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Study Hell 2004 Review

Study Hell 2004

Directed by: Mark McNabb

Starring: Brian Austin JR, Randy Cunnigham, Lindsey Day


Review by Luisito Joaquín González

The screen lights up very suddenly with no credits or text introduction. A petrified girl runs in to a school gymnasium and sees a pile of corpses on the floor. She sprints off in to the locker room and begins looking for a place to hide. 78267652“This is interesting”, I thought to myself. “We’ve cut out absolutely everything else and just headed straight to the final chase sequence. Is this a slasher short?” My question was quickly answered when the fleeing bunny finally bumped 73267365353into the unseen maniac and the title ‘Study Hell’ burst on to the screen.

Being a fan of slasher, or in fact any budget movies, is cool because alongside the satisfaction of enjoying the films, there’s also the challenge of hunting them down. I get message upon message asking me to rip Cards of Death and the like for some of you folk; and even if I certainly would love to pass them around to y’all, their studios have much better lawyers than little old me. Piracy is a crime and all that.

Anyway I can understand that it’s hard to uncover some of these oldies, especially if they’re not on DVD. But when 7672652542I got a message asking if I could direct someone towards a copy of Study Hell I was actually fairly surprised. You see this one’s not even been on shelves for a decade yet, so why has it disappeared?

A teacher with personal issues is asked to look after a gang of kids during evening’s detention. The teens begin to abuse him, without knowing the fact that he is a Vietnam veteran with a questionable record. Before long he locks the doors and begins to stalk and slaughter the kids one by one.

Back in 1987 there was an Australian film released called Dangerous Game. It put a teenage cast up against a deranged loon in a setting very similar to the same year’s Hide and Go Shriek. If you check my A-Z listings page, you’ll see that I haven’t included it there, because for me, it’s not a slasher film. Instead I’d categorise it as something of a cat and mouse thriller with a slasher-esque set-up. Study Hell really reminded me of that picture in the way that it doesn’t really follow the normal concrete code of conduct for the category and instead it launches upon us with an extremely authentic approach. The killer here is a normal guy and he never stalks through Michael Myers-alike POV and heavy breath. In fact, this entry excludes most of the things that we discuss here every week, 67651541451but I posted it because unlike the Ozploitation picture that I mentioned above, I just can’t see it fitting in any other film grouping.

It’s from director Mark McNabb and he has been fairly prolific in the DTV market since shooting his first picture, Dark Fields in 2003. He began work on this project straight after Fields was completed, but both titles took longer than he’d anticipated to secure distribution and sat in a vault for 821782762652three years. Study Hell doesn’t hang around to let you know the reasons why no one was in a rush to package and ship it to unsuspecting audiences, because it’s amateur night right from when the screen first lights up.

Now there are different kinds of bad actors that you can find in film-land. There are those that have studied the art of drama and even though they give it their all, they just don’t have the chops of an actor/actress. Then there are those that are just normal people like you or I, who have somehow ended up being cast in a movie with no previous experience. People like doctors, students, bricklayers, salesmen or cleaners who may well be superb in their chosen profession, but when it comes to portraying emotion in front of a camera, they just don’t have a scooby doo. Here we have a feature that’s crammed with those kinds of performers17672542542 and it is extremely difficult to watch.

Every conversation is marred by heinous acting and it looks as if McNabb wasn’t even trying to aim for realism with his dialogue or the build up to his set-pieces. The characters tick every known stereotype but look to have been cast by José Feliciano, because they seriously DO NOT look the part. We’ve got a junkie thug played by a dweeby guy with glasses, a flirtatious hottie that comes courtesy of an average-looking plump girl and the ‘maniac’ stalks around with a receding side parting, spectacles and an awful tie. The expression on the faces of the ‘actors’ never changes no matter what the situation. Whether they stumble across the corpse of their best friend or if they’re fighting for their lives, they remain looking like they clearly don’t belong and it has a huge effect on the momentum. At least there are a few unintentional lol moments like the Vietnam war scenes (filmed in the producer’s back garden?) and a hilarious part 1265254242where a fleeing bunny chooses to hide underwater in a swimming pool from the marauding maniac – and he doesn’t see her!

Don’t get me wrong, Study Hell is bad, excruciatingly so, but somehow I wanted to see it to the end. It even has a WTF twist that comes out of nowhere and adds to the paroxysms of laughter. I tried to find out a bit of info about the film’s author James McArthur, because I really wanted to understand how old he was when he pencilled this. There’s a final confrontation when our hero (another dweeb in specs) finally comes up against the nut job, and the dialogue and set-up would shame an eighties Van-Damme movie. The script comes across like a twelve-year old’s wet dream 87272672652and it’s tough to believe that an adult would be behind this work. It’s just embarrassing. I wondered after the final credits had rolled, what on earth McNabb made of the final print? What was going through his mind? If I ever get the chance to speak with him, I’ll make sure to ask where a 762672652542teacher managed to find hunting knives and a bow with deadly arrows in a locked school.

I was on something of a roll having watched Just Before Dawn, My Bloody Valentine 3D and Cassandra back to back. With so much ‘four-star’ action being played on my TV Screen, I was missing the usual junk that I have to sit through to write a review for you peeps. Study Hell came along and changed all that and it’s the first rubbish feature that I’ve sat through in 2013. That my friends is why so many people are struggling to track a copy down. One of the cast members probably bought them all to hide the shame

¡Viva El Cinematic Trash!

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:


Final Girl 



The Toolbox Murders 2004 Review

The Toolbox Murders 2004

aka La Masacre de Toolbox

Directed by: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Throughout the seventies and early eighties, Tobe Hooper was widely considered as one of the greatest horror directors ever to grace the silver screen. If it wasn’t for his 1974 video nasty The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then we may never have seen movies like Slumber Party Massacre or any of the other slasher ‘massacre’ titles. We may not have even witnessed classics like Halloween. Sometime after his career redefining joint venture with Steven Spielberg (Poltergeist), Hooper fell into an awful run of consistently poor form. Later years saw uninspired efforts like Crocodile, The Mangler and Night Terrors completely ruin his almost peerless resume. It was somewhat ironic then that he decided to direct a remake of the 1978 gruesome slasher (The Toolbox Murders) at exactly the same time that New Line Cinema were renewing his very own masterpiece (Chainsaw 83873783873873783873873Massacre).

The original Toolbox flick is a tough act to follow, let alone reproduce. What it lacked in style and quality, it more than made up for with brutality that has never been expressed in such a gratuitous fashion. Some of the gruesomely vicious scenes are almost impossible to forget and seeing a masked maniac use a nail gun to slaughter a naked teenager while he merrily hums away like he’s changing a light bulb is a shock tactic has never been used as effectively since. I must admit I hoped for more of the same from Hooper and I knew that he had already proved that he had the quality to break the hex of extremely poor horror remakes.

The Lusman Arms is a run down hotel in Hollywood, which has stood since the early twenties. In the opening scene we see a young woman get brutally murdered by a hammer-wielding black shrouded menace in one of the guest-87367337387387383833rooms. Her body is dragged into the shadows and it seems that no one notices her disappearance. Next up we meet Nell and Steve Burrows (Angela Bettis and Brent Roam), a young married couple that have only just moved into the Lusman Arms. Steve is a doctor and spends most of his time out of the house, which leaves Nell suffering with her noisy neighbours through the wafer thin walls. Having already mistaken two rehearsing actors for someone being slaughtered, the Local Police are less than impressed with the housewife’s over-active imagination. After hearing the diving screams of her neighbour, she begins to realise that the complex has more to its history than first meets the eye. Nell eventually heads out to solve the mystery of the disappearing residents, and what she discovers is more shocking than she could ever have expected…

Toolbox Murders is something of an impressive return to form from Tobe Hooper. Slasher movies are always easy templates to unleash some directorial flair and the veteran horror icon seems to lap up the chances to shine with673653672367272872 relish. You can tell from the off that this is going to be something of a step up from the typical post-Scream lowbrow trash. Joseph Conlan’s impressive score keeps the tension running on a knife-edge, and the set locations prove that the feature has been slickly produced. Hooper does a great job of making an ordinary everyday backdrop like an apartment complex feel as creepy as a haunted castle and the conclusion is exciting as it is enjoyable. The two lead characters are fairly well acted, and kudos to the scriptwriter for giving the viewer the option to sympathise with the protagonist. There are enough mysterious suspects to partake in a reality TV Cluedo marathon and each of them will give you a good enough reason to think that they could be the masked maniac. I especially enjoyed the stuttering manager, who describes a tin full of torn out human teeth that Nell found 74874874983983983983in her bedroom wall as, “Part of the building’s charm and character!”

At the time I wrote this in 2005, Toolbox Murders had not yet been released in either the US or the UK on DVD, which is somewhat inexplicable. I’m not sure what kind of business this took at the box offices, but I believe that it does certainly deserve a bigger status. There are a few flaws that perhaps undermine Hooper’s experience. The use of stereotypes is beyond belief; and as soon as a creepy toolbox-clutching handyman popped up as a hackneyed red herring, the movie lost a touch of credibility. At times the characters behave with a knack of ineptness that was totally nonsensical and perhaps underlined a lack of effort from the screenwriters. Victims leave themselves open to the killer’s murderous advances 78347647647in such a fashion that makes you wonder if they were suicidal; and the director fails to add anything remotely different to the conclusion.

Questions will be raised about the numerous plot holes that are scattered throughout the runtime, but personally I feel that they add an extra layer of mystery to the synopsis. Audiences 73673732872982982092don’t always need to be hand-guided through a story. Gaps can be filled by a creative imagination and that is part of the beauty of cinema.

Toolbox Murders is not so much a remake of its 1978 ancestor as it is a complete re-imaging. Yes there’s a nail gun murder and a similar masked killer theme; but this time around we have an intriguing supernatural sheen, which makes the movie a tad more interesting. The rubbish mystery has been replaced with a good old school horror plot that works wonderfully, making this one of the best remakes of the nougties

All in all this is well worth picking up. Gory (one guy gets his head sawed in half ala Intruder),suspenseful (the final stalking scenes are brilliant) and well watchable to boot, this is Hooper almost back to his best. Let’s just hope that he can keep up the good work with his latest adventure – Mortuary (another remake?).

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√

Gore √√

Final Girl √√√√

RATING: securedownload-1 securedownload (1)securedownload (1)securedownload2 - Copy