Author Archives: Luisjo Gonzalez
Lucker The Necrophagus 1986
Directed by: Johan Vandewoestijne
Starring: Nick Van Suyt, Martine Scherre, Carry Van Middel
Review by Luisjo González
Whilst Spain (Atrapados en el Miedo), the UK (Don’t Open ‘Til Christmas), Hong Kong (He Lives By Night), Italy (Madhouse), Canada (My Bloody Valentine), Australia, (Stagefright) and a couple of other countries jumped on the initial Halloween bandwagon, the phase didn’t last long. The release of A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 changed horror completely and in the following years, antagonists were more supernatural and had wisecracks after each kill. Classic Friday the 13th style stalk and slash films that we know and love, became less popular and only a small handful of entries crept out each year until 1988. I went into more detail in my review of Maniac Cop, about the large amount of great titles that we received in 88, so I won’t write it again, but it’s probably my favourite year in the genre’s timeline.
The one country that wasn’t ready to give up on the old school slasher template just yet was Belgium. They waited right up until 1986 to give us their offering and they certainly had more ambition than to just duplicate everybody else. Lucker the Necrophagus boasts something of a reputation in cult circles and it’s known as an X rated and somewhat extreme movie. I’ve owned it on VHS for a long while, but I also picked up the DVD a few year’s ago, but it’s in my shed under loads of boxes, somewhere.
John Lucker is a serial murderer with a necrophilia fetish. Eight years ago, he went on a killing spree that took eight victims, until he was finally caught and institutionalised. Now he’s been put in a private clinic after attempting suicide during an asylum transfer. Despite being heavily drugged, Lucker escapes the clinic and heads to finish the girl that survived his last massacre, Cathy Jordan…
I’m aware that you readers probably consider me as something of a strange individual. I’d have to be to work so hard to locate and review so many s**t slasher movies. One thing I’m not too keen on though is sexual perversion. In fact, I’m not a fan of any perversion at all. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against porn. In fact, watching adult material on a date is amazing and I thoroughly recommend it. Necrophilia though is not something I’m interested in knowing about. On that subject, I remember at my 2016 Christmas party, when I worked at Hays, we all had to drive up to Bristol, which was the head office of our region. I pulled a sexy little redhead on the high street after the disco and took her back to my hotel to get high. When we were pretty f**ked, I said to her, what’s the dirtiest sexual thing you’ve always wanted to do and not done? She replied, I’ve always been excited by incest. I went to the toilet, texted my Greek buddy and said, call me and say there’s an emergency. Looking back, it’s lucky I didn’t throw her out of my room stark naked. She wants to f**k her father? Drop me out.
That story I told you proves that there’s some strange people inhabiting our planet and I likely will meet the majority of them in my lifetime, knowing my luck. Anyway, on to Lucker the Necrophagus. So this is a slasher movie in the vein of Maniac, Bits and Pieces, Skinner and Blood Splash or in other words the bogeyman as protagonist style. These can work well sometimes and I enjoyed those I mentioned, but I much prefer the Halloween or whodunnit technique of stalk and slash. As I hinted earlier, this particular flick has become known in the horror community as a blood-filled extravaganza that take things to excess. I have to say that’s not quite the truth and whilst it touches on some extreme stuff, it’s reputation is somewhat overblown. The most gore you get is fake blood on a shirt or pouring from the mouths of victims. There is a scene where one woman is filmed holding something that looks like her intestines outside her shirt, but there’s nothing here that would rival the level of Nightmare at Shadow Woods, Intruder or even Pieces. One bit I guess I should mention is towards the end, we see the killer f**k a corpse. Whilst the makeup is ok, would a corpse rot that much in a week? Also wouldn’t he be vomiting from the smell? I’m not sure if it’s this scene that started the standing that this movie is explicit, but whilst it’s not a nice thing to watch, it’s far from extreme.
I mentioned Bits and Pieces and Maniac earlier as films that this could be considered somewhat similar too, but the main difference between them and Lucker is that they actually had something of a plot. B&P had the daft love story between the cop and Rosie our heroine, whilst Maniac had Frank Zito’s hinted obsession with Anna D’Antoni. Lucker had nothing at all similar and the entire runtime involves the killer stalking the final girl and murdering anyone else he bumps into. In a more traditional slasher movie like, I don’t know, Don’t Look in the Cellar for example, there’s actually a bit of story to break up the kill scenes and so we are excited for when the maniac returns. Hold on, I’m using Don’t Look in the Cellar as a positive example? Well that’s because Lucker doesn’t have anything aside from watching Lucker kill an infinite number of people that we know zero about. Director Johan Vandewoestijne never told the producers, who paid to fund the movie, exactly what he had in mind for the picture, including the necrophilia. When they finally found out what he had filmed, they reportedly destroyed the negatives and all that was left is what’s available today. Johan Vandewoestijne has said that he initially had a journalist in the synopsis that was investigating John Lucker and it was the reporter that sent the antagonist crazy and started the whole kill frenzy. I own the director’s cut and it doesn’t jump quickly like it’s missing footage, so it’s impossible to say if that’s true. There’s a chance Vandewoestijne said it to excuse the fact that the movie literally doesn’t have any setup at all. I guess the real truth is lost to time.
Whilst there are three male victims, it this were to be released today in this WOKE environment, there would likely be worldwide protests. The females are all incredibly dumb or hookers and none of them get a good time during the feature. If you considered some of the later Friday the 13th sequels to roll out victims with minimal exposition; during Lucker, some of them literally walk on the screen to die, sometimes with the bare minimum of dialogue. Whilst no one watches slasher movies for intense dramatic verve, the best features of the category have characters that we care about. One of the most basic rules of filmmaking is develop well the good guys, because the drama comes from wanting them to survive. Lucker is more like a collection of murders bolted together and whilst I never got bored, I had the same amount of emotional involvement as if I was watching a football (soccer) match between two teams I don’t care about in the French league. I did think a couple of the chicas were hot, especially one blonde victim, but that’s not the kind of emotion horror flicks should aim for solely. One positive I’ll mention is that the final chase sequence is excellent. Placed in a great environment and well filmed, I have to take my hat off to the director for his work there.
Necrophilia is not new to the slasher genre, check 555, Splatter Farm and Corpse Mania for more examples. Lucker is the movie that pushes it the hardest, but I don’t believe it would make the feature any worse if they didn’t bother with it at all. For a group of unknowns, the performances aren’t hideously bad. They’re not good in any way, but not as awful as say Don’t Look in the Cellar. I must say that the languages spoken naturally in Belgium are Dutch, German and French, but the English accents here are top class and we must praise that. The film is shot quite well, but I guess the main issue is the bogeyman doesn’t seem scary, despite playing off his rocker well. He’s a balding, short guy and I don’t know, maybe they needed a big masked Robert Z’Dar type actor. Don’t misunderstand me, I already said, he performed insane effectively, but he didn’t ‘look’ the part and it hurt the story. A creepy mask would’ve been another better option to make him more frightening. The net result is I don’t want to seem like a party pooper, because I know this film has it’s fans, but I personally think it’s overrated.
Don’t Look In The Cellar 2008
Directed by: Dennis Devine
Starring: Laura Artolachipi, Shevaun Kasti, Tara Shayne
Review by Luisjo González
You know, being a critic especially a slasher movie critic is a f**king tough job. I don’t get paid, I’m not making money from adverts and I have to watch some f**king s**t to make sure you guys and dolls don’t ruin your evenings. I never usually complain, but this weekend saw me sit down in front of Don’t Look In the Cellar and it was worse than getting arrested. When you break the law and get caught, they put you in a cell by yourself for as long as 24 hours. You have nothing to read, only one phone call and time moves slower than a disabled tortoise.
Dennis Devine directed this one and if you recognise that name, it’s likely because I’ve previously written about him. He was in the hot-seat for a couple of pictures that I’ve already covered. His debut was the haunted-camera slasher, Fatal Images. He finished the eighties with the decent heavy metal-flick, Dead Girls. He also made the ambitious and thus far unreleased, Bloodstream. Interestingly enough, I used to speak with his filmmaking partner, fellow-owner of his former studio, Cinematrix cinema. Of course, I’m talking about slasher fan, author/director and all-round cool guy, Steven Jarvis. We chatted for a few years and became friends. He sent me some slashers to review, but because of work, it took me a while to get through them. When I emailed him three times for his address to send them back in late 2017 and early 2018, he never replied. It’s now 2021 and I’ve heard nada. I’m disappointed, because I liked him and wasn’t sure what I did to make him ignore me. I may have upset him in one of my comments on his work, but I’m never trying to be personal when I explain how I felt from a movie experience. It’s just my honest opinion on whether I enjoyed what they put together. Some of you peeps might not like what I write, but that’s your decision. I try to describe how the average viewer may feel whilst watching a production. If I’m critical, it’s not a direct cuss on their intelligence/personality or life as a member of the homo species. I suppose, you readers can see that I pull no punches in my mission statement to give you a legitimate opinion on what I view.
Anyway, Mr Devine’s downward career trajectory needs to be discussed. He went from making some exciting slasher movies in a back-garden Argento type way, to becoming just another David Sterling hack. He was a talented and energetic filmmaker, but he began knocking out dime-store flicks with minimal quality that received no end of negative publicity. David Sterling, of course, is the guy that refused to fund $20 for a prop that was key to one of his stories. He’s produced almost 150 movies, including Camp Blood, Dead 7 and Maniacal. Interestingly enough, he wasn’t involved with Boris Pavlovsky’s Granny from 1999.
A group of college students sneak into an old asylum on Halloween. One by one they encounter Smiley, a hooded killer who was once a patient there…
So basically, we’re back in the galaxy where abandoned places still have running electricity, zero cobwebs and fresh food. I would love to meet the billionaire that pays the bills for important story locations from this film, Doom Asylum and Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming. In the dimension where this story takes place though, an asylum is identical to a normal house in suburbia. Don’t expect to see wards, sterilisers, medical tables, hospital beds, tablets, stethoscopes, medicines, doctors, surgeons and the like. Here we get ordinary kitchens, cupboards and bedrooms just like the place you live within. I didn’t see any nurses or psychiatrists, but I saw a cat toy next to the front door in the living room. In fact, I was unaware mental institutions even had living rooms. I was in a brain injury place for fifteen months after my accident, and they’re like asylums. I can report that it didn’t have cats, salons, a small family-size kitchen and bedrooms. It makes me ask, how do they treat mental health in this galaxy? You just get placed in some random house for a while? How is that meant to solve your issues?
Allegedly this particular sanctuary for the psychologically sick was closed down 10 years ago after two murders. We get to see these killings in the pre-credits. One girl is stabbed three times in the gut and we view her lifeless body splattered in blood. Her buddy is presumably dispatched off screen, because she was warned not to go in the basement, which she ignores, and then we see Smiley (the antagonist) splash her crimson all over the wall. What’s the problem with that, you ask? Well, in the first scene after the titles, both characters, same names and everything, are the main players in the plot once again, even though we just saw them get splatted(?). We’re even later told they left the house alive, but that’s not what we witnessed. If it was an urban legend and they’re not dead, why was the asylum closed down? Also, if this psychiatric refuge is no longer open, why are there still two patients there? Why isn’t it surrounded with a 6ft fence? Why is there no demolition team knocking it down? If the pre-credits stuff that I mentioned earlier never happened, why did one of the asylum members recognise the same girls that we saw hacked up in the opening? Answers on a postcard please…??? I’ve got two degrees, including a master’s in evolution, but maybe I’m not smart enough for this crap. I’m just too stupid to handle a killer who’s mask is covered in blood when he chops someone’s hand off, but in he next scene, it’s totally spotless. The whole premise of the story is that the kids are trapped in this place and can’t get out. No escape! Well, we can clearly see handles on the windows and doors, but they only try one of them.
Aside from the fact that my six (nearly seven) year-old, daughter could write a more logical screenplay, the script is only the beginning of the problems here. Only one member of the cast can actually perform a bit and the girls are all unattractive and flat chested. The blonde lead is a train-wreck of a human being and the most horrendous ‘actress’ in the 4.5 billion years of planet earth’s history. You could beat the speed of light, go back 300,000 años, grab a Neanderthal, f**k that; you can go further in the past,1.5 million years and grab a Homo Erectus, put him in front of the camera and I bet he’d give a more convincing performance than that blonde, blue-eyed hag. Also, I spent the entire runtime trying to work out if the other mental patient that wasn’t the killer, was a girl or a guy? It had a female voice, but was bigger built than Mariusz Pudzianski and had a bizarre man’s mullet for a hairstyle. I noticed that one of the chicas (the only good looking one who can actually act) had an accent, so I searched on IMDB and found out she’s an Andaluza like me. I wrote to her on Instagram, but she hasn’t seen it yet. I’ll update the blog when she does.
IMDB says this feature had a budget of $1,200,000 – WHAT??? What the f**k did they spend that cash on, cocaine? Did they have a huge session in the basement and call 50 prostitutes? Let’s break this down to the sum of its parts. Let’s predict that they rented two cameras for a three week shoot, you’re looking at €60,000. The cast are mainly amateurs and they’re working for David Sterling, so let’s say they got $25,000 each. That’s £400,000 for all of them. The whole thing was 100% shot in some kind of house in Los Angeles, so let’s say they rented said abode for 504 hours, (although it likely belonged to Dennis Devine), $100,000. So we’re missing about half a million dollars for f**k’s sake. On the plus side, there’s a twist that I didn’t guess and a huge number of slaughters. Fans of bad movie giggles will like the part where one guy gets his hand chopped off and it kills him stone dead! You can clearly see his fist hidden in his sleeve😂.
I have zero idea why Dennis Devine still makes this tosh; it’s hardly going to lead him to Hollywood. You can mock me, by saying, wouldn’t I do the same thing if I was given the opportunity, and I’ll answer like this. Give me a budget of $1,200,000 and I would not hire one of these flat chested,
talentless strumpets. I’d also retake each scene multiple times until I got something that looked at least part realistic. My script would have concrete logic and a fearsome killer. If David Sterling is reading and thinks I’m all talk, well you know where my email address is located, try me… I really didn’t enjoy this rubbish. It’s basically a load of average looking, flat chested crap actors, one better looking Andaluza girl and they’re all quoting horrendous dialogue in David Sterling’s house. This film is really the lowest of the low and Dennis Devine, a director that’s usually full of energy, shoots like he’s overdosed on 800mg tablets of tamazipan or smoked grade A heroin. Don’t pick up this one, brothers and sisters. Skip it. I’m off to the mental hospital to have a check up. I posted a picture of it above on the right. 😂😂😂
The House Where Death Lives 1981
Directed by: Alan Beattie
Starring: Patricia Percy, Joseph Cotton, David Hayward
Review by Luisjo González
I must admit that I treat this movie somewhat unfairly. Many times I have written about the first slasher flicks that I came across is in my local video stores in Spain, before I left the country after the break-up of my parents. I never have named this one, even if it was one of the first I found under the title of Delusion in España. In the UK, I found the VIPCO VHS under the the name of this review. I refreshed my memory by revisiting it and I even started a review back then for the IMDB, but I never got around to finishing it. That must’ve been around 2002. I bought an NTSC copy of the movie and it was that VHS I watched anoche. Despite suffering amnesia in the accident I told you about in my review of Paranoid, I could clearly remember watching this one and my opinion of it.
One of the main things that initially caught my eye about the UK release was the inexplicable and nonsensical moniker of the feature that made not a lick of sense to the junior me. How can ‘death’ ‘live’ in a house? Think about it: The house where death lives. If you’re alive and living somewhere, then you’re not dead, so how can death live anywhere, let alone in a house? During my first view, I awaited patiently for the first reanimated corpse so the name would seem logical, but of course, such a thing never happened. THWDT is certainly a stalk and slash movie and it was released during the peak year of 1981. Thing is though, if you take an entry like Friday the 13th and compare it with this, the differences are astounding. The two are about as contrasting as a pet cat and a smilodon, so how is it possible that they’re in the same sub-genre? Well, allow me to explain…
A nurse named Meredith Stone goes to a house to care for a crippled old millionaire. She is soon joined by the gentleman’s 16 year-old grandson, Gabriel. As soon as the teenager arrives, someone begins killing off the house members and it becomes apparent a vicious maniac is on the property…
I mentioned that this is disparate from Friday the 13th above and whilst they both stick to the same basic principles of the slasher rule book, one is pure popcorn ‘jolt’ horror and this is more of a pseudo psychological tale that’s quite involving. Whereas Sean S Cunningham’s entry moved at a fast pace and went for a few bloody deaths, Alan Beattie’s thriller is gradual moving and rather drawn out in what moods it aims for. Whilst watching initially, I was reminded of The Silent Scream from 1979, which had a similar set-up and ended up being a fantastic project. THWDL couldn’t maintain the same momentum and it never gained the correct velocity. It’s also extremely anaemic too and there’s barely any shots of blood throughout the entire runtime. It was released in the United Kingdom as a 15 certificate, which confirms its bloodless visuals. Don’t let that put you off though, because even if there’s no goo on display, the murders are extremely brutal and there’s a couple of really tense jolts throughout the runtime. It’s quite atmospheric overall and boasts a really creepy score, but it’s not particularly scary or a film that you’d watch on a date.
The story concentrates purely on the mystery and it certainly owes more to Christie than Carpenter in that sense. It’s a very engrossing puzzle to guess who’s wiping out the residents, but people that are experienced at guessing whodunits like myself, will read the clues and work it out within 45 minutes. When the killer is revealed, it’s a smart choice from the screenwriter, but hard to picture after the final credits have rolled. Without giving anything away, it somehow didn’t seem physically possible that the maniac would be able to do it, but there is a visual example that looks really good and convincing. It still doesn’t sit right with me somehow. Interestingly enough, the marketing media for the USA cinema run gave away the killer’s identity on the posters. If you went to see the movie and became engrossed in the conundrum, you’d know exactly who it was by remembering the advertisement.
Alan Beattie seemed to have the modus operendai to ‘wow’ them in the end with a big, shocking twist. The obvious problem with that methodology is that I predicted the revelation and so, the climax felt almost like having to pay twice for only one meal. Everything had really built up to the unmasking, but it was lessened for me, because I guessed what would happen. Along the way though, various interesting areas are explored, including Meredith being sexually attracted to a sixteen year-old boy. This is quite a strange story-branch and even if one-six is not an age that’s illegal, Meredith was much older and my hatred of paedophilia made it uncomfortable to watch. It’s really hard to work out what the director was going for with that idea, but go there he does, including a sex scene. No skin is visible and there was no boob shots in this film, which is unusual as that’s a slasher key ingredient. This was, in fact, an older cast in many ways than the norm, because most of the characters were elderly and even the sixteen-year-old was played by a man who was twenty-two. No screaming teens here. No hot chicas either, although Patricia Percy is beautiful, if you’re a man that doesn’t need big boobs like I do.
The director shoots the scenes comfortably and it’s bizarre that he only had one more directorial credit inside him following this release. There’s some really neat cinematography and THWDL certainly looks well financed. Also worth mentioning are some fabulous performances throughout the cast including Joseph Cotton as the cripple. Patricia Percy from Squirm was fine as the protagonist nurse. She’s not a bad actress, but her performance was kind of like a zombie and she doesn’t boast a strong presence on the screen. I was impressed with her physicality in the last couple of scenes and she never came across as unconvincing in a dramatic sense. I prefer actors that dominate the visuals, which she never achieved, often being outshone by others.
As I said, The house where death lives is definitely a slasher movie, but it’s atypical of the rest of its brothers and sisters released around the same time. It is extremely snail paced and some may find It a battle to stay engaged and focused. It takes a while for the killings to start, but they’re quite aggressive when they happen and the killer utilises a table-leg as his tool for slaughter. I’m not really sure if I can recommend THWDL, because it is lento (slow) in a major way. If you’re looking for a mystery though, you’d find a lot worse on the shelves and 8 is not a small body count. One problem I had with the film is that the busty beauty on the cover doesn’t appear in the movie even once! She was better looking than every other girl throughout the runtime kurwa! A well made psychodrama that is also a slasher, but a bloodless and not a fun-party one
Miner’s Massacre 2012
aka Curse Of The Forty-Niner’
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Starring: Alexandra Ford, Karen Black, Richard Lynch
Review by Luisjo González
What with Штольня and XP3D a few years back, I’d been coincidentally ‘digging’ through the mine-based slashers with a pick-axe at an impressive rate. Here we have one that I’ve wanted to add for some time, but there’s always been a title in front of it… until now. Curse of the Forty Niner or Miner Massacre as it’s known round these parts, was the second slasher film from John Carl Buechler after he directed arguably the most ‘gutted’ of the Friday the 13th sequels (part 7). He also provided special make-up effects for a number of eighties stalk and slash films including The Prey and Demonwarp. Known for his visceral gore scenarios, Buechler was something of a cult hero throughout horror’s most cheesetastic decade. Although his directorial efforts never really put him on a level with Carpenter or Craven, he still played an important part in the production of numerous entries. After the Scream-inspired slasher rebirth, he returned to the cycle that he had heavily contributed to with this overlooked inclusion.
A group of young adults head off to a remote Southern location where it’s rumoured that a murderous outlaw named Jeremiah Stone stashed a pile of gold. The area is surrounded by the legend of the ‘Curse of the Forty-Niner’, which dictates that if anyone searches for the treasure, the spirit of Stone will return from beyond the grave and murder those responsible. Guess what happens next…
Is sticking consistently to your stereotype always a bad thing? To be honest I’m not so sure. If we erase the past twenty years, I’m a massive Robert Deniro fan. I loathe his politics, but I honestly believe that his Vito Corleone in Godfather 2 and his Leonard Lowe in Awakenings are (along with Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking) amongst the greatest performances ever captured on celluloid. His critics will say that he can only play a gangster or a villain, but I disagree, because the best of his work from the past two decades is Silver Linings Playbook and Everybody’s Fine, which are everything but dark characters. It’s a shame that the roles that he’s most renowned for are violent or aggressive, because he has more strings to his bow than he is given credit for. Despite accusations of churning out anything for the paycheque of late, his quality has been mainly evident when he’s played against type.
In the case of John Buechler though, Miner’s Massacre has the opposite effect. If you’ve got a slasher film from a guy that’s known for making ‘the goriest continuation to Friday the 13th, I guess you build a certain level of pre-view anticipation. Then when said movie has about as much blood as I Know What You Did Last Summer, you kind of feel, well, a bit disappointed. It certainly looked as if, stung by the censorship issues that plagued his entry to the Voorhees saga, Buechler had re-invented himself as a filmmaker more focused on suspense. In honesty, I much prefer the Carpenter methodology and value style over substance, so was keen to see how he’d get on with such a stark change of approach.
On first glance, Miner’s Massacre starts fairly limply, with pancake personalities and plot branches that have minimal exposition. Our antagonist is brought back from the grave rapidly with no real explanation and the gang know exactly where they’re going to seek treasure after receiving only half a map and a chunk of gold(???). It could have been a prank by a friend or a marketing gimmick from Walmart, but they merrily pack their stuff and off they go without a second look. Thankfully, when they reach the secluded location, the film drastically improves, due to a tighter pace and an aura that’s subtlety reminiscent of inclusions from the late entries of the eighties. Buechler outshines many of his contemporaries by capturing the charm and wit of the genre heavyweights without over-emphasising the fact in neon lights. He fills his film with archetypal slasher personalities, but I did like a couple of them, which made a real difference to the egotistical tosh that fills other modern slashers. I think that my favorite was the ‘moan-a-lot-bitch-girlfriend-from-hell’ that became the first victim of the zombie assassin. Her OTT Brooklyn ‘My Cousin Vinny’-lite accent really gave her some spark and I was fairly disappointed when she checked out prematurely. She may not have escaped her stereotype, but because she was played with fire, I really thought that she stood out.
Looking like a cross between Freddy Kruegar and Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, the killer stalks and slashes his way through the group with impressive menace and the murders build up to a tense conclusion in an underground mine. Its fair to say that Buechler directs with endeavor, but there’s nothing outstanding that genuinely transcends the norm. The decision to shoot the night scenes with a tint of blue was a poor one and the lack of visual clarity is surprising considering the budget. That’s not to say that the production had extensive funds to play with, but there were a handful of explosions and OTT effects, which could have been substituted for a better lighting rig. One of my readers, a cool dude from the Philippines posted a comment on Death Valley. He correctly mentioned that it was one of the only slashers that had a Western slant, but I guess that you could say that Miner’s Massacre also counts as a genre entry that owes something to outlaws and gunslingers from America’s Wild West.
The movie eventually goes where you expect it to, with most of the cast getting killed off, aside from the final girl and her beau, who end up facing off with the maniac. The main issue I had with Massacre is that it felt incredibly tame. I would’ve never expected subdued and harmless horror from señor Buechler. I guess you can compare him to an elderly rocker like Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler. They were all 24/7 drugs and alcohol in the swinging sixties/seventies, but now that they’ve got their eyes on their health at their ages, it’s shandy, healthy food and cocoa before bed.
I guess that you could call Miner’s Massacre the slasher equivalent of a film like Con Air. It’s an entertaining stroll that takes the expected route, but doesn’t attempt to uncover an adventurous shortcut. There’s a cute, but flat chested chica (Eve), some exciting stalking scenarios and an authentic antagonist, but I couldn’t help but think that this director is capable of delivering so much more.
I was saying to my mum recently that it’s amusing how so many heavy metal groups from the eighties have ‘reunions’ when the bank balance is looking a bit on the light side. I suppose that in the case of Buechler, he just accepted the odd director’s gig for the exact same reason. Sadly Mr Buechler caught cancer in 2017 and despite valiantly battling with it, he died in March 2019. A real disappointment. Not many of the maestros from the original slasher boom are left alive… it’s a huge shame…
Slasher In The House 1981
aka Home Sweet Home
Directed by: Nettie Peña
Starring: Jake Steinfeld, Don Edmunds, Vinessa Shaw
Review by Luisjo González
Oh mama! Woooh, I need to take a deep breath…. Ok… am I still alive? Where am I? What the f**k did I just watch?
When I was in hospital all that time (check Paranoid review), I put on 7kg of weight. 36 months in a bed, 3 meals a day, you can imagine. However when I was released, because I lost all my muscle mass, I went up to 130kg. Everything I ate, no matter how healthy, turned to fat. When you consider I used to be 81kg, that’s obese. I’m too vain to be overweight, so I soon joined a gym, but quickly noticed that cardio wasn’t working for me. 800 calories on the cross-trainer changed nada. What did start to work however was weightlifting. Soon, I was bench pressing 80kg and watching the flab drop off my body. I’m no longer 81kg, granted, I’m 99kg, but with only 11% fat, I’m now a hench muscle man. I’ve fallen madly in love with bodybuilding.
I tell you this, because the antagonist of this picture is Jewish personal trainer and overall cool dude, Jake Steinfeld. Now bodybuilding, much like supporting a particular soccer/baseball team or meeting a fellow angler, is a hobby that men and women can bond over. ‘What muscles you working on today, buddy?’ It’s a link that connects people in social circles. Will my love of the gym make me adore Slasher In The House due to its famous fitness trainer bogeyman?
I can’t tell you that I wasn’t warned. On another películas del terror website, there’s a pretty bad review and the general consensus everywhere online is that it’s not great. The write-up on the other horror page is in fact so disrespectful that I almost felt like it was bullying. I promised myself, I’d be a lot more just and fair with my analysis of this peak period Halloween clone. I’ve owned SITH (SITH = Slasher In The House) on VHS since 1987, but the first time I watched it was yesterday. So what can I say? Well, not much of originality (like the movie) but is it as bad as its hideous reputation would have you believe?
Well, it’s going to take me a little while to explain, because the answer involves every single thing in the movie. In fairness though, things start extremely positively with a killing within about thirty seconds of screen time. A guy is parked up on the freeway, drinking a larger, before driving. (Don’t you love the eighties, when you could see cigarillos and drinking and driving in the movies). Out of the corner of the parked dude’s eye, he catches our killer approaching the vehicle and offers him a beer. His kindness doesn’t get him anywhere, as the muscle-bound jock drags him out of the car, murders him via a method I couldn’t make out and steals his wheels. Next up, the assassin, who has a habit of cackling madly when he’s killing people, runs down an old lady, who looks like a thirty-year-old woman in a grey wig. We hear via the radio in the automobile, that our nutjob is a guy called Jay Jones, who (of course) has just escaped from an insane asylum after being sentenced for murdering his parents as a child. So far, so by the book…
After lots of shots of our bogeyman driving, more driving, erm, holding a steering wheel, changing gears and even more views of him, you know, driving; he ends up pulling up near a secluded house. The abode belongs to the Bradleys, a family that look to have invited over a number of guests for a thanksgiving dinner. Amongst the revellers is is a Hispanic chick named Maria (Lisa Rodriguez) and a guy who has his face painted white like the glam metal band Kiss. If it’s your group’s identity to paint your faces blanco how Kiss used to, it looks pretty cool. If you’re just doing it on your lonesome however, it comes across as, well, a bit weird, freakish and also worrying. Anyway, the white-face guy is called Scott (David Mielke) and he very quickly becomes extremely annoying. He carries a guitar around with him, winding everybody up by disrupting them when they’re trying to make out and other such boring palaver.
If you haven’t already guessed, people start leaving the house to get some wine, or find those that haven’t yet returned (murdered) etcetera. Well, of course Jay Jones is watching in cheesier than a dairy heavy breath POV shots. It goes exactly where you expected it to and we’re left trying to guess who will survive…
I’ve told you all before on a Slash above, I got into the slasher genre after staying up to watch Halloween in 1986. I am obviously a Latino-born dude that grew up in London, as my mother was working there. I clearly recall reading a criticising article by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert about stalk and slashers and they hinted that they were racist and said, where are all the black people in these flicks? Well, something about SITH surprised me. They may not have a black character included, but they sure as hell-fire have a Latina, who has a lot of screen time. I was secretly hoping that all the gringos would get killed (wink wink) and the Spanish chica would defeat the maniac. Yay!! The problem with this though, is that I found the character actually more of an offence to our race than a thumbs up.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not one of those guys that considers everything offensive. However Maria, the Hispana girl in this story, says stupid things in Spanish like Bésame (kiss me) or voy al baño (go to bathroom) all the time and she never converses in English, but she’s with a group of people that do not understand el Español. It’s even hinted her BF is American. How did they converse? Also, were the filmmakers trying to hint that Hispanic people don’t learn languages? To make matters worse, the director could herself be a one of us. Her name is Nettie Peña, but it just seemed a strange thing to have in a movie. Or I personally found it that way. Why would a Hispanic person publically mock her own race?
Anyway, a major problem with the feature, aside from the fact that it’s not very good, is that it moves far too S-L-O-W-L-Y. A fine example of this is when two of the girls go out to get the wine, or go to the power company, I can’t remember exactly why they left. Anyway, they get pulled over by a couple of cops in a pointless scene (except that one of the chicas has a fantastic rack). Anyway, we don’t just get that nonsensical sequence, the director follows it up with an equally inept conversation between the two Police officers. We watch these movies to see the slashings cabrón!! The performances across the board aren’t heinous, but they’re not good either. I noted a whole heap of unconvincing fear and crud line delivery. At one point, white-face dude begs for his life, whilst offering to sing for the maniac. I’ll let you guess how well that goes. Also worth mentioning, is that this bogeyman talks to victims and at one point, he says that women are worthless. The problem with this dialogue is it seems like something a guy who’s been divorced twice (like me) might say. Isn’t it true that Jay Jones has been in an insane asylum after murdering his padres as a 12 year old? How much experience could he have with women? Was he married at 18 months old? Man, either my flatmate put LSD in my wine or this is the worst screenwriting since Star Wars The Phantom Menace???
Also before I forget, in the beginning we see the killer injecting angel dust under his tongue. That’s unusual, you may think and I agree. However the main problem with the concept is, where the hell did he get the PCP from? It’s been illegal in the United States long before this film was made and the story says he just escaped an asylum. Did he visit and murder a drug dealer? How did he find the dope peddler? Did he ask around in the ghetto? He must’ve murdered said narcotics man, because he slaughters everyone else. So if that happened, why didn’t we get to see it? I mean going to the ghetto to buy drugs and then taking out the dealer is a unique and exciting sub plot. From what we see here that must have happened, so why didn’t we view this action? My head is hurting, I need to have a lie down…
So what’s left to be said? Well, I can say that the antagonist consistently cackling destroys his aura of menace and he’s about as scary as a teddy bear. Mr Steinfeld didn’t do anything bad with the part and he has the right build, but the laughing looks silly, not scary. Also, slashers look much better in a mask. Another thing of note is that SITH is a total career killer. Practically every cast member featured never acted again except Don Edmunds the producer. Mr Edmunds is a name you may recognise, because he directed the exceptionally bland Terror On Tour in 1980. The only person to go on to a successful period was the child, played by Vinessa Shaw. The director totally vanished for 28 years and was substituted to one barely seen documentary in 2009😂.There’s no gore of note and only one of the killings is effectively brutal. It involves a guy trying to steal a battery from an abandoned automobile and our muscle-bound psycho jumps on the hood, crushing his skull.(See it above). Also when the cops turn up towards the end, they seem to know that multiple people have been killed even though they found only one corpse. Did they find and read the script before they came across the first body? That must’ve happened.
I guess we can say that Slasher in the house was made tongue in cheek, to be consumed the same way. It’s main problems are its momentum and the idea to make the killer laugh/converse instead of keeping silent like Mr Michael Myers etc. Going back to the review on the other website, I’d say this flick’s not THAT bad. Not great, granted, but an ok eighties slasher throwaway with cast members we don’t hate (unlike modern post-Scream entries). Lastly, I’ll tell you, throughout this review I called the film SITH for short. Well if you rearrange those letters you get the word SHI… Most accurate line in this review. Peace…
Directed by: Ash Smith
Starring: Shanda Lee Munson, Summer Sloan LePann, Brandon O’Dell
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Morning A Slash abovers…. Like Jason Voorhees… I’M BACK!!
I owe all of you, each and every one, a sincere apology. I had a huge number – 177,000 regular readers and other visitors – at my peak and I conversed with a lot of you peeps. My blog was so popular, some motherfucker stole my web address www. aslahabove .com, puta! If I find him, I’ll chain him to a chair and make him watch Curse Of Halloween for 24 hours on repeat with tooth picks holding his eye lids open. Anyway, basically, what happened was, I work in IT sales and I’m a pretty successful-ish guy in my industry. Anyway, August 2016, I was promoted to sales manager and I also got into a new romantic relationship around the time (I have two divorces and four kids from four different women) and my new Mrs wasn’t a horror movie fan. So, whilst in the old days I would watch a movie in the evening and write a review on the train to work or at lunch, it became an incredibly busy period for me and there was no ‘slasher time’. During the evening, I was watching normal cinema, such as mafia movies, romantic comedies and dramas et al with my Bulgarian new girl. (I learned Bulgarian too and one of my kids is hers. That means I now speak 7 languages).
Then, to make matters worse, in November 2018, I was a passenger in a tragic car crash that saw two of my friends instantly killed and one died the next day. Due to the shock, I went into a diabetic coma (I’m type 1 with insulin) and the doctors told my mum and brother (in England) that IF I recover (and that was a BIG if), I’d be a total vegetable. I wouldn’t be able to move, think or speak. There was an idea to turn off the life support, but my mum knew I’d fight. I recovered with a brain injury and I had to learn to walk/speak again. If you check the photo to the right, that’s me with Oliverio from my family, when I was recovering in 2020, looking pale and rough. I’m slightly different after the crash; but I’m coping well and getting back to my best. By degree I’m an evolutionary biologist and much like Richard Dawkins, I’m completely agonistic and don’t believe in things with zero proof. That means religion, luck, ghosts, aliens, karma etc. I realised however, that life can be incredibly short and I want to leave this world with an impact on our favourite slasher sub-genre. A Slash above of course, is the perfect way for me to achieve that.
After 36 months I was released and I came home to Spain. I have some amnesia, but I am ready to rock and roll once more! I’m back working again and feeling and looking good. The Bulgarian is in her country with my son and I’m with a Romanian beauty and she likes horror movies, so these lifestyle changes mean I’m back for A SLASH ABOVE PART II: The return of Luisjo 😂 . I’m also thinking of a YouTube channel so you can see my handsome chiselled features, but that’s in the future. We’ll see how the website goes first. I doubt I’ll be able to go back to posting reviews once a week, but we’ll see how things go, before we think too far into the future. Are there still slasher fans breathing or will I post reviews to nobody????? Let’s see…
I was actually a bit excited about re-visiting Paranoid. Whilst it’s not a film that I can really remember (last watch was 21 years ago), I’ve always held a subtle fondness for it, because it reminds me of a unique time. I was a slasher fan before the release of Scream and even though I was only a teenager, I knew that during the early nineties, this genre had become obscure and unpopular.
This was the general theme, up until 1996 when Craven’s blockbuster (the aforementioned Scream) became the mystical ritual that awoke slasher flicks from their slumber like the living dead from Andrea Bianchi’s Burial Ground. Video stores were once again full of hand-drawn covers with cheesy titles and almost every week I’d come across a different slasher to take home with me. It makes me sad that the MPEG generation will never experience the joys of hunting through shelves for cinematic trash, the way we did back then. I spoke to an a SLASH abover recently that had downloaded his entire collection of 400 slasher films from portals in a few days. I’m conscious of sounding like an elderly bore, but for me, finding them so easily, removes the most enjoyable part of being a genre enthusiast.
Titles like Final Scream, Camp Blood, Cherry Falls and Christina’s House were amongst the last of the slashers that could be discovered by rummaging through rental stores, so I’ll always have a soft spot for them, no matter their credibility. Whilst I didn’t recall much about Paranoid, I am quite sure that I wasn’t over impressed with it all those years ago.
A vicious serial killer has been stalking cities of America and ruthlessly butchering students. The media have dubbed the maniac, ‘The Conscience Killer’, due to the haunting letters he leaves at the scene of each crime. Whilst a group of teenagers are preparing to graduate college, it seems that the fearsome psychopath has chosen their remote town…
Most of the entries from the early noughties are so similar to Scream that they lose some allure due to their lack of innovation. In that respect, Paranoid is no different, but where it does distinguish itself is that it’s a true amalgamation of qualities. If you were to take something hideous like rotten milk and mix it with something mind blowing like Tovaritch Russian Vodka, then and only then would you achieve a combination that might be considered similar to how hard Paranoid is to give an accurate review. It’s a jumble of elements that combine to leave a runtime that plays like a date with a beautiful bipolar schizophrenic.
It’s clear to see that first and last time director Ash Smith was keen to fill his debut movie with ‘va-va-voom’ and alongside cinematographer Keith Holland, they unleash some energetic and audacious shooting styles. Whilst there are viewers that find more credibility in subtle lens placement, I’m a sucker for visual exuberance and I appreciated the vibrancy. The killer looks suspiciously identical to the antagonist from Cherry Falls, but it looks to be coincidental as they were both released the same year. If I am going to chose one director here to accuse of imitation, it certainly not Falls’ Geoffrey Wright. We get a couple of ominous sequences of the psycho watching news reports of his murders in a candle-lit room, and they reminded me of the deeply ominous tone from Goodnight Godbless because there was an extremely similar scene in that film too. Robert Albertson’s scoring for these parts is unique and threatening and even though I’m not sure how much of it was strategically planned, the use of audio (and the lack of during the kill scenes) is surprisingly adept. In fact there’s a lot of stuff here that really adds a layer of creepiness to proceedings and Smith displayed a flair for the macabre in various places. He even manages to pull off suspense with two terrific set-pieces that excel with some superb antagonist placement and blocking.
Shanda Lee Munson deserves kudos for the range she showed as our final girl, even if she fades on some of the meatier ‘acting’ parts. Also, I’m not sure if it was deliberate, but wardrobe suitably dressed her down when she was depressed and dolled her up when her attitude was more positive, which certainly (at least subconsciously) improved our interpretation of the plot. Sadly the rest of the cast were far less impressive and assisted in demonstrating the aforementioned lack of cinematic balance. The script has some neat ideas to generate momentum (the whole ‘conscious killer’ back story was intriguing), but it loses impact with it’s ropey continuity. There are quite a few examples of lackadaisical screenwriting, but the ones that stood out, were the police brushing off a credible report of the maniac’s whereabouts (he had just openly chased our key players with a chainsaw!). Then we get a late plot development about the protagonist’s sibling that makes little sense with what went before it. It’s like they expected viewers not to remember anything we’d seen previously for longer than five minutes. Look, slasher movies don’t need to be intellectual philosophy, but they should, at least, remain logical.
I mentioned the creative photography above because it really made an impression, but the same couldn’t be said about the editing, which was the worst thing about the picture. I was reminded of the saying, “Don’t run before you can walk”, because there was a lot of flashy chop cuts that came at the expense of a linear flow that would’ve best benefited the story. It’s a shame because I really thought Paranoid deserved better, but it became stagnated and cluttered in the editing suite. The overall limpness also had an effect on the conclusion to the mystery, which could have hit us like ‘wow – really!!!’, but instead it just feels like, ‘ohhhhhh…really…. ho hum…’
Paranoid reminded me of my first car, which was an Mk1 Ford Fiesta 1100. I put an XR2 engine in it, slapped on a body kit, performance suspension, a roll-cage, tinted windows and a cherry bomb exhaust. I only had it on the road six-weeks and then the gearbox and clutch totally failed. I took it to the garage, he took a good look and noticed that rust was eating away the wheel-arches and the floor under the driver’s seat. As a slasher movie, Paranoid is exactly the same as that Fiesta. Looks good, but it’s rusty and rotten…
Bikini Spring Break Massacre 2008
aka Girls Gone Dead
Directed by: Michael Hoffman Jr, Aaron T Wells
Starring: Katie Peterson, Shea Stewart, Brandy Whitford
Review by Luisjo González
I often wonder if exploitation cinema may be reaching its date of expiration. For decades, a host of low-budget titles would provide horror, shocks, nudity and gore that would fulfil both morbid curiosities and rebellious desires. Having grown up during the tail-end of the exploitation boom, I experienced first hand the excitement of hunting out hand-drawn VHS covers and guessing what forbidden treasures might be included within. Nowadays of course, the most explicit content imaginable can be found quite easily with a Google search, which is why I wonder whether the market might be drying up for the exploitation genre.
Released in 2012, Girls Gone Dead was marketed as a T&A slasher; – a style that we saw in abundance during the noughties. Generally, T&A slashers lack technical quality in their attempts at delivering terror, so they up the ante with nudity and silicone enhanced ‘babes’. Good examples of the phenomenon are, Strip Club Slasher, Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare, Fatal Delusion, Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre, Fatal Pulse and Massacre at Rocky Ridge. As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, I can’t help but assume that the growth of free-access online porn has stolen a percentage of the audience for titles that sell themselves on having a couple of extra nudity shots.
A group of girlfriends head off to the remote mansion of one of the troupe’s fathers for a weekend of crazy partying. Missy, the daughter of an over-zealous church member, promises that she will let her hair down and finally break the shackles that have been imposed on her by her incredibly strict mother. Excitement leads to disappointment when they learn that their ‘house of fun’ is actually located in a retirement community. The bad news gets worse when a hulking masked killer turns up with a large axe…
Whilst T&A slashers are my least favourite sub-category of our favourite sub-genre, I will never complete my mission of reviewing the entire pool of these flicks if I don’t go against my preferences from time to time. I’m reminded of something a girl I met in Kraków once told me, “Be more intelligent than the rest, without making it obvious”. Another suitable quote might be, “The smartest disguise is that of the clueless clown”. I mention these because, GGD is an interesting addition to the slasher collection and it’s one that may have a hidden layer.
I watched it straight after Most Likely To Die and whilst they are both modern slasher movies with slick productions, they are totally different beasts cinematically. MLTD spent a while expanding the complex identities of its unique personalities, whilst GGD rolls out the clichés without a second look. Directors Michael Hoffman and Aaron T. Wells have a ball with their cast of attractive bunnies and said bunnies carry the lengthy exposition parts comfortably. At 102 minutes, I was expecting the momentum to stagnate whilst watching the girls getting drunk and pulling off the predicted shenanigans, but the script has enough wit and endeavour to keep things moving. There’s a sub-plot about an adult porno/big-brother type website, which I initially thought was an unnecessary diversion. It leads to a house party sequence that includes a humorous (if misplaced) cameo from Ron Jeremy, tonnes of bikini-clad bimbos and an abusive wannabe Hugh Hefner with a face that you’d love to punch. With a crowbar. Thankfully, the killer turns up and puts an abrupt end to the decadence with his trusty hatchet. Due to the cameras that were capturing the boogieing hotties, some footage of the murders is posted online and we get to see our key players watch it, in jest, a short while later. The irony didn’t escape me that they were mocking the earlier massacre, whilst blissfully unaware that they’re next on the maniac’s list.
Eventually the killer turns up to take care of Missy and her pals, and begins picking them off one by one as they wander off to get up to mischief. Hoffman and Wells go all guns blazing and deliver some brutal murders and gratuitous gore. We get an antagonist dressed in a robe and cherub mask (nod to Valentine?) and there’s a few interesting set-ups, including the death of a valiant chica that I really felt deserved to escape the maniac’s clutches. It’s fair to say that 90% of the runtime sustains an ‘entertaining’ (but non threatening) tone, although the final twenty-minutes did deliver some really neat tension and a couple of scares. I mentioned earlier that these types of pictures are generally pretty shabby from a technical perspective, but that’s not the case with this one and the directors pull off some interesting stuff. Some other reviews that I have read criticised the mystery saying that it was too easy to guess who it was under the mask. In honesty though, I didn’t notice it to be worse (or better) than any other slasher/whodunit I’ve seen of late. One thing I will say is that I often complain about unlikeable characters in modern entries, but GGD managed to even make me root for the spoiled brat. That’s a real achievement.
Going back to the comparison with Most Likely to Die, for the best part of GGD, I was thinking that it lacked the intelligence in scripting and preferred ticking boxes over attempting MLTD’s more ambitious style of storytelling. Later though, I noticed the aforementioned ‘hidden layer’ and that GGD possibly included a subtle comment on modern voyeurism and the easy access to society’s ills via social media, which in effect makes them dangerously acceptable. Perhaps there was also a nod to parental relations and how there comes a time when padres need to accept generational differences. I also noticed a view on religious fanaticism and how certain ideologies have become outdated with the technologies and desires of modern society. Then again, maybe it’s just a silly slasher and I was overreaching when i noticed those depths…?
What I can be sure of is that Girl’s Gone Dead is an entertaining and fun entry that is as close as it gets to an eighties cheese flick without being an eighties cheese flick. It’s overlong; for sure. Actually, if they removed all the cuts away to Ron Jeremy and his chums, the film would work a damn site better. Still, I managed to remain hooked and I couldn’t ask for more than that. In reference to my comment on the fading appeal of exploitation pictures, it’s fair to say, if they’re this fun, there’s still a market for them. Oh and one last thing, I’ve proved many times on a SLASH above that the IMDB is an awful guide to slasher movies. Well this one has a rating of 3.5 on there! Stop the world, I want to get off…
School’s Out 1999
aka Schrei Denn Ich Werde Dich Toten
Directed by: Robert Sigl
Starring: Katharina Wackernagel, Niels-Bruno Schmidt, Nils Nelleßen
Review by Luis Joaquín González
In my review of Amerikill, I made an unforgivable error. I said that it was strange that there are so many killer clowns and hardly any psycho jesters in the slasher genre. Slaughter High got a well-deserved mention, but I failed to acknowledge School’s Out, which includes arguably the most slasheristic jester disguise of them all. I hope that you find it in your hearts to forgive me…?
I picked this one up back in the early 2000s on an Amazon multi-buy with Party Crasher, The Catcher and Carnage Road. There’s another German slasher called School’s Out Forever that I will likely review soon, but to the best of my knowledge, it has nothing else in common with this. Whilst researching, I found out that this was originally a TV production, which I’d never have guessed, because aside from a lack of gore, it looks plush enough to have been a cinematic release. I’m quite surprised by its lack of popularity amongst slasher completists and that it has picked up only a few mixed reviews. With this in mind, I thought it was about time that I set the record straight with a gloves-off autopsy here on a SLASH above…
We begin with a young girl heading along a dark road and listening to music, which immediately brought to mind the opening of Urban Legend. She even comes across a creepy looking stranger whose car has broken down just to confirm the homage. Jessica slows down to offer assistance to the incapacitated driver, but comes to her senses and speeds off when he tries opening her door. As she heads along the road, her cellular phone rings and the voice quickly identifies himself as the man she just left in a layby. He admits that he has her number because it’s painted on the side (she’s driving her father’s taxi) and pleads again for a ride into town. The mystery caller gives his best Scream ‘creepy mutter’ impression, but it doesn’t prevent the foolish youngster from turning around and returning to the scene…
Next up we meet a group of students that are going to stay over at their campus to celebrate graduation. Nina has recently broken up with her boyfriend and that’s just one of a number of delicate complexities that surround the relationships of the troupe. As they begin to party through the night, it soon becomes apparent that a maniac that was responsible for a massacre on the site a decade earlier has broken out of a local asylum. Their worst fears are realised when a masked killer begins slicing through the revellers with the same weapon that the escapee used all those years ago – a large pair of scissors…
School’s Out is a film that’s split into three distinct acts and the best way that I can review it for you is by describing how each one delivered varying moods. For the first thirty minutes or so, I was struggling to adapt to the tone, which was mainly due to the most unconvincing dubbing since The Blazing Ninja and some peculiar lines that had been awkwardly translated from the German script. There were a host of conversations that sounded unusual and noticeably peculiar, so I would have preferred to have viewed a subtitled copy. On top of that, the fact that it had started with the aforementioned elements that were clearly lifted from Urban Legend and Scream meant that my initial impression was that this was an extremely poor European rendition of its American brethren. We were given a few scenarios that attempted to bring the key players to life, but the staggered flow of the klutzy dialogue meant that I couldn’t buy into what I was seeing. With so little to keep me engaged, I began to fidget and lose interest whilst waiting for the action to commence.
When the killer gets to work though, the pace begins to tighten, which is mainly due to a couple of splendid decisions from director, Robert Sigl. Never has the inside of a school looked so gothic and he traps his characters amongst terrific backdrops, including an ominous spiral staircase and a room that’s filled with mannequins and tarpaulin maps. Without any gore, the crew rely on sharp editing and frantic movement to bring the kill scenes to life and there’s a tense moment when a fleeing bunny tries to grab the assailant’s weapon whilst he’s temporarily immobilised. Another notable sequence sees a victim slaughtered whilst her friend looks on through an air vent and there’s a fairly tight mystery that will keep you unsure of your choice of cast member that’s under the mask. I mentioned above that this is the most ‘slasheristic’ jester guise of those I’ve featured on a SLASH above and with a red mask and period costume it’s hard to disagree with that statement. Sadly, I also think it’s the weakest of the three; – because the plastic look of the visor is at odds with the rest of the attire. Amerikill and Slaughter High did it better for me.
The third and final part of School’s Out is my favourite and its authenticity allows the film to overcome allegations of being a complete Scream clone. Our heroine Nina and one of her friends survive the school massacre but they do not believe that the Police have pinned it on the correct suspect. We get some effective dialogue scenes that open-up new layers to the puzzle and they all lead to a final confrontation back on the campus that’s staged well enough to build drama. It’s unusual for a slasher to go for an aftermath plot-branch and I liked the way that the script didn’t push itself into corners or run up blind alleys. Nina makes for a subtlety appealing heroine, if again, let down by the scripting; whilst the motive, when revealed, is totally ‘out there’ but that’s pretty much par for the course.
Even if it may be a bit long-winded in places, School’s Out is a satisfying slasher film that has some slick embellishments. If I could track down a subtitled copy, I’d give it an extra half-star, but as it is, it’s still worth the effort of checking out. It was followed by an equally enjoyable sequel that has, strangely, become almost impossible to track down. On another note,I just noticed I’ve posted this on the weekend after Brexit. As a Spanish/Irishman that lives in the UK, perhaps reviewing a German slasher could be considered a political statement of kind…? Then again, perhaps not…
Most Likely to Die 2015
Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi
Starring: Heather Morris, Jason Tobias, Tatum Miranda
Review by Luis Joaquín González
For me, the biggest mystery surrounding the slasher genre is how such a basic and straight forward formula has resulted in so few genuinely credible motion pictures. Of the 800 or so entries that have been produced, you can count the truly outstanding ones on your fingers. For movie watchers that aren’t slasherholics, there seems to be a thin middle ground and these flicks are either superb or trash-can worthy. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons why the category hosts so few exquisite inclusions, but I think a big part of it is that filmmakers often try to expand on the traditional template when there’s really no need to.
Most Likely to Die is refreshing because it’s a big(ger) budgeted effort that proves that you can still make a sharp and thoroughly entertaining movie by sticking to the guidelines. Instead of flamboyant recalibration of the nuts and bolts, Anthony DiBlasi has decided to polish the old ones and paint them in chrome – and it works
A group of youngsters arrange a get-together at the remote mansion of one of their friends to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their graduation. As they begin to arrive, they notice that Ray – the house owner and a professional hockey player – is mysteriously absent. Still, they begin to catch-up on their achievements and celebrate their reunion. Little do they know that a brutal masked killer is watching them and before long they’re fighting for their lives…
When I first learned that DiBlasi was making a slasher movie I was extremely keen to see the net result because he’s a director that I have a lot of respect for. His previous features have shown a unique flair for mixing horror with strongly developed characters and I wondered how he’d get on with the more basic trappings of a stalk and slash flick. If there were any lingering doubts about his potential as a competent up and comer, he washes them away with MLTD, by staying true to the category’s principles without betraying his own vision. The film offers a wealth of intriguing set-ups that allow its players to transcend the usual stereotypes and this is most-evident in the choice of final girl; – a professional poker player with a self-destructive lack of trust. At first I wrote a note that the friendships looked unconvincing, but as the film progresses, we are given more insight on the complex relationships that exist between the former classmates and why some of them may have the motive to kill. Whilst I wouldn’t say that the mystery is outstanding or that the conclusion was a shock (it is in fact fairly underwhelming), it does add an extra layer to the tension of the marauding killer.
DiBlasi is wise to pay tribute to the slashers of old without making it obvious that he’s doing so. The film can be described as a mix of Terror Train, Pranks and Slaughter High, but it doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that it’s been filmed in 2015. We get a host of gimmicks that we’ll recognise from the classics including the killer putting a red X over the yearbook pictures of his victims and a subtle sub-plot of a prank that backfired. In time-honoured tradition, the opening scene includes a chase sequence and a (surprisingly) bloodless slaughter, but we don’t get to witness the antagonist for quite a while after. The in-between parts are spent unraveling the personalities of the school friends and there’s some interesting tweaks that bring them to life. What I liked about MLTD is that it breaks away from the ‘one by one they wander off to die’ chestnut, because the entire group are made aware fairly early that there’s an uninvited guest on site. This means that the script needs to be more creative in the way it strands its victims and puts them at the peril of their pursuer.
Our antagonist has a unique guise and he strikes with a ferocious brutality. There’s a really well set-up scene in an alleyway that provides suspense as the maniacal menace closes in on a trapped victim, smashing lightbulbs along the way, like we saw in both My Bloody Valentine and Terror Train. It would be an extreme exaggeration to call this a gore film, but there are some gruesome moments and an audacious kill with a hockey stick that’ll satisfy blood hounds. DiBlasi directs with confidence and draws pitch-perfect performances from an inexperienced cast. His choice of lighting for the second half of the picture is perfect and he delivers a vibrant combination of audio that hits more often than misses. Using the English National anthem for a kill scene was a masterstroke that I’m surprised didn’t come with an explanation of kind.
The lengthy attempts at dramatising the key players may be off-putting to those looking for a fast-paced slasher flick. It could also be said that the killings aren’t graphic enough for hardcore hounds, but you’d have to be hyper-critical to truly find much more fault with Most Likely To Die. Here we have a movie from a production team that made the right decisions: don’t waste budget on non-essential ingredients when all you really need is competent actors, a cool killer guise, some blood and a director with the ambition to succeed. Sometimes doing the basics to the best of your ability outshines an overload of creativity. This may not be a genre-defining movie, but it’s a worthy inclusion that should be a lesson to filmmakers looking to continue the legacy.
Bone Cave 2011
Directed by: Matthew Brooks
Starring: Justin Rose, Jeremy Jusek, Andrew Hart
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So here we have yet another extremely rare slasher movie, but it’s one that is refreshingly unique. Even as a fan of the genre, I often get tired of the amount of films that traipse along the standard clichés without even attempting to inject any authenticity. Bone Cave on the other hand is unlike anything that I’ve seen before and despite its limitations, it offers an encouraging slant on the stalk and slash formula.
A pair of college kids hatch a life-changing plan to get rich by robbing a local ecstasy dealer and hosting a rave so that they can sell the tabs that they stole. As the party gets underway, it soon becomes apparent that a caped killer is lurking among the revelers and looking to slaughter the drug-induced teens…
For the first twenty-minutes or so, Bone Cave played like it was little more than a slasher by the numbers. It kicked off with a pair of poorly acted lovers being murdered in a cave by a caped menace with a painted face. There was nothing about the sequence that couldn’t have been copy and pasted from a million other genre entries and when the next cut showed us a couple of kids sitting outside a high-school, I felt like I was watching a lower budget knock-off of President’s Day. However as those same characters began speaking about their ambitious plan to rob a local drug pusher and host an illegal party, I began to realise that Ohio based director Matthew Brooks was on a thoroughly different wave-length.
Whilst there’s no denying that Bone Cave is a slasher movie, it’s one that plays like it’s only half-aware of the trappings, which I mean as a compliment. We get forty-five minutes of plot development from the three main players and perhaps because the dialogue has been written by a youngster (Brooks was in his twenties) it comes across as genuine as to how youngsters speak. It could be said that the pace during these parts isn’t as tight as it should be and a couple of killings might have made the runtime sharper, but Brooks’ flair for witty lines and realistic scenarios kept things afloat. If you’ve been a long-term reader of a SLASH above, you’ll know my thoughts on the challenges of mixing slapstick and terror into a palatable cocktail. There are many entries that have tried this formula (Easter Sunday/Slaughter Studios) and the majority of them are disjointed and shabby. It would be unfair to call Bone Cave a slasher/comedy, but the script delivers a nice blend of humor (from the dialogue) and horror (from the multiple victims). I expected the theft of the ecstasy tablets to be a small background sub-plot, but it is smartly expanded to generate a solid spine. It’s fair to say that there are no real surprises in later revelations and the killer’s identity is easy to guess, but most of the ideas here are novel and smartly delivered.
The second half of the film takes place inside the cave of the title, which was the location chosen to host the rave. The exteriors were filmed locally and are impressively conveyed considering the lack of experience and I can only guess that a hall was used for the other parts, but credut to the set designer(s) that worked hard to make it look as realistic as possible. Early on, I was a little worried that the lighting would be a problem, because we have about ten-minutes of footage that is illuminated by a couple of torches, but this soon improves and the crew did a good job technically. I also thought it was original the way that the killings were staged. Initially we get a torture porn-esque kidnap of a young girl that gets acid thrown in her face, but then the maniac goes on a rampage and runs into the middle of the party-goers with his custom blade and begins slashing… Cue pandemonium! We do get some blood splashing and a couple of gooey moments, but Bone Cave is fairly light on the gore score. It draws to a conclusion with the three main characters trapped with the maniac and they must overpower him in order to flee the carnage. If I were to be really harsh, I could say that the film might’ve worked better with a meaner spirit and I also didn’t think that the killer’s dialogue (he’s a real chatterbox) was effective. Still, earlier on I mentioned President’s Day and whilst the pair have very little in common, they share an alluring vibe that’s impossible to brush off.
All in all I enjoyed Bone Cave. It’s certainly full of innovation and a handful of smart accomplishments. The pace does stagnate a bit during the first half and some of the effects are visibly cheap (the grenade explosions are PSone-esque!!), but I guess that they made the most of an extremely tight budget. Matthew Brooks is certainly a talented filmmaker and his inclusion to the genre is worth a look.