Left For Dead 2007
aka Devil’s Night
Directed by: Christopher Harrison
Starring: Steve Byers, Danielle Harris, Shawn Roberts
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Halloween has become far more significant than just a reason to dress up for slasher enthusiasts. After the success and legacy of the seminal film of that title, it will always be known to us as ‘The night he came home’. I first saw Carpenter’s classic on the 31st of October 1986 and I launched a SLASH above around the same date in 2011, which makes this the site’s third year on the net. Happy Birthday and all that.
As it is such a momentous day, I generally try to find a suitable slasher film to mark the occasion and this year I’ve chosen Left for Dead. Despite decent funding and a cast including scream queen Danielle Harris, Christopher Harrison’s entry has become surprisingly obscure. Not many of the leading slasher sites have bothered with it and it is hard to find a copy to buy online. It was produced with a large amount of PR and I remember reading an exciting preview in Fangoria back in 2007 before everything went quiet. It snuck out direct to Canadian TV some two-years later with much less media coverage and didn’t hit disc format right up until 2012. It’s never a good sign when that happens, so I wasn’t expecting too much. Another reason, of course, to see this film is Danielle Harris herself. I grew up alongside Harris, seeing her portrayals in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5. Her popularity after decent apperances in Free Willy and Last Boy Scout almost took her above slasher movie territory, but she returned in 1998’s Urban Legend and genuinely seems to love slasher movies. She’s made it her passion to keep appearing in them and she even went as far as to direct one, so that can’t be overlooked.
After an unfortunate event in an early scene, which leaves a kid dead, a group of youngsters promise to keep it a secret and they get on with their lives. The next Halloween, they decide to have a fancy dress party, but it becomes apparent that someone is watching their every move…
To be fair, there are quite a few things that Left for Dead gets right. For example, the killer turns up almost immediately and once he’s on screen, there’s never a huge gap between one murder and the next. Harrison as a director is all about visuals and the majority of the first half of the movie is filled with girls with ample cleavages, cheesy fancy dress costumes and bright colours. He also tries to get the best out of his (admittedly below average) cast, especially when they’re speaking one on one. There’s a good example of this in an early scene where Danielle Harris and her boyfriend, played by Steve Byers, converse. Whilst it’s impossible to say how much of this was down to the creativity of the actors, the scene is nicely set-up and convincingly portrayed. Little things like this are important to see in a feature film and even if you don’t notice them initially, subconsciously you will.
Another thing worth mentioning is that there’s no doubt that Harrison is a fan of the slasher genre and eagle-eyed viewers will notice many tributes to titles like Maniac (the shotgun through windscreen murder), Fatal Games (victim on crutches), Friday the 13th Part II (spear through lovemaking couple) and Halloween. Oh yes, he’s a fan of Halloween alright; so much so in fact that he duplicated entire sequences… And the score. I don’t have a problem with this though, because it is fun playing the recognition game and makes you feel all wise and knowledgeable on the genre. The only issue though is that it seems that the director was more interested in showing us his inspirations than concentrating on making a credible entry that future pictures could reference themselves.
I have complained previously about overlong character development, but Left for Dead doesn’t seem to have much at all. Most of the time I couldn’t recognise one person from the next and once we had defined the main players, we really didn’t get any backdrop on the others. Not only did this mean that we couldn’t care less about what happened to them, but it had a devastating effect on the mystery. When the culprit is finally revealed, it was like, who was that again? Did I miss something? Erm… Ok…
Still there’s a fair few murders and despite a disappointing lack of gore or suspense, it’s worth watching for the most part. A missed opportunity to be sure, but it’s at least worth a look.
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl √
Rose Of Death 2007
Directed by: L. Alan Brooks
Starring: Luke Jones, Sarah McGuire, Sandra Winogrocki
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Buenos días slasher fans, my apologies that I have been away for so long, but since the last time that we spoke, I’ve moved house twice and stumbled a bit upon the work/life balance tightrope. Funnily enough the site’s visit stats during my MIA status have shot through the roof, which means one of two things: 1) You guys and girls prefer when I’m not updating a SLASH above or 2) the legion of global stalk and slash admirers is growing. I’m hopeful that it’s the second.
So here we have one that I believe not many have heard of, Rose of Death. It’s a cheapo quickie from 2007 that was included in the Tomb of Terrors 50-film DVD pack that I picked up a few years back. Much like the slashers of yesteryear it tells the tale of a group of kids that go too far with their bullying on Prom Night. A sadistic event leaves two teenagers, Rose and Kevin, dead and the wrongdoers agree a pact, never to tell anyone about what happened that fateful night.
Ten years later, the murderers attend their high school reunion, but it soon becomes apparent that someone must have worked out their secret. A masked menace and his accomplice begin killing them off one by one by the most brutal means possible. Who could be behind the killings?
For many years, Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2 held the record for the longest pre-credits sequence in cinema history. Rose of Death runs it close here with the opening slaughter of the unfortunate prom attendees. There’s a story that I guess makes sense, regarding a jilted jock ex-boyfriend who sets out to teach his geeky love rival a lesson, but accidentally murders him in cold blood. In order to cover up the grim deed, he and his buddies decide to get rid of Rose, who is the only surviving witness. This sequence is effectively brutal in its content, but it is filmed so badly that I began to lose interest after four minutes of struggling to make out what was going on.
We are plagued by the usual mind numbingly bad acting, mumbled speech and braindead dialogue, but its the lack of illumination that’s the real issue. I noticed that some times, even during key moments, it was impossible to see anything at all. We learn later that the two corpses were put into an automobile and pushed into a lake, but if the producer invested any money in this effect, it was wasted because all that was visible was blackness. This continues throughout the runtime on every occasion that the camera heads outside into the night sky and it doesn’t take long to become frustrating.
We fast forward ten years and the plot then stumbles through the development of the guilty parties after the events of the prologue. If I had the chance, I’d ask what skin cream that they use because they haven’t aged as much as a day. Soon enough, a gruesome twosome of killers begin to slash their way through the troupe and we get one slightly ok gore effect. As a nod to Rosemary’s Killer, they leave a freshly picked calling card of a rose at the scene of each death. The girl’s name was Rose, so they leave a bright red one.
To be fair, the momentum tightens during the second half of the story, because we are asking ourselves who the vigilantes could possibly be. The budget piggy bank must’ve been empty by the time that we get to the big revelation scene though because the whole thing is left pretty much unexplained. Without giving too much away, I was scratching my head with perhaps the most important of all questions, which is: how? Please let me know if you have any idea.
ROD has some good ideas in both it’s script and filmmaking technique, but it’s plagued by the obvious lack of funding. I liked the referencing of The Prowler and they even find the time to put in the old head in a toilet trick, which we saw in both Curtains and The House on Sorority Row. The odd flash of genre recognition is not enough to make up for the moments of ineptitude though and the film is just awkward to watch.
L. Alan Brooks’ slasher couldn’t help but bring to my mind the title of the underrated Nicolas Refn film, Only God Forgives. I feel that in this case though, even the almighty God, if he were to exist, would not be quite forgiving enough…
Killer Guise: √√
Final Girl: √
Directed by: Chris Notarlie
Starring: Ted Prior, Sandy Brooke, John Eastman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Ok so I’ll openly admit that I wasn’t clucking with anticipation to see Methodic. I’d been told that it was a tribute to John Carpenter’s Halloween and the last one of those that I’d watched was Offerings. Yea, exactly, someone pass me the Xylazines. Then, however, I saw that it had been directed by Chris Notarlie and I felt a slight flutter of interest in my brain. Like the last flaps of a dying moth, there was something there. The silver lining in the cloud? The light at the end of the tunnel? The wood between the trees? Well, maybe.
You see Notarlie has generated a buzz in the world of fan films for his cult shorts that you can find scattered across the Internet. These include tributes to icons of the superhero and slasher genres, which is great because the second of those categories is the one that we discuss every week. Zipp-a-dee-doo-daa! Amongst his lengthy résumé is Friday the 31st, a 22 minute story that pitches Jason Voorhees against Michael Myers in a fairly impressive setup. Whilst not being totally convinced that I was in for a good time, I did feel keener than I had previously. Like the last flaps of a dying moth? No, I’m talking butterflies baby…
After murdering his parents with a hammer, a nine-year old child is sent to an asylum. When his younger sister attempts to connect with him, it stirs his anger and he breaks out to confront her and murder anyone unfortunate enough to get in his way.
If you’re a fan of slasher flicks then you can consider yourself to be a unique individual because to be honest, there’s not very many of us about. There’s nothing quite like the buzz of meeting someone who shares this same passion, because it makes you feel connected in some miraculous way. The fact that Notarlie broadcasts his love for the genre everywhere possible, means that I automatically took a shining to him and wanted to like his debut movie so much. You don’t need to be a genius to work out that there’s a big difference between a thirty-minute short and a full length motion picture, but even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I got with Methodic
Ok, so things started positively. There’s a Cloverfield-alike camcorder launch to the proceedings and the characters discuss the likes of Madonna to set the retro eighties vibe. The dialogue and interactions between the people on the screen feels genuine and unforced and I was impressed by the tone that was building. We are introduced to a slightly peculiar child who seems sure to be our bogeyman and we don’t have to wait long to see that this is the case. Within ten minutes, he has taken a claw hammer to both of his parents and the screen fades to black. With the end of that intro not only are we waving goodbye to the period references, but also to the impressive level of filmmaking ability.
I picked up on this fact for sure after the scene twenty-minutes in, that involves two cops sitting in a car chatting. Instead of the typical shot reverse shot setup, Notarlie incorporates some strange camera angles and it just feels like the cuts are harsh and in all the wrong places. I was guessing that these were supposed to be hard as nails officers of the law, but their first conversation is about how they found out that their women were cheating on them and with how many men. Are you sure tough guys really talk like that? Can you imagine Dirty Harry; ‘Do you feel lucky punk? Luckier than me because I just caught my wife in bed with the milkman? Well, do ya?’ Or Pulp Fiction, ‘I’ve given a million women a million foot massages and they all ran off with the cable guy.’ I mean I’m all for cutting out the clichés, but this just felt weird.
Generally in a slasher movie, it takes, what, ten minutes for the bogeyman to have broken out of the asylum. Here we get to twenty-eight and fifteen of them could have been left on the cutting room floor. One line of dialogue from the psychiatrist would have summed up everything that happens between the kid killing his parents and then escaping the institution. So he’s a silent weirdo that hasn’t responded for fifteen years, ok comprendo, let’s move on. This time may have been spent developing the personality of his younger sister, our obvious final girl, because thus far we know only that she swears and has a great ass. Now I love great asses, but I don’t invest emotionally in every chick that’s got one. Physically, maybe; but that’s another story for another day.
The action really starts after the breakout part, which was strangely intercut with another sequence, but was quite exciting and well conveyed all the same. I was impressed that for someone that hasn’t been able to move unaided or respond for fifteen years, the bogeyman knows how to drive and make a scary mask with a sewing machine. My ex-wife couldn’t even turn on a sewing machine or drive a car and she responded all the f**king time. Especially when I didn’t want her to. This nutjob though is blessed with a lucky streak that makes me wonder why he didn’t take a moment’s break from slashing to do the lotto. Inside the first house that he breaks into, he finds not only the aforementioned stitching apparatus, but also a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that a tailor couldn’t fit for him any better. It takes me forever to purchase a decent 38″ chest and 32″ waist damn it.
Soon after, he begins cruising the streets and stalking his little sis and her buddies. These include two lesbians that give us an exploitive and totally unnecessary sex scene. To be fair, there are a couple of creepy shots and a bit of ingenuity in the final third and a ‘borrowed’ twist that I really wasn’t expecting. I recommend keeping the sound low though, unless you want your ear drums damaged by some hideous death metal. Why can’t we have a maniac that goes around slaughtering people to something melodic? Pat Boone anyone? Forget melodic peeps, this is Methodic, but exactly what that method was, no one knows. It sure as hell wasn’t the acting.
Now let’s be frank about this whole situation. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Chris Notarlie is a talented filmmaker and most definitely one to watch for the future. Not everyone has a strong debut and I’m sure that he has a good career in front of him. Methodic however is plagued basically by bad pacing, lighting, continuity and editing, but these are elements that can improve with practice. This may not be an entry worth much of your time, but I will most definitely look out for other stuff from the same director
The potential is there. I’ll be the first in the queue when it’s realised
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √√
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. “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 into 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 I 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, but 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 three 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 performers 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 where 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 and 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 teacher 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!
Psycho Ward 2007
Directed by: Patrick McBrearty
Starring:Jacqueline Betts, Bobby Horvath, Liam Card
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s interesting that not many slasher completists mention that there were far more slasher movies released during 1998-2008 than at any other period of the genre’s timeline. Even the eighties heyday didn’t churn out as many psycho killers, which is an interesting piece of information. It’s likely because it is so much easier now to get a film made and a distribution deal sorted and anyone with a camera and a few keen friends can put together their own effort. In the old days, it was all about walking around cap in hand and begging for funding.
On top of that, we have also seen entries emerging from more and more countries over the past fifteen years. These include Russia, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Thailand. There were so many newer titles finding their way direct to DVD at one point that even the IMDB is still catching up with listing half of them. I keep looking out for Final Curtain and Demon Day Killer and to this day they don’t seem to be on there.
There’s a massive difference between the low budgeted modern entries and the ones that came out thirty-years earlier. Take for example movies like Blood Reaper, Sawblade and Heart Stopper. They can at times be fun to watch, but they lack the charm and wit that was such an allure for the entries from the golden years like Sledgehammer or Home Sweet Home. Psycho Ward to look at offers nothing notably different from any of the three post-Scream titles I mentioned above, but it does have one thing that allows it to somewhat stand apart. This was not (yet) another direct-to-disc shelf-liner from Brain Damage or Film 2000, but was actually distributed by a major, major studio.
What on earth Lionsgate, the most commercially successful independent film and television company in North America and the third most profitable movie production suite, were thinking when they picked this up is anyone’s guess? Maybe they paid peanuts for it? Maybe they did it for charity? Maybe a video was sent to the board of directors showing one of them in a ‘compromising position’ with a hooker and a bag of coke? Anyway I was keen to see if it was worthy of such a ‘blue chip’ release…
A group of students head off to a dilapidated prison with a psychiatrist to uncover the truth behind rumours of government mind experiments that had been taking place before it was shut down. It seems that there were some military tests on the inmates that had to be kept classified. What they uncover is a vicious masked killer who seems hell bent on slashing them to pieces.
Are prisons creepy? I guess they could be. You see, there probably are only a few places more claustrophobic than a concrete cell and you have to give the director 10/10 for effort on his choice of location. In the opening scene, McBrearty hits the right switches by giving us a nice pair of boobies, some fun gore and a glimpse of a masked menace. It’s a good start, but as you all know so well dear readers, from then on its more likely that things will traverse in a downward trajectory
The characters that carry us through the story are comfortably delivered and unlike the majority of slashers, Ward doesn’t make the necessary development parts something that would send an amphetamine addict into a coma. There’s some genuinely impressive structure in some of the camera-work and I really liked one lingering POV shot, which sees the unseen assailant watch his prey wander through the door to their impending doom from an upstairs window. It was truly a postcard horror shot that proved our director knew the genre’s background. When the trouble starts, the group decide to stick together and work in tandem to escape and there are hints of paranoia directed at the girl that they met mysteriously outside of the prison. Could she be involved? Is she the killer’s daughter? It’s not as predictable as you might think.
About halfway through, two unknowns pull up in a car outside the building and the maniac makes very quick work of them with minimal endeavour. They are never mentioned or referenced again and it’s pretty obvious that the scene was added during post-production because someone noticed that there hadn’t been any killings for a while. We do come across moments when the pace does stagnate a bit, but all in all I think that things cruise along at an acceptable gallop and sustaining momentum is not the flaw that ruins Psycho Ward.
The movie’s weakness is that it doesn’t make the most of the few good elements that were there to be expanded upon. I mentioned in my plot write-up about evil doctors and military mind experiments, right? Well that led me to expect some kind of super-human survivor like Robocop who that a sympathetic reasoning behind his murderous intent. He doesn’t want to kill but was programmed to do so by twisted CIA agents or Military generals. Keep in mind that this was produced long BEFORE Shutter Island, and could have been really unique with an approach that hinted at a shady conspiracy or a manchurian candidate type of backstory. What we got in the end though was absolutely nothing. Nada, zero, nic, nix, naught. Just a normal (overweight) nut in a mask with no imaginative motive outside of the fact that he ‘likes to kill’. So why build us up like that only not to follow through? Your guess is as good as mine and it was really disappointing.
The script seems to have been written in five-minutes on the back of a fag packet and it includes moments that seem incredibly dumb. INCREDIBLY so. There’s a part where two of the characters get locked in a prison cell together; and I repeat, LOCKED.IN.A.PRISON.CELL.TOGETHER. I laughed out loud when one of them looked at the other and said, “Ok right, so we should just wait here!” An early victim has a chance to flee the hulking maniac and so she runs, no, not out of the open doorway to freedom, but into a concrete cell with no lockable door (?). I also liked it when the ‘heroic’ male lead discovers a cell block that is littered with the bodies of his chums. He finds corpse A and like a real gentleman takes of his jacket to place it over the victim’s face. Then he comes across corpse B and removes his shirt to do the same. Secretly inside, I wondered if he really would strip right down to his polka dot y-fronts if he came across the rest of the deceased?
Psycho Ward at last check has a 2.1 rating on the IMDB. 2.1! To put that in perspective, even Camp Blood has 3.4. In fairness, I didn’t think it was 2.1 worth of bad and I’m glad that I watched it. There’s a touch of suspense in the final five minutes and I did like the downbeat ending. I just think that because it was released by a major brand, I had the expectation that it would fair better. I wonder what the producer from Lionsgate that picked this up thought would become of it? I mean the killings have the whole ‘torture porn’ thing going on, so perhaps he imagined that it was the next SAW? Oh gosh, my head is spinning. People have lost jobs for a lot less. In fact it plays a lot like another of the same studio’s trashy throwaways, See No Evil. I was going to say that maybe Psycho Ward ripped that movie off, but I have heard on the grapevine that this was left in a vault for a while before it was finally launched onto the public, so it’s a few years older. Thinking about all this is actually making my head hurt. I see Psycho Ward when I close my eyes… THERE’S NO ESCAPE FROM THE CONCRETE CELL WITH NO DOOR!!!! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!
Anyway dear readers, this one is not particularly memorable, but if you’re in dire need of some junk, then you can give it a whirl. In the meantime, I just filmed myself with a pillow case over my head heavy breathing on my iPhone 4S. I’m on hold to Lionsgate now. If they give me a contract, I’ll buy you all a beer. Peace…
Killer Guise: √√
The Stitcher 2007
Directed by: Darla Enlow
Starring: Scott Gaffen, Carmen Garrison, Justin Boyd
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
To any of my straight male readers who are still looking for Mrs Right, how’s this sound for an ideal woman. Darla Enlow is a busty blonde bombshell from Oklahoma and if that’s not enough to get you interested, she also directs slasher films!
Imagine the possibilities. “Hi Honey, I’m home. What’s the plan for tonight?” “Well I thought we’d watch the entire Friday the 13th series whilst getting blazingly drunk and then make love like rabbits until the sun comes up!” Sound good? Come on, you know it does…
The Stitcher is the third title in her low-budget DTV trilogy and it’s reputedly the best. I do also have Toe-Tags and Branded in front of me, but I thought I’d watch this one first.
It tells the tale of a group of youngsters that head down south to visit their friend who has inherited a large house from the death of her Auntie. They soon run in to The Stitcher, a psychopathic killer with a bizarre and morbid history. With only minimal contact with the outside world, they are left to battle the maniac on their lonesome…
Unlike the majority of no-budget DTVs that I watch, I started The Stitcher with high hopes that I’d really like it. Maybe in a peculiar way, I thought if I wrote a positive review here, Darla Enlow would read it, come and knock on my door, whisk me away to Oklahoma where we would elope and have an army of kids with names like Michael Freddie Voorhees and Jason ‘Leatherface’ Cropsy. But no, unfortunately, I respect telling the truth to you dear reader much more than I do the chance of landing a fine Southern lassie with an awesome hobby. Anyway, the problem with this one is not a lack of directorial talent from Enlow. It’s just that her filmmaking philosophy bus is not one that I enjoy riding aboard.
You see, to say I’m not the biggest fan of Troma style horror flicks is like saying that if you catch him in the right mood, David Hasslehoff will have the odd beer. Aside from their numerous pick ups (Graduation Day, The Fanatic, Blood Hook et al), I think Troma’s methodology is the most unappealing thing since bagpipes were invented. The reason I tell you this is because I consider them to be the originators of toilet humour in a horror picture. Perhaps it was just that I didn’t get the jokes, but I was laughing at people farting and smoking grass when I was eight years old. I look for a bit more than that nowadays.
The players here are all unlikeable and arrogant, which reminded me of the bad run that I’m currently experiencing. I don’t remember the last time that I saw a modern slasher with a character that I wanted to survive :(. This is one of the key things that I think that the genre needs to address moving forward so that we can have the chance of another Scream-style rebirth. When did the category give up on the archetypal heroine? Why nowadays are they packing their films with insensitive idiots? It makes no sense. There’s a scene about halfway through that involves a homeless person and a telephone. It’s about five-minutes long, stupid and takes the plot absolutely nowhere. This can’t just be blamed on padding either, because at 97 minutes, the film is the slasher equivalent of a soccer match, extra-time, penalties and another soccer match straight after.
It also suffers from infuriating lighting issues. The killer looks absolutely awesome, but most of the time, it’s very difficult to see him. So much so that I was really struggling to get a screen snap for this review. Most of the murders are off-screen, which I think has more to do with funding than anything else and the film hints at a twist that never really materialises.
So with those nags out of the way, why have I given The Stitcher a two-star rating instead of the one that I have made it look like it deserves? Well, because when Darla takes her concentration away from the humour, things begin to fall into place. The last twenty minutes or so are absolutely terrific and the momentum switches from let’s go to sleep to let’s rock and roll. There’s some real tension on display and even if generally the acting sucks, the last two do a pretty good job at keeping things rolling. What is worth noting is the fact that if you were under the illusion that Darla may be a raving feminist with a fear of exploiting her sex, then you will be in for a shock. There’s a huge amount of bikinis to up the eye candy factor, a mega MEGA hottie and various lingering cleavage shots. It’s also interesting that all the female personas are quite weak and conveyed as being scared of their own shadows. The strongest of the intended victims is a tough homosexual dude, who turns out to be a pretty cool hero. Darla knows how to satisfy a stalk and slash audience and has no qualms with the traditional exploitive trappings.
Despite the omnibus in length runtime, I never got too bored watching The Stitcher. There’s some fun to be had on occasion and it all ends on a high note. I notice that Enlow hasn’t made a feature for a while, which is a shame because in a sub-genre that’s mainly populated with guys, a feminine touch is one that I welcome. There’s a blooper real included on the disc and its clear that the cast and crew had an absolute ball during production and you can feel the good time vibe whilst watching. I like the fact that there’s filmmakers like this out there that scrape together some funds and continue to populate our beloved grouping. Slasher enthusiasts may enjoy the decent bogeyman, a competent finale and a really authentic ‘psycho back story’, but real cinema connoisseurs will have a field day ripping the lesser moments to shreds.
Whether you take it up or not is dependent on your bad movie tolerance levels.
*Big thanks to Steve mi amigo for helping me to track these movies down.
Killer Guise: √√√
Final Girl: √