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Camp Blood 1999 Review

Camp Blood 1999

Directed by: Brad Sykes

Starring: Jennifer Ritchkoff, Michael Taylor, Tim Young

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Review by Luis Joaquín González

I have mentioned Camp Blood a number of times on a SLASH above, but never actually got round to reviewing it. I picked it up back in the early noughties on big-box VHS and it was possibly the first no budget slasher of the new age that I got to see. 6565768798988776768787Since then, I always thought of it as the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take on the slasher template. Over a decade has passed since I last watched it and the genre has seen its fair share of features that were financed on even smaller pocket books. This left me wondering if Blood would still maintain6576878798989809 the status that I bestowed upon it on first viewing.

Two couples head off to explore a secluded woodland called Camp Blackfoot. Locals have named it Camp Blood due to the fact that a betrayed husband killed his cheating partner and her lover with a machete before disappearing into the wilderness. Legend states that he still roams the hills and murders anyone that is unfortunate or stupid enough to roam his region…

 

It was a strange feeling sitting in front of Camp Blood again after so long. Part of me was reminiscing the stack of VHS that I used to trawl through in my room when I’d just turned twenty and the other part was proud of the patience that I possessed to ‘appreciate’ so many turkies. Make no mistake about it, Blood isn’t like a bottle of fine wine. What I mean by that is my ten-year 45657687879898877676768787hiatus from exposure to it hasn’t turned it into Halloween. With that said, I did find things here that made me smile, which was most definitely more that I’d expected.

Brad Sykes, for all his obvious signs of amateurism, does understand what people enjoy about slasher movies. It takes less than five-minutes for the inevitable boob shot (what a pairing) and the next sight that we are treated to is a lumbering maniac in a clown mask. The kill scenes are deftly edited considering the budget and for the un-trained eye (i.e. my Mrs), the various splashings of blood and an imposing menace could be considered as generally effective. To give you an example, there’s a sequence that starts dumbly, because our sympathetic hero type guy chases the assailant into the forest when there was absolutely no logic in him doing so (the killer was actually fleeing the scene). Anyway, it results in a fight sequence on a cliff that’s well staged and then we get a smartly crafted gore shot that was surprisingly audacious. 4576768787987767676878There are countless ‘tributes’ to Friday the 13th of course, with the most obvious being the film’s title, which was what Camp Crystal Lake became known by after Jason and his mum’s rampages.

I guess the above paragraph may look like I am about to take back all the mocking things that I’ve said previously about Brad Sykes’ addition to the stalk and slash family. Well in honesty, my experience was less painful than I’d anticipated, but I won’t be adding this to any top slasher lists in the near future. You see, the few bits and 456576878776544345767687pieces that are classic slasher fun are punctured by some of the worst and most bizarre filmmaking decisions I’ve ever seen. We spend what feels like a lifetime in the clutches of a group of poorly acted and whiny campers and when the killer finally turns up and starts chopping through them, we’ve completely lost interest in their plight. Our final girl sinks to levels of rancid dramatics that had me reaching for the vomit bag and the patently cardboard machete can only appear so many times without beginning to look comical. There’s a really good and creepy score that often borders on building a menacing tone, but just when I was about to write a positive comment, something dumb kept happening and 643763873873983983I felt like the guy in the picture to my right >>. It’s strange, because Camp Blood includes all the ingredients to become a trash-slasher hit. It’s just that it somehow puts them together awkwardly, like trying to build a flat-pack wardrobe without the instructions. I guess the fact that I had prepared myself for something awful meant that I could better handle the unbelievable levels of amateurism when I put it on this time. I went in knowing that there was going to be a mountain of goofiness, which made it easier than when I initially saw this and had less of an idea of what to expect.

There’s no doubt that Blood was filmed on the smallest of budgets, which was obvious because the same actors were re-used to 456576879809876565768798play different characters with minimal effort to disguise their identities. It was bizarre seeing faces returning to the screen as Police Officers or Nurses when we’d witnessed them get slashed just moments earlier(!)  I’m sure that back in the day, I noticed this stuff and found it easy to criticise, whereas now I kind of appreciated the cheesiness, if that makes sense. In my opening paragraph, I called this the quintessential example of a bad dime-store take-on the slasher template. Whilst I stand by that statement, I feel now that I can add the word ‘fun’ before bad in that statement. Either I’ve developed a sense of humour over the past decade or I’ve just got used to sitting through so much worse. At least this one has its heart in the right place. So yeah, as discussed, Camp Blood is a (fun) bad dime-store take-on the slasher template

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√√

Gore: √

Final Girl:√

RATING:a-slash-above-logo11a-slash-above-logo-211

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Torment 2008 Review

Torment 2008

Directed by: Steve Sessions

Starring: Suzi Lorraine, Tom Stedham, Ted Alderman

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Review by Luisito Joaquín González

We have seen the word ‘Torment’ pop up a few times in obscure horror titles over the past thirty years. These include a film from 1985 that is 74674873873843845894983493903904949595884844often touted as a slasher, but is more of a serial killer flick and a British entry from 2009 that traipsed the ‘revenge of the bullied herd’ route. This quickie from director Steve Sessions is most definitely the truest stalk and slash flick of them all and it has also become something of a rarity64674787383894848943983939485774478487839839839839847474

It was made for $5,000 over five-days in 2007 and was picked up for release the following year. Director Sessions already had a couple of horror movies under his belt and has become fairly popular amongst fans of micro-budget movies. He chose a clown as his antagonist and as I have said previously, motion pictures with killer clowns in them are rarely any good, so he had a real chance to make a statement with this, his sixth picture.

 

A young women is released from an institution by psychiatrists that believe she can adapt back to society as long as she’s taken care of. Her husband whisks her off to a remote house in the forest where the two of them can be alone and rekindle their romance. As soon as she 6467467473873874785487483983983983arrives though, she sees an ominous stranger dressed as s clown from the window and attempts to convince her partner that they are unsafe.

I had promised actor and a SLASH abover Jade LaFont, who plays a small part in this picture, that I would review this film over a year ago. Unfortunately, I never got round to doing so until he reminded me on the site’s Facebook page a few weeks ago. I’m glad that he did, because Torment is an interesting addition to the genre and it is unlike any other that I’ve seen recently, which is meant both as a swipe and a compliment. It seems that the plan here was to roll out a stalk and slasher with a psychological slant and this novel approach is intriguing and unique. Session’s screenplay is all about delivering an atmosphere; and it mixes three styles from popular sub-genres. Whilst the murders are those that you’ll usually see in torture-porn films, the boogeyman is pure stalk and slash and they are both wrapped together in a synopsis that leans toward the Identity/The Ward style of thriller.Kept under wraps :(

I browsed through some other reviews of the picture and found that they all mentioned one specific aspect. You see, Sessions includes early scenes that portray that Suzi, our heroine, is suffering delusional visions because of her illness/medicine. However instead of building the mystery around whether the killer is real or just a figment of her imagination, we are shown him committing external killings that prove that the threat is indeed genuine. Although those critics considered this to close the door on the most obvious slice of ‘is he or isn’t he’ tension, personally, I feel that it opened many others that manifested themselves as the story rolled on to its surreal conclusion. We are offered no backstory or motive for our psychopathic jester, which gives him a Myers-alike chilling aura that makes him all the more terrifying and adds to the ambiguity. We also get some impressive suspense scenarios in the later stages and one jump-scare that is truly outstanding. I 76467473783838398349849390093093093especially enjoyed the use of specific sounds – or therefore a smart lack of – to make the deaths all the more authentic and the score is neatly composed.

Despite so much positivity, the film does have a number of flaws. Far too much time is spent within dialogue scenes between the husband and wife that are long-winded and fail to add anything to the plot. There’s a sequence inside a car in the first twenty-minutes that is so badly edited and conveyed that it almost becomes nonsensical and frustrating. Even more so when it’s obvious to viewers that this could have been filmed in a different location and would have worked much more efficiently. Another weak part is that three people are brutally tortured, but don’t let out so much as a loud whimper, let 74alone a blood curdling scream. I have learned that this is because the director was filming in a upstate neighbourhood and didn’t want to alert the authorities, but if I hadn’t had been told this, it would have left me highly critical of what looks like obvious ineptitude. In reality victims can at times be too scared or stunned by a state of shock to yell when pain is inflicted upon them. Film fans are used 1234757589598698698to hearing the cries of the prey in horror films though, and so they are unlikely to over analyse and excuse the lack of audible reaction seen herein.

Bluntly, Torment should not be as obscure as it has become. It is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it tries hard to deliver something authentic and that in itself deserves praise. There are not many slasher movies that don’t have some of the elements that were implemented by Halloween, but you could count on one hand the amount that capture Michael Myers’ chilling aura of menace. Tyler Tharpe’s Freak from 1996 was a fine example of an enigmatic antagonist and now we have another. If a movie of this genre manages to build tension and keep you guessing, it’s doing something right.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√

Gore √√

Final Girl √√√

RATING:a-slash-above-logo11a-slash-above-logo11a-slash-above-logo-211

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Out of the Dark 1988 Review

Out of the Dark 1988

Directed by: Michael Schroeder

Starring: Karen Black,  Lynn Danielson-Rosenthal, Divine

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Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Another of the late eighties slashers that disappeared soon after its release, Out of the Dark has recently seen a 674674783873893892892982983belated peak in popularity. I often get emails in regards to slashers like Cards of Death, Early Frost et al, which makes sense, because they’re rare as hell. Lately though I’ve had a few inquiries about this picture and a quick search on Amazon was all that was needed for me to 674748738739838939829292understand why. There is a DVD available that you can purchase online, but it’s from a boutique distributor, which means that there are not many copies and each is costly. Luckily, my trusty VHS still has some views left in it and so I decided to revisit the movie for the first time In twenty-years.

A phone fantasy service is targeted by a loon in a clown mask, who calls and taunts the girls before murdering them brutally. The remaining models group together in order to stop the blood thirsty maniac, but it soon becomes apparent that he could be someone that they know.

Over the past decade or more, the slasher genre has been engulfed with titles that can best be identified as ‘erotic 747487483893983983983horror’. Movies like Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare and Massacre at Rocky Ridge are produced as much for the inclusion of T&A as they are for their maniacal killers. Out of the Dark can be considered as something of a pre-cursor to those entries, because it invests heavily in giving its young cast of females the opportunity to whip off their undies whenever possible. They work in an apartment where they provide phone sex services to sleaze-bag clients. We spend time watching them converse and make fun of the callers, which provides some development on the closeness of their friendships. Outside of the girls and their manager, who resembles a beaten up Rozlin Focker, we meet Kevin Silver, a fashion photographer that is dating one of the call girls. We also learn that he is a big hit with the ladies, because a female detective comments that he must, 674674874387387389389322‘get more ass than a toilet seat’. Nice

We only get a break from all this momentous intrigue when the maniac strikes. Like many of his genre colleagues from the late eighties, he has a repertoire of wisecracks that he unleashes after each slaying. Aside from Freddy Krueger, who was played with the right charisma by Robert Englund, and perhaps the inadvertently hilarious dude from Nail Gun Massacre, killers with a catchphrase rarely work. Bobo the Clown (the bogeyman here) has a fantastic mask and would have been even creepier if they’d have dropped the chatter and given us more stalking or chase sequences. The one time 67467467387387329829829822that we do get to see him lurk in the shadows and pounce is by far the best set piece of the movie. He puts a shovel through the head of an unsuspecting neighbour before throttling his intended target with a hosepipe.

Despite the masked killer and slaughter of bunnies, Out of the Dark is far more murder-mystery-thriller than it is out and out slasher. We spend most of the last half snooping around for clues and investigating who could be the assailant. I worked that out pretty early on, but when the  revelation scene comes around, they still make a real go of it. Michael Schroeder, who had thus far filmed everything with the oomph of a budget soap opera, pulls of a fabulous Carpenter-esque shot of the looming killer 467473873873982982982in the background. The majority of his efforts to build a tense environment had failed by that point (he used the old ‘waiting for the lift’ suspense mechanism twice in a row without result), but I loved the inclusion of the Sergio Leone eyeball chestnut.

Producer David C Thomas had a crack at the slasher genre during the boom years, with The House Where Death Lives and had thrown everything into making this a success. The film 674674873873892892982982has a fantastic B-Movie ensemble and was slickly produced. In the end though, it failed to even recuperate half of its production budget, which was probably due to a poor marketing strategy.  If they’d have gone all out as a slasher and dropped the eroticism angle, it may have been more of a hit. You only have to look at the success of Maniac Cop and Child’s Play to know that there were still crowds for horror movies 1988

Alas, Out of the Dark is not much of a rumpus, but there are countless entries that are worse

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√

Gore: √

Final Girl: √√

RATING:securedownload (1)a-slash-above-logo11

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Grim Weekend 2002 Review

Grim Weekend 2002

aka S.I.C.K Serial Insane Clown Killer

Directed by: Bob Willems

Starring: Ken Hebert, Charlie Fenwick, Melissa Bale

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Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Back in 2004, I found Grim Weekend’s colourful cover at my local Blockbuster Video and was intrigued by its misleading blurb. I checked with the IMDB and no one had yet posted 487487484848484894a review, but there was a link to the film’s official site, which included a small preview. From the clip I gathered that it didn’t include the most talented cast in the world, but looked plausibly tight and brimming with suspense. Believe me, if you’ve seen that great trailer, you’ll understand why I was so excited. Keeping in mind that I’d only seen two minutes of advertisement and the movie is over eighty in length, it’s not always conclusive as to what’s in store for you when you finally watch. I had a good feeling about this one though and went ahead and bought a copy anyway. Weekend was initially listed on most websites as a TV movie, but judging by some of the bad language – the C word, no less – I quickly worked out that wasn’t the case. Last time that I looked it had been corrected almost everywhere and updated with its rightful status as a DTV effort.

In the opening we see a point of view murder that proves Director Bob Willems is a big fan of Halloween and is paying his homage to Carpenter’s hit. An adulterous wife, or girlfriend (actually we never find out who she is and this scene has NOTHING to do with the rest of the movie) is on the phone when someone creeps up 87467487387387383873and stabs her in the stomach. As she recoils from the wound she asks, ‘What did you do?‘, which I actually found pretty amusing. I kept expecting the killer to reply ‘What do you think I did dummy‘. But the scriptwriter instead decided to try to keep things creepy… Next up we meet Brandon Walker (Ken Hebert), an office executive that’s planning a weekend getaway to a remote cabin out in the woods. It’d be a pretty boring movie if he went alone, so we are soon introduced to his date Tracy (Amanda Watson) and their friends Susan (Chris Bruck) and Mark (Hank Fields). Whilst on the long journey to the previously abandoned house, they meet Diane (Melissa Bale) in a bar and she soon joins the troupe of merry campers. After they have arrived and night falls, the group sit round a fire and tell ghost stories – so far so Friday the 13th-, but we see that they are being watched by an ominous presence. The next morning when everyone wakes up, Susan has disappeared and someone has filled the area with bizarre mutilated dolls. Before long they are stranded with only a ruthless killer clown for company!

Grim Weekend is a prime example of a movie putting the best bits into the trailer, leaving about an hour and a half of screen time totally devoid of redemption. There are only 984874874873873983983three, yes THREE, on screen murders in the whole film. The first is about thirty-seconds into the feature and the next over an hour after. They’re all bloodless and forgettable, which makes me wonder why the BBFC felt the need to rate this as an 18. We get a retarded killer clown as a boogeyman, but he’s especially obnoxious, because he spends most of his time singing nursery rhymes or chopping wood for what seems like an eternity before finally getting round to ‘terrorising’ the campers. In-between that we are plagued by loose performances that are as horrible as you had probably imagined and the characters are mostly unsympathetic and flat. Mark finds a gutted victim lying in the woodland struggling for breath and makes no attempt to comfort or help him. He just looks at him with zero emotion and then wanders off leaving him to die, which makes no sense at all from a story perspective. Denise, the under acted slut, was the character that I felt delivered the most audience allure; – even if she was supposed to be a hate-figure. I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for her instead of the bore that was meant to grab the viewer’s vote of 484983983983090933sympathy. When the gang enter a bar early on in the movie, they meet a prostitute called Sophia (Jamie Hartzog), who in a few lines proved to be far more talented than any of the other lame ‘actors’ that plague the screen throughout. Why couldn’t she have played a bigger part?

Thankfully the film doesn’t suffer from a lack of lighting like so many of its counterparts and the director manages to pull off a couple of decent shots. Admittedly the ending was quite unexpected, owing a sly nod perhaps to The Texas chainsaw Massacre without over using the influence. Finding strange dolls around the house started as a fairly macabre touch, but the idea gets tired very quickly, which sadly the crew failed to notice. It was a brave attempt by the director to try and extract fear without using many murders or too much gore, however an extreme lack of 746748737373873873873momentum and no apparent filling leaves Grim Weekend feeling like a Krispy Kreme doughnut without the Krispy bits or the Kreme. We get to play the tick the slasher trappings game with the usual abundance of references and Willems even chucks in a few sillier than silly POV shots through a clown mask. Nevertheless, the lack of professionalism is far too glaring to gain credit and he doesn’t even try to add anything new to the formula. I bought this on the same day that I picked up the 25th anniversary Halloween DVD. Watching the special features, I noticed that John Carpenter took his masterpiece to someone from 20th Century Fox without it’s excellent score and surprisingly they said that ‘it just wasn’t scary’. It made me wonder what the hell the producers thought was frightening about this rubbish? Times have changed for the worse amigos.

There really is very little to recommend about this lazy and flat lined effort. It’s tedious, poorly constructed and generally sucks harder than a black hole on a night out with Jasmine Tame. Yeah, that hard. If there’s a moral to the story, it’s don’t trust a trailer…

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:

Gore:

Final Girl:

RATING:

84784874983983983989833

The Clown at Midnight 1998 Review

The Clown at Midnight 1998

Directed by: Jean Pellerin

Starring: Christopher Plumber, Margot Kidder, Tatyana Ali

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

The emergence of Wes Craven’s Scream in 1996 had a similar effect on cinema as John Carpenter’s Halloween did back in 1978. Once again, shelves of video rental stores were filled with colorful low budget knock-offs. There were so many, in fact, that Blockbuster Video reported that it was receiving four times the amount of Horror films from 1998 to 2004 that it had since the organisation’s birth in 1985. Although this was also due to the popularity of titles like The Blair Witch Project, The Sixth Sense and The Ring, Craven’s opus can be credited for playing a major part in the re-emergence of horror as a bankable medium.

It’s been over a decade since the post-Scream -09309347834763influx of stalk and slash titles, so now we can look back and analyse the difference between that period and, the one, from twenty years earlier during the first slasher boom. Whilst there certainly were a number of weak entries released during the eighties (Don’t go in the Woods/Home Sweet Home etc), their lack of credibility was sweetened by the likes of The Prowler and ‘My Bloody Valentine‘, which went on to become horror classics. The more recent span of stalk and slash titles hasn’t given us anywhere near as much panache to shield the brunt of the mediocrity and we haven’t seen many that are worthy of a place amongst the elite.

The Clown at Midnight was released hot on the heels of Scream and chose the horror chestnut of incorporating a killer clown into its synopsis. It tells the tale of seven drama students that are forced, as part of their coursework, to clean and prepare a dilapidated theatre for re-opening. It had been 7843784367392982563closed for many years since a leading actress was brutally butchered by a maniac who escaped the scene without trial. The victim’s daughter, Kate Williams (Sarah Lassez), is among the eager group and upon her arrival she begins suffering flashbacks and visions of the fate of her mother. Before long, the group are locked in and the psychopathic clown makes an inevitable reappearance for his swan song performance.

If there is any credit to be given to this scarcely popular new-age entry, it has to be for the visible effort that’s been made by Barry Gravelle, the ‘horror-regular’ cinematographer. Most of his work is stylish and energetic and he tries admirably to add a little ‘va va voom’ to the shoot. It’s a shame, then, that despite his enthusiasm, the film still plays too much like a hobo with a hangover, which has no doubt contributed to its lack of a global DVD release. Considering the fact that this was first circulated in 1998 by a relatively large studio, it can be considered a huge snub that as of mid-2013, it has still been ignored by the digital format.

The main problem with The Clown at Midnight is that it feels bereft of energy from everyone else involved aside from the aforementioned camera guy. We are given a cast that portray themselves lazily with minimal intent on bringing the story to life, which is a shame as these are actors that have proved previously a level of panache. Despite the inclusion of various ‘stars of the future’ (so it says on the back cover, but I’m not so sure), the dramatics remain distinctly sub-par throughout and I found it really hard to have any kind of bond with the people carrying the story. It’s left up to Christopher Plummer to inject some 8562132156class to proceedings, but even he looks like he’s turned up to contribute the bare minimum and quickly ‘escapar’ with his payslip. There are various attempts to add some intrigue and depth to the personalities that guide us through the story, including a wonderful back story that links well to our final girl, Kate. She’s played so coldly though by Sarah Lassez that I felt zero sympathy for her and therefore had no one to root for.

The mystery is smartly constructed and in fairness, you’ll do well to guess who it is that’s sporting the creepy clown attire. It’s just a shame that the twists and turns are made somewhat redundant by the film’s limp spine, which removes any hope of suspense. TCAM felt like a movie that was screaming for a tense chase sequence or a one-off 6656567878989898sprinkling of terror that would really get the viewer engaged. No such moment ever arrived though and instead we were left feeling like we were treading over the same old ground. Slasher movies rarely break away from the multitude, but there’s enough in the age-old formula that can make for an exciting and entertaining picture. It just depends on how well you utilise those ingredients. Jean Pellerin seemed more concerned with directing pretty photography than creating any kind of horror atmosphere or pushing his actors and Kenneth Hall’s script deserved better.

I have seen posts that describe The Clown at Midnight as the best killer clown movie since the more psychological ‘Clownhouse’ on some message boards. That statement says more about the lack of quality in that sector of horror than it does about the credibility of this muddled effort. I first watched TCAM many years back as a young student in Uni. I remember that I was lucky enough to be with an extremely hot chica called Faye and she was a huge fan of horror flicks. I enjoyed it thoroughly because she was the kind of girl that would flinch at every jolt in the soundtrack of a scary movie and each time that she did, my hands would ‘accidentally’ wander further down her top. After seeing her reaction, I remember feeling that The Clown at Midnight must have been really good to have that kind of effect on her, even if she was something of a vulnerable viewer. 123546776545454Unfortunately after watching the film again so many years later, I was disappointed with not only its mediocre quality, but also with my ability back then to judge a decent movie. It’s surprising how our levels of awareness can change isn’t it?

There are reports of an uncut copy somewhere in existence, although these have neither been confirmed nor denied. A huge amount of gore would not subtract from a half-hearted final product though and with the finances that Pellerin had at his disposal, this really should have been better. It does have its share of ambitious moments (The opening killing marks an excellent use of camera tricks and creativity), but overall it doesn’t have enough of them to warrant a purchase. I agree, there are not enough killer clown movies in existence, but the excellent The House on Sorority Row should always be placed miles and miles above this.

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√√

Gore: √√

Final Girl: √

RATING:

5489486416

 

Evil Night 1992 Review

Evil Night 1992

Directed by: Todd Cook

Starring: Holly Aeck, Joseph Fautinos, Spencer Trask

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

It’s always been intriguing for me how a clown can be one part children’s comic performer and one part icon of horror. Clowns are family entertainment personified, but would you feel comfortable sharing a dimly lighted alleyway with one in the early hours of the morning? That instantly recognisable figure has been used throughout the slasher genre almost since its birth. Rumour has it that Michael Myers would have worn clown attire had someone in John Carpenter’s wardrobe not found that iconic Shatner mask. It’s interesting how we can take the comforts of our youth and twist them into horrific imagery.

Evil Night continues the trend set way back in the annals of horror history, by giving its bogeyman the guise of a circus jester. Although the costume is unoriginal, movies such as the excellent House on Sorority Row and Stephen King’s IT have proved that if used correctly, such a figure can successively invade your innermost fears. Mixing the comforts of childhood serenity with the malevolence of a psychopathic imposter always seems to give horror fans the Goosebumps and rightly so.

Here we have a clown killer story from Todd Jason Cook that treads the familiar territory of a bullied school boy that seeks revenge on those who have taunted him. In the opening we get to meet Jimmy Fisher (Spencer Trask), a high school geek that has a crush on the girlfriend of one of the school’s most popular rebels. Jimmy has been subjected to various humiliating taunts by the gang of bullies, so he has lost faith in the humanity of his classmates. However he is flattered and shocked when lead bully Peter (Joseph Pautinos) invites him to a party. Foolishly, Jimmy accepts the invitation and if you haven’t already guessed, it turns out to be yet another vicious prank. Humiliated and left unconscious in his boxer shorts, Jimmy finally loses his cool and sets out to seek revenge on those who have taunted him…..

OK so first things first, Evil Night was originally released DTV in 1992 and pretty much vanished in to obscurity almost immediately. After the popularity of the DVD phenomenon, Cook (Night of the Clown/Demon Dolls) gave his movie a second shot at recognition on a budget disk, which can be picked up from Amazon at an agreeable price. As I have stated previously in my review list, I am all for ambitious directors having a crack at making their own independent features. The beauty of the slasher genre is the fact that you don’t need a six figure budget to make a profitable schlockbuster. Even with that being the case, this back garden entry feels like an attempt to win the Indy 500 on a tricycle.

Do I respect Todd Cook? Quite frankly, yes. I envy him a bit too. Here we have a guy who loves horror movies and found in his wife Lisa, a soul mate who was so supportive of his ambition that she helped out in major ways with the release his five or six no budget movies. Their most recent effort, Zombiefied, picked up some real good press (review coming soon) and much like Dead Pit and others, mixed the zombie and slasher sub-genre’s together into something of a B-movie cocktail. Twenty years earlier when this was produced though, they had neither the experience nor the budget to deliver their visions and Evil Night is a tough runtime to sit through.

If you can accept the camcorder like quality of the picture and you are forgiving enough to ignore the rotten Thrash Metal soundtrack, then you will still struggle to understand how a movie can be produced without a logical concept. In fact, the scenario seems to take place in a dimension where logic is an uncommon word. I searched and I searched, but all I uncovered was a screenplay that works along the lines of, ‘unknown guy walks in front of the camera, gets killed and then the scene fades to black’. Forget character development, because it’s simply non-existent. Cast members appear without rhyme or reason, as if they’re on a conveyer belt from a production line to be slaughtered. This makes Evil Night seem more like a collection of images than a film; and despite some impressive gore effects, it rapidly loses its momentum.

You know, I was the first to post a review of this on the IMDB and it’s a film that few have seen. This is probably because watching Evil Night is almost an impossible mission. It lacks even the slightest of structures and there’s no pay-off in viewing the plot through to its conclusion. The cast sound like they’re reading their lines from the small print of a spam email and the most memorable slice of dialogue spoken throughout the runtime is, “Eric are you taking a dump again?” The whole movie looks to have been edited by a blind man with a blunt razor-blade and the lighting for the night scenes was likely provided by one of those pencil sized torch keyrings that you get in souvenir shops.

On the plus side, there are the imaginative gore effects that I mentioned and kudos to Clark for the creepy killer costume. However, his attempt to build a competitive Slaughter High imitation is suffocated by its stringent funding. I agree that it was made tongue in cheek to be watched with that in mind, but that doesn’t make it any easier to sit through. Even if I’m being mega generous, there’s absolutely nothing that I can recommend here. Bad, bad, bad and not in a good way, Evil Night is destined for obscurity once again….

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise:√√√√

Gore: √√

Final Girl:

RATING:

The House on Sorority Row 1983 Review

The House on Sorority Row 1983

aka House of Evil aka Siete Mujeres Atrapadas

Directed by: Mark Rosman

Starring: Kate McNeil, Eileen Davidson, Harley Jane Kozak

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

In 2009, there was a great, but brief, period of revival for the slasher movie. What with My Bloody Valentine 3-D doing impressive business at the box office and the special edition DVD of the original feature providing fans with all those eagerly anticipated gore scenes during the same week, it was most definitely the freshest breath of life for the category since the release of Scream in 1996.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the special edition of MBV and it motivated me to dig through my collection and re-visit a few other cycle entries that had been gathering dust on my shelves. It seemed then to be the latest trend to remake eighties slasher movies and The House on Sorority Row was another that was picked to receive an updated re-birth.

If titles such as Madman and The Prowler were rivals to the gore-led Friday the 13th films of the early eighties and were inspired by Sean Cunningham’s visually graphic depiction of the slasher formula, then Mark Rosman’s bizarrely under-rated entry took its lead from Carpenter’s ‘less is more’ approach. Sorority Row does not boast a bunch of outrageously gory kill scenes and its bogeyman does not sport an audacious mask. It does, however, offer a slick suspense-fuelled runtime of classy directorial embellishments and down-to-earth and believable characters.

In order to get revenge on their unforgiving house-mother, seven sorority sisters plan an audacious prank. Unfortunately, the joke backfires and the elderly owner of the house ends up dead. The youngsters do their best to cover-up the ‘accident’, but it seems that someone witnessed the killing and begins to stalk and gruesomely slaughter them. Who could be behind the murders?

Slumber Party Massacre is generally recognised as the key sorority slasher, which is a shame, because The House on Sorority Row is much stronger and infinitely more deserving of that status. From the off we see that this is a cool and classy thriller thanks to Rosman’s razor sharp direction and some tightly edited scares. The film successfully juxtaposes the innocence of child-like imagery such as clowns and dolls with the dementia of a revenge-fuelled maniac and creates a deeply macabre atmosphere. There’s some chilling flourishes spaced frequently throughout the feature, which include the victims finding toys before they are slaughtered and the classic ‘decapitated head in the toilet’ trick.

The director skilfully utilises John Carpenter’s use of shadow-play to build suspense and the bogeyman remains mysteriously shrouded in the darkness of his non-identity. Perhaps one of the film’s key strengths is the realism of its characters. Many of the latter Scream-inspired slashers would fail because of their persistence in attempting to make a cast of purely beautiful people seem factual. Let’s face it, we don’t all look like glamour models and we don’t all have a rich mummy and daddy a phone call away, so how can we relate in any way to a story depicted using that methodology? Rosman recognised this and instead of a giving us a synopsis full of brainless-bimbos, the characters here are natural and in effect, not without their flaws.

Rosman had previously worked alongside Brian De Palma and was the Assistant Director on Home Movies from 1980. He learned a lot along the way and some of the stylish photography was particularly impressive considering that this was the twenty-four year old’s feature début. The hallucination scenes towards the climax are creative horror-imagery at its finest and the operatic score is at times pulse-raising. That final scene, which sees the killer raise from the shadows in creepy clown attire, is as iconic as anything from the life-span of the genre and the fact that the heroine is heavily sedated only adds to the plausibility of her chaotic state of mind.

Credit also must be given to the cast who carry the plot comfortably and Kate McNeil was superb as the easily-manipulated Katharine. Eileen Davidson puts in a good stint as Vicky and the dramatics remain competent right the way through. Like many eighties slashers, the final version that was released was not as the director had intended and an extension to the ending was filmed and re-edited just before release. Let’s hope that one day we will get a special edition disk with all the deleted scenes restored.

The director has stated in the past that he was not a particularly big fan of horror cinema and that he made this feature just to get a foot on the Hollywood ladder. That’s somewhat tough to believe as House is a movie that’s well-aware of its genre trademarks. The links with Halloween are too numerous to be coincidental and its doubtful that such stylish horror-imagery could be conveyed by a half-hearted auteur. The fact that Rosman was executive producer on the remake must prove that he still has a place for terror somewhere in his heart. Luckily, said rehash turned out to be good enough not to be an embarrassment to the legacy, but it still never got close to the classy style that was delivered here. One of the key attributes to the original’s strength is its realism and the sympathetic motive of the bogeyman, which was somewhat lost in the recent bigger budgeted update.

This is by a long way one of the best of the early eighties slasher flicks; if you haven’t already seen this suspense-marathon, you need to be asking yourself why not???

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√√√√

Gore: √√

Final Girl: √√√√√

RATING:

1038363