aka Broken Skull
Directed by: Ricardo Islas
Starring: Stephanie Beaton, Johnny Areola, Dominic Capone
Review by Luisjo González
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! Can you believe it? A Slash above has been online for 10 years! This is our tenth birthday. I agree, there’s been some problems. The fact that I was in hospital a lot of that time, doesn’t help matters and whilst I’m the first to admit that el tiempo usually flies by, I’ve really felt this recent decade. A lot has been lost for me and I’ve definitely changed. No one ever told us that life was going to be easy.
Anyway, the major difference between the slasher cycle of today and the boom years of the early eighties is that it’s much easier to make a movie now. If you had the budget to produce a small feature then there’s not a genre less complicated than the traditional stalk and slash flick. Many of the hundreds of direct to video turkeys that have been released post-Scream haven’t even attempted to revitalise the age old formula, which makes it enticing that a fair majority of them still make a tidy profit. Being a self-confessed avid fan of the category, it’s great to find a poorly financed effort that actually looks to have been made with the inspiration to try something different. Headcrusher certainly carries a great deal of intrigue that warrants it to be seen by aficionados like myself. Despite being one of the few Hispanic-American or Latino cycle-entries, it also boasts a gore-filled reputation and a cameo from a blood-descendant of Al Capone playing a psychotic mobster.
After the credits have rolled, we see prolific scream queen (and all round nudity guarantee)) Stephanie Beaton straddling a soldier named John Ramsey (George Orsini) in a dimly lighted room. Adultery is a bad idea if the wife that you’re playing around with is ‘married to the mob’. Unfortunately for this randy couple, her husband just happens to be a sadistic gangster – and he’s just caught them in an inescapable situation. Before the Lothario has even had the chance to zip up his flies, the mob boss has strung up his flirtatious mistress, snapped a few of her fingers and strangled the last gasp of air from her lungs. It takes two to tango of course, so lover boy gets his head squished in a vice and gives us the explanation for the choice for the movie’s title. (Great brief gore shot!)
Twenty years later, a group of builders are renovating that same room, which has now become an abandoned basement. As the rest of the workers go to lunch, Manolo Santana (Kris Haines) continues digging until he discovers a broken skull lodged behind some re-laid brickwork. As he examines his bizarre find he suddenly begins smashing his head against the wall as if a mad spirit has possessed him. His friend Miguel – who was eating his lunch nearby – rushes to help his workmate, but by the time he arrives Manolo’s head has been crushed to a bloody pulp. Sometime later, whilst being prepared for an autopsy, Manolo’s body re-animates and goes on a bloody rampage. Dressed from head to toe in army surplus garb and sporting a gore-splashed gas mask, the maniac begins killing off the gangsters that were involved with the soldier’s slaughter from the prologue. Manolo’s daughter Sol (Paola Valdes), his friend Miguel (John Arreola) and an inquisitive doctor (Nancy Adams) all begin an investigation to try and discover what strange occurrence has lead to this gruesome massacre…
Headcrusher is possibly the most gratuitous exploitation effort that I’ve seen in 2021. Perhaps you could say that it vaguely resembles the works of filmmakers like Tim Ritter and the Polonias. Richard Islas does look to have a sprinkling of talent and he seems to enjoy pushing the boundaries of what he can display. He worked prolifically after this debut, but since 2018, he’s been quiet. If I had to make a critcism of his style, I’d say that he frames shots poorly and this copy is badly lighted in a large majority of sequences. Make no mistake about it though, this is one gore filled excursion into exploitation that is literally overflowing with blood and extreme scenarios. One guy gets his ‘little friend’ bitten of whilst being ‘pleasured’ by his girlfriend in a scene that’s both painstakingly gruesome and made me cringe at the thought of it happening to me. Another fellow is kneecapped and then squished by a train, a couple of others get their heads crushed and the torture scenes in the pre-credits are fairly hard hitting in how they set a grim tone. Islas manages to get away with the cheap gore effects as they’re only on screen for an extremely brief time. He provides just enough splatter to allow your mind’s eye to grab the full extremity of his intention.
The major problem with Headcrusher is that a lot of things were thrown in wholly unnecessarily, when the feature would have probably played better without the attempts at a ‘shock factor’. There’s a gay sex scene, which seems only to have been included to incorporate homosexual antics. I must mention the Cambodian torture-vixen, who is a female character so inexplicably bizarre that she makes Elvira look like the spectacled church girl that lives next door. There’s also a brief sub plot concerning a government ‘Jacobs Ladder-type’ conspiracy that was immensely intriguing, but was left simmering on the back burner, which is a shame as it deserved a decent conclusion. I really was engrossed in that idea, but it just disappears as the runtime grew.
Although Headcrusher does feel somewhat like a petrol sports car that has been filled with diesel and never manages to hit top speed, the good points just about outweigh the bad. Watching Dominique Capone play a mob boss, when his relative was the most famous gangster in the history of the mafia was a neat touch – even more so when you see how similar Dominique looks to Big Al. Although the dramatics will never be mind blowing in a film of this level, these guys certainly tried their hardest and they deserve credit just for that. Having a Hispanic final girl, even though she wasn’t Meryl Streep, certainly made me happy. I can think of worse ways to waste eighty minutes and it’s certainly better than Don’t Look In The Cellar. I’m not sure about recommending it, because it’s the Adam Sandler of slashers. What I mean by that is, you’ll either love it or hate it. I actually like Adam Sandler, he’s a libertarian like me and knowing that made me start liking his movies, when previously, I didn’t. One last thing I must mention, Stephanie Beaton would get it if I ever met her. She disappeared for sixteen years, (probably being a mum), but I was told she’s got a few projects in the pipeline by a director friend of mine.
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.
Easter Sunday 2014
Directed by: Jeremy Todd Moorehead
Starring: Robert Z’Dar, Jeremy Todd Morehead, Ari Lehman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
When I launched a SLASH above, I wanted to create an online guide to the truest form of Halloween-alike slashers for fans to use as a reference point. My motivation was that I’d been stung hundreds of times reading a review of a ‘slasher’ movie only to go online and buy it then find out it was nothing of the sort. For me, writing the reviews wasn’t the important part, it was having a complete online list for genre fans. As the site has grown, I’ve had to start thinking more as a film critic and give an honest opinion on the direction, audio, blocking, camera placement etc of the pictures I featured. I took a few filmmaking courses and got an understanding of production from the earliest stages so that I could offer a constructive and informed view.
My earliest exposure to slashers was those of the peak period and therefore I’ve always used Halloween as the prototype. I’ve made my thoughts clear on A Nightmare on Elm Street many times and the reasons why I haven’t posted it here. However, from its success, we did get a host of genre entries that did fit with the category’s trademarks, but had antagonists with a repertoire of wise-cracks. These were the likes of Nail Gun Massacre, Psycho Cop, Doom Asylum, Hollow Gate and Happy Hell Night. Personally, I am a big fan of a macabre tone and don’t see the benefit of mixing slapstick with horror. I’m smart enough to know though that there’s an audience for pictures of that sort, or, well, they wouldn’t exist, right?
Easter Sunday, the yet to be released addition from Jeremy Todd Morehead, plays like something straight out of 1986 and includes a killer with an array of quips larger than his arsenal of weapons. It tells the tale of a vicious psychopath that murders his family on Easter Sunday whilst sporting a creepy mask. Sometime later, an up and coming rock group called, The Heartbreakers, accidentally bring the maniac back from beyond the grave…
I read an interview with director Jeremy Moorehead and he stated that he felt modern horror films had lost the humour that made them so addictive during the eighties. Many times on a SLASH above, I have said that the egotistic brats that populate a huge percentage of the post-Scream entries are no substitute for the goofy teens from the eighties. What Jeremy described as humour though, I would call charm; – and cinematically, there’s quite a difference between the two. After an intriguing and visually impressive credit sequence, Easter Sunday throws a whole heap of moods at us. We go from the throat slashing of a campy victim to a misplaced fart joke (?) and then on to the gratuitous murder of a sweet young child. This jumble of atmospheres continues throughout the runtime and creates a juxtaposition that I just couldn’t bring myself to digest, even though I really tried.
At times the comedic angle would wane and a dark, almost threatening, feel would generate from the scoring and some creative photography. During these parts, I felt myself subconsciously hoping that the runtime would maintain this flow, but alas, something silly would misplace all that’d gone before it. A fine example is when our protagonist (a spirited ‘look at me’ performance from director Jeremy Moorhead) informs his colleagues of how he fled the maniacal menace (a plot point that the viewer had witnessed and didn’t really need explaining). The scene is set-up well and it re-energises the momentum, but we then cut to a close-up of a character gulping down a burger in one mouthful and playfully jeering, which took the sting out of any ominous vibe. This is followed by the troupe discovering the dismembered head of their colleague in a refrigerator (a guy that was murdered then farted upon – no really), but instead of displaying fear or panic, we get a joke about the freshness of half a burrito that was left in the same fridge.
Look, I’m the first to admit that this approach may be one that I can’t personally appreciate and I feel guilty that I have to criticise the valiant work of a fellow slasher enthusiast. I don’t watch horror films for toilet humour and I can’t recall many slasher classics that succeeded with that approach. I almost coughed up ‘half a burrito’ when the lead told another player in a rare moment of seriousness, “No offence, but we’re not in the mood to joke around”!?! – Really? For me, that was likely the funniest part of the movie.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is, if your characters aren’t taking the horror in your movie seriously, how can your audience? Would the grotesque axe-murder of a pregnant woman work in the middle of Naked Gun? It’s a shame, because there’s some sure signs of potential on display here. We get CGI gore by the bucketload, a couple of generally creepy moments and an unexpected shock at the conclusion that I REALLY wasn’t expecting. It’s just that it was, once again, weakened by the moments that followed.
There’s a good slasher movie somewhere inside Jeremy Moorhead. If he sacrifices one tone to focus on the other, he could be a contender. In fairness, Easter Sunday is not a movie I’d ever really buy into due to my personal beliefs and it’s important that other viewers keep in mind that if you like Horror with Porkys humour, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this film. It’s fast moving, gory and fun with moments that are truly commendable. For me though it felt like an express train that kept getting caught in engineering works.
Directed by: Todd Jason Cook
Starring: Rebecca Torrellas, Mike Gebbie, Lisa Whiteman
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Running a site that is purely dedicated to reviewing only the truest of stalk and slash entries is great, but I must admit that sometimes there are films that I’d like to cover, but can’t because they don’t fit the template. I believe I’ve stayed faithful to only posting genuine entries, but the one that I’m most unsure of is The Dead Pit. My rationale for including it was because, sure, it’s a zombie movie, but there is really so much in the first half that reminded me of our favourite film style. The hulking masked doctor, the terrorised final girl, stalking sequences and heavy breath POV shots; it’s hard not to look at those ingredients and think: stalk and slash.
Actually, it’s interesting that there have been so few true crossbreeds, but that’s where Zombiefied stands apart. Director Todd Jason Cook has said that he set out to make this picture the truest amalgamation ever released and so I was keen to see what he could achieve. Would this be a post that I would be confident could sit comfortably with the rest and tick the right boxes?
Well, it all kicks off in a bedroom with a naked chick and a guy sharing lines of coke. As if on cue, the girl says with a knowing nod, “I’m off to take the obligatory shower”. Whilst she’s scrubbing away (in gratuitous close-up), her partner hears a noise in the kitchen and goes to investigate. He comes across a creepy mannequin that’s holding an MP3 player, but before he has a chance to raise the alarm, he is stabbed from behind by an unseen killer. Next up, the maniac goes to take care of his bathing girlfriend, but just as we are waiting for the anticipated slashing, out jumps the ‘zombiefied’ corpse of her recently deceased partner and it begins chewing on her neck! So, a zombie, a hulking killer, blood, a jump scare, a fantastic pair of (natural) boobies and cocaine. It’s fair to say that there have been worse opening scenes.
Next up we head over to a heavy metal club called, Röcbar, where a concert is in full flow. As the group perform, the nut job from earlier (who’s now sporting a Nixon mask that’s identical to the one from Horror House on Highway 5) subtlety murder’s the DJ and inserts a CD into the music system. The new sound seems to have a strange effect on the crowd and they begin morphing into zombies and attacking those that haven’t yet turned – cue pandemonium. After a violent struggle, one band and their singer manage to escape the carnage and flee into the streets that are now filled with roaming re-animated corpses. We soon learn that a similar occurrence has happened once before, but not on such a grand scale. With the Police unwilling to assist, it’s left up to the gang of rockers to prevent the plague from spreading and find a cure. They’ll have to do so whilst avoiding the flesh hungry zombies and a malevolent masked killer…
It gives me great pleasure to tell you that Zombiefied is a truly entertaining horror flick that may be rough around the edges, but delivers a rugged ride that’s unlike anything I’ve previously seen. It’s full to the brim with bloody action and it rarely allows you to catch a breath as the corpses drop. The plot unravels amongst hordes of murderous zombies that chow their way through an impressive number of victims. The director flings everything into the cooking pot to conjure up a gore-laden stew. Your taste buds may not be totally tickled by every mouthful, but it’ll leave your belly too fulfilled to complain about the service.
Director Todd Cook has had a film reviewed here on a SLASH above previously of course, but Evil Night was a totally different beast that simply had no structure. People would walk on screen with no introduction, get killed and the same thing would happen once over. He does revert to a similar technique at times here, because there are a lot of nameless and eminently pointless victims that are lined up like pins only to be bowled over with minimal fuss. Zombiefied overcomes that though, because everything’s held together by a central concept that’s progressively intriguing and addictive. We follow a group of likeable characters that are desperately trying to find a cure for the epidemic and even if the way that the story choses to write out the authorities is laughable, there are various tweaks that maintain our engagement.
Not everyone agrees with my stringent view on what makes up a true ‘slasher’ movie, but seeing as I am strict with my idea of the guidelines, I wondered what I’d make of a zombie/slasher cocktail. In fairness to Cook, he shows respect to both genres and their principles. The living dead are the modern kind that sprint after their prey, but the slasher scenes are traditional, with a hulking masked killer that has a calling card (aforementioned mannequin) and a traditional slo-mo stalk. The army of gut-munchers are under the control of the boogeyman and sometimes he uses them to devour his prey instead of a blade or axe. Even if this concept sounds like it may be tough to digest, I have to give credit to Cook for making the blend so palatable. He pulls off a number of moods; and even chucks in suspense on occasion, which magnifies during the slasher scenes. We also get a fair amount of gore, a couple of hot-ish chicas, a riveting mystery, an open-ending and the chance of a sequel, which I’d personally like to see. Perhaps the best thing of all is that an hour and forty-five minutes is a long time for a horror movie, but it really flew by. I was watching without alcohol too!
From a technical perspective, Zombiefied is not a perfect movie experience. The thrash metal soundtrack is not for all tastes, it’s a bit casually scripted and it suffers the flaw that ‘plagues’ all zombie movies, which is, how much can really be done with the same MO? I honestly believe though that there’s so much here that works that you can accept those minor gripes, because it’s a real extravaganza of horror excess. I liked it so much that I was disappointed to see that Cook doesn’t have any other projects currently in the pipeline. I would never have said that when all I knew of his work was Evil Night and Night of the Clown. I can accept titles like that if they lead on to a wider plan and Zombiefied may well be his masterpiece.
Finally we have a zombie/slasher that truly can fit in with its brothers here.
Directed by: Eamon Hardiman
Starring: Derek Rydall, Jonathan Goldsmith, Kari Whi
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Whilst slasher directors are regularly mocked by general cinema critics like Robert Ebert or James Berardinelli, I wonder if filmmakers in our favourite genre really get the appreciation that they deserve. I mean, let’s examine this topic a little more closely. With 1,000+ titles in existence, do you know how hard it must be to choose a unique mask for your antagonist? Let’s be thankful for those that just keep their killer off-screen throughout the runtime, because if they didn’t, there would be no masks left for up and coming filmmakers to choose from.
Eamon Hardiman found the solution for that conundrum by going for a pig headpiece. I can hazard a guess at how he came up with the idea. It must’ve gone something this: ‘Hmmm what guise should I use for my slasher? Perhaps a dog? No – they’re man’s best friend, so not shocking enough. A bull? Hmmm well, they’re pretty threatening, but they remind me of a burger. No, we can’t have a killer Big Mac. A pig? Well Evilspeak had hogs in it. Ok, that’ll do, let’s move along. Now l know that pigs get killed in slaughterhouses (but so do cows, chickens, sheep etc) and slaughterhouses are scary, so there’s more to this idea than just animal loving. In fairness to Hardiman, whatever the reason for his choice, Porkchop certainly led the way in creative killer garbs for the year 2-0-1-0…
A gang of dweebs head off to a campsite in the woods for a spot of the usual antics. They fail to take heed of the legend of Porkchop – a pig-masked killer that is rumoured to stalk the local vicinity. Before long he’s after the campers with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer…
One thing that we all know about the slasher genre is that originality is rarely found amongst titles. Halloween was indeed so iconic that many of its cinematic inventions are duplicated; – even today. In modern times, there’s a common element that we see more and more in post-Scream productions that makes no sense to me at all. It’s the process of filling a story with totally unlikeable characters. I have hurt my head thinking about this and I cannot uncover any logic in the approach or why we see it so often. On a basic psychological level, fear derives from the threat of something that could happen to you or someone that you care about. Whilst most films are obviously just fantasy, there’s a big difference between how we feel towards a character like Laurie Stroud or how we feel about ‘forgot what her name is girl’ from Porkchop. It’s a trend in recent times for slasher movies to pack their casts with boring, loutish idiots and it’s amazing in many respects how many crews stick with this methodology
In Hardiman’s slasher, we get a stereotypical punk rocker(?) with an awful English accent (I thought he was Australian at first), a guy who is cheating on his girlfriend with a ditsy teenager, a porn obsessed geek, two foul-mouthed sluts and a robot (?) voiced by Dan Hicks as the source of comic relief. C3PO was a solid humour provider in the original Star Wars pictures and that may have been the idea here. I don’t remember seeing a prop made of yoghurt pots taking a chick from behind in any Star Wars movie though and they could’ve ripped off Jar Jar Binks (cringe) and it would’ve made the same nonsensical impact. We look on for an hour as these poorly acted, heinously scripted jerks make jokes that progressively become more vomit inducing whilst we are left begging for the killer to turn up and put us out or misery.
When ‘Pig-Head’ finally gets to slashing, the first couple of campers are butchered off screen, which is a huge disappointment because the pre credits murder was explicitly gory and promised so much. In fact, I have to ask whether that opening sequence was bolted on later, presumably after a distributor gave them more money to inject some pizazz. The scene builds up so well, with the killer’s boots traipsing through some undergrowth whilst a stunning chica whips off her top to unveil a lovely pair of jubblies. We get a superb machete through head effect and then what follows is a ski slope to ineptsville as the film leisurely strolls through its clichéd footpath. I can give credit for the eighties references (a hideously acted guy screams ‘you’re doomed’ ala Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th), the chicks are hotter than usual and the part where Deb uncovers the bodies of her chums is stylish with its red-ish tint and creepy scoring. My main gripe is with the characters, which are as appealing as having your appendix removed by Cropsy. Without anaesthetic.
All this leaves me wondering, what if Hardiman had scripted his cast to be likeable youngsters that we see bond over an hour’s build up? They wouldn’t have had to be good natured, we could’ve had an insecure slutty type like Donna from Humongous for example. The group could’ve grown as friends as normal people do and then when the psychopath makes an appearance, we might have rooted for them to overcome the evil, just like in any film with a well-developed protagonist. Instead, we get an overlong, poorly directed bore that I’d forgotten about moments after it’d finished.
It’s worth mentioning that Hardiman’s entry was successful enough to have a follow-up and a remake of sort that was filmed in 3D. I haven’t seen either so can’t really comment on whether the level of quality had improved, but I am mystified by Porkchop’s popularity. It offers little more than either Blood Reaper or Memorial Day and should really be thought of with the same amount of adulation. I’d go as far as to say that Camp Blood was better. Even Carnage Roa…. Ok, ok… that’s going too far…
Directed by: Antti Kiuru and 6 more
Starring: Andres Pass, Aatto Paasonen, Ville Lähde
Review by Luis Joaquín González
My recent posts of Mexican and Spanish films such as Chacal, Masacre and Atrapados en el Miedo went down really well with my readers, so continuing along the linguistic thread, I thought I’d review this Finnish slasher from the year 2000. Shot by (a record?) 7 directors, I found this 27 minute short whilst on vacation in Estonia. I have literally no information about its production, but I’ll say that it’s the first addition from Finland that I’ve come across.
A group of young males decide to meet up for a drink over Christmas. Whilst the ground is covered with snow outside, blood begins to spurt because a psychopathic stranger dressed as St Nick begins brutally slashing through the revellers. Can they stop him in their tracks?
With so many entries that I still have left to review to complete the largest online slasher A-Z, I am guilty of overlooking the countless ‘shorts’ that people have recommended.The three that I did cover, Death O’Lantern, The Hook of Woodland Heights and Friday the 13th:Halloween Night were posted more for their obscurity than anything else and I guess the same could be said about Murhapukki. What we have here is an immensely enjoyable seasonal slash-fest and despite being cheaply put-together, I found loads to appreciate.
The film kicks off with a killer in a Santa suit stealing a car from an unfortunate individual. An OTT tone is set almost immediately when the assailant chops off the hand of his intended victim and then runs him down with the automobile that he just stole. Whilst the effects are the bare minimum of believable gore, it was fun to see spraying crimson and gruesome violence so early on in the picture. From then on, we are introduced to a group of guys that are gathered in two or three homes across a snow-laden landscape. As you can imagine, twenty-seven minutes allows almost no time for character development, but the plot is rapped around a typical ‘revenge for a past event’ core that unravels as more victims are dispatched.
I guess that the reason that I enjoyed Murhapukki is because it breaks the mould by not bothering with smart-ass ‘know it all’ characters or vomit inducingly blatant ‘homages’ to genre classics. Instead it includes a handful of recognisable elements, but doesn’t portray them with the mission of proving to the audience that the screenwriter(s) are knowledgeable of the greatest hits of the category. Our psycho Santa, for example, cuts up photos of his victims after murdering them -(due to identical clothing and hair, they look to have been taken the same day?!?) -, which we saw in Prom Night/Fatal Games and Graduation Day amongst others. There’s a Carpenter-alike shot of a bread knife on a kitchen table that disappears in the next instant when the camera returns to the focal point. We even get an effective Argento-esque ‘the maniac’s behind you’ moment that’s set-up in a bathroom mirror. We could say of course that these are tributes to the trademarks, but they’re conveyed more subtlety and not with the recent methodology of ‘let’s see who can include the most references to the eighties’, which has been done to death.
In a 27 minute runtime, the directors managed to pack in tonnes of bloody murders and a handful of chase sequences that meant that I was entertained all the way through the admittedly short runtime. One of the pursuits built impressive tension as the camera switched from POV to fixed-angles and the snowy landscape single-handedly mushroomed the underscore of isolation. Whilst the continuity is laughable (one guy gets a machete in the hand, but is fine moments later) and the acting is non-existent, I thought Murhapukki achieved a good-time slasher vibe admirably.
I often wonder when watching low budget entries, how so many can struggle to take a relatively simple formula and not have a ball with it. Pukki could act as a lesson to up and coming filmmakers that getting too mixed-up in parody and conceitedness is unnecessary. I could criticise the dramatics or flimsy plot, but there’s really no need to. Instead, I got more than I was expecting. Cheesy bloody deaths, amusing inebriated ‘gangsters’, a creepy score and a Santa-suited slayer in glasses… Are you really ready…?
Doom Asylum 1987
aka The House of Horror
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Starring: Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Kristin Davis
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So here we have more proof, if ever it were needed, that during the years between 1984 and ’88, we saw the most clichéd titles of the slasher genre’s timeline. After Halloween‘s initial launch, many knock-offs were circulated, but they did at least aim to bring something new to the table in order to garner a following. Whether it was a unique gimmick or an un-slashed calendar-date, the likes of Evil Judgement, My Bloody Valentine and The Prowler were far more authentic than Bloody Pom Poms, Cutting Class, Hollow Gate and Berserker attempted to be.
If I didn’t read that Doom Asylum had been shot in 1987, I would have guessed easily, because it has everything that the entries released on the back of Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street felt compelled to include. Comedic quipping boogeyman? Check. Bunch of attractive young-adults pretending to be teens? Check. Cheesy gore? Check. It’s almost like the producer brought a list of ingredients along to the set and stated that wages wouldn’t be paid until they’d all been ticked off. Where Asylum does differentiate itself a tad is that it goes for the same kind of parody/tongue in cheek outfit that both Return to Horror High and Evil Laugh had sported. Would it do a better job of looking slick whilst wearing it…?
Five bubble-gum teens head off to an abandoned asylum for a secluded break. The site is surrounded by the notorious urban legend of a deranged coroner that slaughtered two doctors before disappearing. When the kids arrive, they bump into Tina and the Tots; a peculiar punk band that use the location to rehearse their gritty sound. Before long the youngsters are being stalked and viciously slaughtered by a heavily disfigured killer…
It’s very unusual for a slasher movie to completely surpass my expectations. Upon re-visiting Doom Asylum for the first time in twenty-years though, I enjoyed my viewing infinitely more than I’d envisioned. What we have here is an entry that gets the mix of cheesy eighties humour and tacky horror spot on to build a good time vibe that is all encompassing. Both Scary Movie and Scream could be described as genre parodies, but one of them was sarcastic with its targeted mocking whilst the latter paid tribute whilst keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. It’s easy to see from the comparison in their popularity, which one went about it the right way and thankfully Doom is a pre-cursor to that style. Director Richard Freidman knew the rules of the category heavyweights and wanted to have a bit of fun with them whilst delivering some splatter. By doing so he’s produced a film that could have gone wrong in so many ways, but instead turns out to be a real treat.
Despite a minimalistic budget, Doom was shot on film, which means that the bright photography looks as crisp as a pot of Pringles and has aged extremely well. Dave Erlanger and Jonathan Stuart’s simple score grows on you as the film progresses and the final twenty-minutes, when the killer stalks the remaining survivors, are credibly atmospheric. As we approach the conclusion, the horror certainly tightens, which is a large switch in mood from the rest of the runtime. Doom is quite obviously a Mickey-take of the slasher craze that’d swept the decade and this is demonstrated in dialogue like, “If I don’t return, don’t come looking for me”. It also means that Friedman gets away with letting his characters merrily wander off to their demise dumbly, because it’s all pulled off with a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ to the viewer. There is quite a lot of incredibly cheap looking gore here, but the producers must’ve noticed that they had more budget remaining than they expected as the production came to a close. The last two-murders are far more realistic (and credible) than the rest, including one guy getting his toes chopped off with a pair of pliers. It’s a tough thing to watch without flinching and what I found the harshest was that his girlfriend just walks off and leaves him to bleed out and die… Nice! An old VHS copy of this that I bought under the title, The House of Horror, was heavily cut, but thankfully Anchor Bay have restored all the bloody bits.
Doom Asylum doesn’t hang about to jump into the action and it’s impressive how rapidly the killer turns up and gets to work. In keeping us entertained from the off though, I think Friedman made the mistake of not considering his runtime. There are a lot of obviously ‘bolted on after’ scenes of the nut job strolling around in heavy breath POVs and they even went as far as to nail on footage from Todd Slaughter pictures from the 1930s. This gives the film a similar gimmick to the same year’s, Terror Night, but here it’s quite obvious that it was a post-production attempt to pad the runtime. I don’t even think they used the same actor to play the boogeyman watching these flicks? An abandoned asylum was where the action took place and the director really makes the most of it to give the film a maze of isolation. Apparently the site has now been demolished but fans of desolate places will appreciate the idea.
Much like Hide and Go Shriek and Blood Frenzy, Doom Asylum is a good late slasher flick that shows that some of the efforts that came prior to 1988’s re-emergence weren’t as bad as they’re reputed to be. Doing the basics well is more beneficial than going overboard; especially in this genre. Director Friedman would return to the cycle with Phantom of the Mall, a film that… well… I’ll let you know when I post the review shortly…
Only one question remains; and that’s who was paying the electricity bill for a dilapidated hospital? Was it the same person that shelled-out for the phone bill in the house from Silent Night Bloody Night:The Homecoming? How generous…
Lost After Dark 2015
Directed by: Ian Kessner
Starring: Robert Patrick, Jesse Camacho, Kendra Trimmings
Review by Donny Ybarra (Brothers Grim)
Happy Saturday a SLASH abovers… I am proud to present the first guest post from long time slasher fan and all round knowledgeable guy, Donny Ybarra. You may have seen some of his reviews online and I am happy to have him contribute to the glossy pages of a SLASH above. Here he’s chosen snazzy new killer in the woods flick, Lost After Dark. I am sure that you’ll enjoy his review as much as I did…
There is this current surge of “throwback” horror movies, most are set in the 80’s, with an emphasis on the body count slasher flicks. These particular types of horror films are made to celebrate the “golden age of slashers”, it also happens to be my favorite type of film. These throwback films have become extremely popular lately too, most have been quit successful with finding a cult following. Movies like; Billy Club, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, the Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger, The Sleeper, Scream Park and many more have hit dvd/blu with welcome arms. The aforementioned films go back to simple stories that are big on gore and have some camp appeal, which set themselves apart from the post-Scream teen slasher influences and all of the other trends in horror that have dominated recent years. What I love about this movie is that it is set in 1984, kudos to director Ian Kessner and crew for really demonstrating their knowledge for what makes this year/decade great! From clothing to catch phrases, it’s all there.
Speaking of the 80’s, what sets this film apart from say recent “slashers”, like Unfriended (even though I quit enjoyed it), is that you don’t hate the teens. The teens in LAD are modeled from some characters you could have most likely seen in a Friday the 13th/Elm Street sequel. Because you get some character development, you are saddened to see these teens killed, and THAT is what gives this flick some rewatchability too. In a market that is congested with shaky cam documentary style filmmaking, it was great to get back to classic storytelling that didn’t involve any gimmicks.
Now, on to the meat and bones of the movie…pun intended! The movie starts out with the last two surviving members (of what was prolly another group of horny teens with bad decision making skills), fight their way from someone that looks like a Rob Zombie stunt double. This is by no means a bad thing, but a cool mask would have been a great addition to this greasy fella, but more on him later. The opening kill happens on the tail end of the 70’s, luckily for us the movie takes a huge jump to the year of 1984! We are then introduced to the sibling of our dear massacred flower child, Adrienne, who is still waiting for big sister to return home from what everyone thinks was a bad 70’s “trip”. Adrienne and pops have a touching moment before lil sis goes back to the plan her and her buds concocted, which consisted of swiping the keys to the family cabin for the weekend. The plot from this point on is fairly straightforward, kids sneak a bus out from Principle Mr.C (who is played respectively by Robert Patrick), and get stranded without gas on their way to the cabin. As the kids make their way around, dare I say, lost after dark, they come across the Joad house. One thing to keep in mind is, Junior Joad hates visitors!
JJ (as the kids should have called him), is a long haired cannibal creeper, which I always enjoy. Nothing says terror like happening across a psycho in the woods that happens to eat his victims and then adds their remains to a personal victory alter. Ian Kessler should be proud, he created a character that I say fits nicely in between the killer mutant from Humongous and Madman Marz from Madman. He grunts and talks in a muffled manner that is very reminiscent of some one that spent way too much time in the woods by themselves. Our dear JJ has quit the arsenal of weaponry too! He takes out all the cool guys and gals with bear traps and pickaxes, he gives good blood splatter! One kill involving broken glass and an eyeball made me squirm, and that’s hard to do for this seasoned slasher fan! Fulci would definitely be proud!
One by one the kids are taken out in gory ways, chase sequences ensue and it all ends in a way that makes you want a sequel. Some highlights from the film involve a hilarious “reel missing” sequence that was pretty funny. Another groovy thing is from time to time the picture of the movie would crack or a scratch would appear, it wasn’t overdone so that was a plus. My favorite thing about the movie is that who you think will be the “final girl/guy”, sadly will not be. This movie did a good job of keeping the kills unpredictable. I won’t say if there is a survivor, but I will say I was quit pleased with the end, despite is seeming a tad rushed.
In a movie market that is congested with shaky cam documentary style filmmaking, it was great to get back to classic storytelling that didn’t involve any gimmicks. There are some great shots of the interiors of the house and the unique display of “artwork” from the killer, think Leatherface but with an eye for installation art. All those add up to a worthy “throwback” slasher that actually succeeds at throwback! Give it a spin, it’s pretty RAD!
Thanks to Ed Peters for sending me a screener from Anchor Bay Entertainment, I really enjoyed it!
aka La Casa Del Terror
Directed by: John Wintergate
Starring: John Wintergate, Kalassu Kay, Lindsay Freeman
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It begins with a prologue showing us murders that have plagued ‘The Hoffman House’. A guy is pushed into a swimming pool, which bizarrely kills him. Another stranger is seen pulling out his intestines and an unseen someone with a black glove forces a woman (that really doesn’t seem too concerned) to hang herself. These are all intercut with a computer screen that shows us in text that every person that has ever so much as entered this abode has ended up either hung, drawn, quartered or has suffered some other gruesome fate. So can you guess who will be the next occupants to move in to the mansion and meet their doom? Why of course you can – it’s a randy telekinetic guy and a troupe of beaming ‘hotties’ with a tonne of mascara but not a trace of common sense between them.
This was the first horror movie to be shot on video, which is a big up yours to Christopher Lewis who made the belated claim that Blood Cult, his semi-slasher effort from three years after, was the first entry of that kind. Funnily enough, this one actually had a theatre run, but I have no idea about its box office successes. I can only guess that it was hardly a massive hit.
Surprisingly, to all intents and purposes, Boarding House is not your typical hack and slasher. Director John Wintergate has chucked in a neat dose of outer-body mayhem, which means that the killer can eliminate the useless thespians without being anywhere near them at the time. This gives us the chance to see the drama school dropouts attempting to look as if they’ve suddenly been possessed by a mysterious hellish agony, without knowing where the hell it’s come from. Cue plenty of unconvincing facial expressions and stilted cries as the cast choke and pull off their faces whilst trying to act like they’re completely unaware why they’re doing it. In one particular scene, our heroine screams consistently for about two minutes while she suffers (yet) another of her ‘terrifying’ nightmares, which I think reached double figures before the final credits rolled. I am not sure what was more effected, my eardrums or her throat after that yelling marathon.
The ‘star’ of the movie, Hank Adly (a guy who looks like Rod Stewart might after 12 grams of coke), provided bucket loads of inadvertent humour. I loved the bit where he made a bar of soap fly around his bathtub to show off his telekinetic abilities and impress the on looking bunnies. There’s certainly plenty of nonsensical activity to bring a smile to the lips to those who cherish those classic bad movie moments. The final scene is particularly hilarious, as the killer and two survivors stand off for a telekinetic battle. Staged like a showdown from a Sergio Leone movie, the three gather in a circle and simultaneously gurn as they each try to inflict psychic pain on one another. It’s hard to give you a description that would do justice to the extent of the silliness, but trust me – it’s worth it’s weight in comedy gold. All of the female cast members manage to whip off their underwear at one point or another and there’s just enough exploitation to satisfy eighties trash fans.
Interestingly enough, Boarding House was something of a first, because it included a warning for viewers of a weaker disposition that would let us know when something horrific was about to happen. Suddenly, the screen comes alive in a maze of colours and that’s when we the audience know that someone is going to get dismembered. I must admit that this was a novel idea if we were about to sit down and watch a Lucio Fulci marathon. I’m not exaggerating my claim however when I state that my four-year-old daughter can create more realistic body parts with her Play Doh kit. This is especially evident in the ‘intestine ripping’ scene, which is clearly an actor pulling corn-syrup coated sausages from the gap in his shirt. Maybe they could have featured a warning before every bad movie moment? In fact they could have just placed an ‘amateur morons at work’ notice before the first credit sequence? Imagine the savings on budget!
Boarding House IS as mind numbingly atrocious as you had probably expected it to be. Even the back cover blurb has NO relevance whatsoever to the movie and I can’t forget to mention the wonderful tagline that promises intrigue, suspicion and a sinister environment (yeah right!). Oh and before I go, I’ll leave you with a quote from the female lead singer of ’33 and a third’ – The heavy metal band that ‘entertain’ the party at the film’s climax. “You say you want a rock romance, you’ve been begging just to get in my pants!” And with that I shall leave you to explore for yourselves…
Final Girl √
The PickAxe Murders Part III: The Final Chapter 2015
Directed by: Jeremy Sumrall
Starring: Nick W. Nicholson, Tiffany Shepis, A. Michael Baldwin
Review by Luis Joaquín González
In the slasher cycle, it’s fair to say that a genre parody has become such a cliche that the next step would be for someone to make a parody of slasher parodies. For a style of film that’s not bustling with unique character traits, we certainly ran out of the need for satire long before filmmakers realised that was the case. Credit is due to director Jeremy Sumrall though, because he has found a novel way of poking his tongue at the genre that he’s obviously a big fan of.
Franchises were as large a part of the early slasher phase as were masked killers and after the consistent success of the Friday the 13th continuations, every new movie was produced with the intention of starting a series. In most cases, the quality of films deteriorated on a chapter by chapter basis and that’s the genius behind the gimmick of The Pickaxe Murders III: The Final Chapter. Sumrall has introduced us to his boogeyman immediately from the third instalment and as we all know so well in horror legacies, part tres is generally the cheesiest. It’s one of those ideas that’s so good that I wished I’d thought of it myself and so I was indeed hopeful that the film would live up to its creative concept.
It opens with a text introduction that describes two previous massacres that were the work of a maniac that may well be the son of Satan and goes by the name of Alex Black. He was presumed dead, but two hikers discover an amulet that possesses a mystic power to bring him back from beyond. Before long, he’s up to his old tricks again and the residents of a small rural town have to fight to survive his Satanic wraith.
Jeremy Sumrall’s début film, Posum Walk remains unreleased and I’m the first to hope that his feature-length follow up doesn’t suffer the same unfortunate fate. The Pickaxe Murders is a bloody ride of no nonsense thrills that packs one hell of an exploitation punch. We don’t wait around long for our first slaughter and the victims carry on dropping at an impressive rate throughout. Alex Black looks tremendous in a guise that brings to mind the greatest backwoods burlap-sack sporting villains and he stalks and slashes with a similar imposing threat to Jason Voorhees’ finest moments. Whilst we can see that the production team were operating on a meagre budget, they hide the lack of funding expertly, and there are some impressive gore effects amongst the murders. A pickaxe is a superb tool for gooey mayhem, but Black also utilises his strength to crush throats, squeeze heads and rip off limbs.
The story takes place in 1988 and there’s a lot of effort put into visually bringing that era to life for us. Our main characters of the story are heading to a hair-metal concert and the director actually takes us inside the venue to witness the band in action. We don’t only get two rock groups that dress and act in a style that’s perfectly retro, but there’s also an audacious massacre sequence that is both hilarious and gruesome in equal measure. We’ve been transported to the eighties many times before of course, but Pickaxe actually ‘feels’ authentic. Sumrall is a director that pays the closest attention to detail and because of that, he has a huge career ahead of him. There are many occasions when we head into a deep dark forest setting and everything is so finely lighted and so purely shot that I had to remind myself that this was only his second full film… and the first to be released (hope hope)
There’s an old saying where I come from in Andalucía that translates to something like, ‘an excellent artist can never overcome the canvass he paints upon’. Pickaxe Murders reminded me of that proverb, because I often felt that director Sumrall was by far the most talented person in this crew and the rest of them somewhat let him down. Watching the dialogue scenes and the actions of his characters made me visualise his standing there and showing them how they should perform. What he couldn’t do though is improve the levels of their dramatic ability and the net result is like Fernando Alonso giving his all in a Robin Reliant instead of the Mcclaren F1 that he deserves. I could mention the lack of an alluring central character or that the plot sometimes seems as if it loses track of where it’s supposed to go next, but all those minor moments where I was feeling critical are made up for by that amazing rock sequence and an overall tone of fun. Sorry to utilise a platitude, but this is most definitely a film made by a fan for fans. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but overall it works and that’s what matters most. Also, whilst I can’t be sure if it was intentional, I am thirty-four-year’s old and the fact that I look younger than these, ahem, ‘Hi-School kids’ was a real ego-booster. Well, one of them was clearly getting silver fox sideburns, so was that part of the humour? During the eighties, the ‘teens’ in these movies were notorious for being closer to the big four-zero than their supposed age…?
The pre-screener I watched to write this review was only 80% finished and Sumrall told me that there’s still a bit that needs to be done before release. Still, I think The Pickaxe Murders III is a slick genre entry with lashings of potential and it will satisfy slasher hounds immensely. From a personal perspective, I thought there was a tad too much nudity (regular readers will know I’m surprisingly prude… unless it comes to undeniably HOT Chicas, which these aren’t)) but that’s part of the exploitation package and I accept that. We can only hope that Pickaxe gets the release and success it deserves, because I’m eagerly awaiting the prequels 🙂
Killer Guise: √√√√