerte’ (bad luck) my dad told me, but I decided that I’d at least try to go out and enjoy Sevilla with an umbrella; – and I did exactly that. That my friends is what psychologists call a ‘Positive Thinking Mindset’.
You need a ‘Positive Thinking Mindset’ to really enjoy Memorial Valley Massacre, and if you engage one, you may find that your experience will be a lot like mine in rainy Andalucía. We may not have a sterling killer in the woods flick here, but instead it’s an entertaining campy ride that does provide some cheesy thrills – with the emphasis being on cheesy. For 92 minutes, MVM moves incredibly quickly and even if the action only really begins on the hour mark, the characters are silly enough to remain amusing throughout. It’s also worth noting that the picture is certainly authentic and I don’t remember another that goes for a killer that’s been borrowed from Disney’s Jungle Book. Looking like the fifth member of Twisted Sister – in a get-up that you could pick up in any dime-store fancy dress shop – his story is unique, if slightly underplayed. He was left in the forest as a child because a kidnap/ransom attempt went wrong; and therefore, he grew up as a feral human. The filmmakers do however try to bizarrely build pathos for him in the early scenes, by showing him feeding a mouse and generally seeming at one with nature. These moments of vulnerability weaken his fear factor, but when he begins his kill frenzy, he becomes effectively merciless. One chap is set on fire and runs around screaming as he burns to death, whilst another likeable fellow ends up in a pit of spikes. It was refreshing that I felt like I wanted these guys to survive, because in more modern slashers, I couldn’t care less.
Massacre’s strengths are definitely its have a campy ball with the trademarks attitude and it’s cast of likably dumb participants. There’s an interesting relationship between hero, David Sangster, who’s the son of a millionaire businessmen that bought the land, and George Webster, the head ranger of the site. They don’t really get along at first, but instead of the more typical rookie/veteran bonding methodology, Robert C Hughes’ screenplay works slightly differently to provide some authenticity. We do get a hottie love interest for David, who’s there mainly to add eye-candy. His attempts to woo her are highly amusing; especially the speech that he uses to finally seal the deal. In fact, the dialogue here has some stand out lines like, “I’ve got cigars older than her” and “They couldn’t punch their way through a wet cracker”, which show that Hughes boasted a knack for the tongue in cheek. Having eighties slum artists such as, William Smith, John Kerry and Cameron Mitchell reciting such campiness just added the final gloss to the cheesecake.
This film plays much like Doom Asylum, which I reviewed recently, but it’s not quite as good. Whilst you could never call Doom particularly scary, it boasted gore and sharper direction, whilst Valley just feels too light-hearted, even in moments when it’s more ruthless than you expected. I believe this is because the killer just doesn’t look particuarly intimidating and the attrocious keyboard score doesn’t help. I’m no master musician, but just when you feel that the composer shouldn’t go a note higher nor lower, go there he does – and then some. The final thirty minutes of Valley are rapid with a handful of killings and a breakneck pace, but it still looks devoid of a certain something. Hughes’ direction never seems to draw you in and that’s why I couldn’t buy into what I was seeing. By no means is this a horror comedy but it would only take some minor script adjustments to make it Police Academy. And within its undecidedness on whether to go full-on gruesome tone or stay campy lies the movie’s biggest flaw.
We slasher fans know more than most that it’s possible to enjoy a shoddy movie and we pretty much created the ‘so bad its good’ brand. With MVM that’s exactly what happened for me. Due mainly to the minimal gore and nudity, it’s certainly not a worthwhile killer in the woods flick, but it’s one that serious collectors should be adding to their pile for its pure entertainment potential.
Kill Game 2015
Directed by: Robert Mearns
Starring: Pierson Fode, Joe Adler, Laura Ashley Samuels
Review by Luis Joaquín González
I was discussing expectation levels on a SLASH above last week and I wanted to ask you all something that’s kind of related to that topic. Has anyone else noticed that the nights when you’re tired and really don’t fancy going out with your pals or on a date turn out to be better than those when you’ve been counting the hours all week to the event? With me, this is always the case, but I really have no idea why.
I picked up Kill Game whilst out shopping last week and even though the cover looked slasher-esque, I wanted to make sure by briefly checking the IMDB. I immediately noticed the 3.5 score and a user review that was headlined, ‘This film will kill brain cells its (sic) that bad’. Still, I’m here to review every genre piece ever made, so I’m used to taking the rough with the smooth. Even though I’ve seen my fair share of turkeys, I really couldn’t prepare myself to sit through Kill Game after seeing that IMDB rating. In fact it took me two attempts to get past the 5 minute mark.
A gang of high-school friends that are notorious for their pranks become concerned when one of their number is viciously murdered by a villain wearing a creepy Marilyn Monroe mask. Before long they realise that they cannot flee and instead have to work in conjunction to unmask the vicious killer…
Slasher fans, if ever you needed proof that with our particular choice of genre, the IMDB is as trustworthy as a shady CIA operative, Kill Game is your trial swinging evidence. It’s your signed sealed and hand-delivered confession. 3.5 score? So bad it kills Brain cells? On the contrary dear Watson, this is a fabulous slasher movie and should certainly be added to your collections. I’m about to take extreme pleasure in telling you for why.
Perhaps a lot of it is because I’d been ready for a dismal slice of dreck and went in expecting the usual heinous script/cinematography/acting combo. Well as the runtime grew, a splash of credibility washed over me like a tidal wave hitting an underweight surfer on his first venture into the ocean. What I noticed initially was that Game is comfortably financed and never feels as if it’s struggling to display the necessities of the plot’s backbone. Props are used with confidence and each location is shot with stylish lighting and flamboyant photography. Characters are introduced strongly and given enough fluidity and individuality to stand apart, which means that they engage us as an audience. The small and subtle script gimmicks – like Courtney’s weight insecurities – add a level of realism to the players. It’s not quite enough for us to REALLY care or them, but we do – at least subconsciously – feel like we’re involved in their parts of the story.
I’m sure that most of you, like me, have grown tired now of the entries that throw everything at parodying or paying homage to the hits of the eighties. I mean, how many times do we have to hear dialogue that mentions Prom Night FFS? Kill Game on the other hand is a modern slasher that sticks to the rules without having the need to boast about its doing so. I guess it could be considered as a tweak on the I Know What You Did Last Summer style of inclusion, which in itself was a re-imaging of Rosman’s awesome The House on Sorority Row. Instead of us witnessing the fateful event and source for latter revenge at the film’s launch however, writer/director Robert Mearns utilises the approach that worked so well for Billy Club, by unraveling the mystery slowly as the synopsis unravels. This means that the runtime remains tense and we are never really aware of what will happen next. It helps that for the first half of the film, it’s really hard to guess who’s going to succumb to the assailant’s blade and a couple of the killings totally took me by surprise.
Another bonus is the fact that we are given an antagonist with an incredibly creepy mask and he stalks with a swagger that brings to mind Heath Ledger’s Joker. It could be argued that such a striking villain would have worked better if he were a Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type of merciless assassin rather than a character seeking vengeance for a past event. As I said in my review of Halloween, Myers was so scary because he had no motive, whereas knowing that this killer will turn out to be someone we’ve been introduced to previously weakens his appeal. I guess Mearns was somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place because his mystery is one of the best things about his picture (I didn’t guess it), so he couldn’t risk scrapping it. Still, this is one of the stand out guises of the past twenty-years and that deserves praise. We also get some ferocious murders, including a brilliant decapitation and a couple of SAW-alike death-traps that may not be graphic but are still fairly unsettling. These assist in the creation of a dark seedy tone that on occasion becomes contagiously engulfing. I also have to mention a few thoroughbred performances that may not be worthy of award recognition but are delivered with desire and focus.
Kill Game is a sharp slasher spectacular with a great boogeyman, a compulsive mystery and a plush set-up. Some may be disappointed that the only nudity comes from a guy that could be a stunt double for a sumo wrestler and it does move slowly in places, but all in all it truly is a SLASH above. I’m really glad that I pushed myself to watch it. Oh and by the way it’s my Birthday today 😉 I’m 18…. I wish…