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.
Slasher In The House 1981
aka Home Sweet Home
Directed by: Nettie Peña
Starring: Jake Steinfeld, Don Edmunds, Vinessa Shaw
Review by Luisjo González
Oh mama! Woooh, I need to take a deep breath…. Ok… am I still alive? Where am I? What the f**k did I just watch?
When I was in hospital all that time (check Paranoid review), I put on 7kg of weight. 36 months in a bed, 3 meals a day, you can imagine. However when I was released, because I lost all my muscle mass, I went up to 130kg. Everything I ate, no matter how healthy, turned to fat. When you consider I used to be 81kg, that’s obese. I’m too vain to be overweight, so I soon joined a gym, but quickly noticed that cardio wasn’t working for me. 800 calories on the cross-trainer changed nada. What did start to work however was weightlifting. Soon, I was bench pressing 80kg and watching the flab drop off my body. I’m no longer 81kg, granted, I’m 99kg, but with only 11% fat, I’m now a hench muscle man. I’ve fallen madly in love with bodybuilding.
I tell you this, because the antagonist of this picture is Jewish personal trainer and overall cool dude, Jake Steinfeld. Now bodybuilding, much like supporting a particular soccer/baseball team or meeting a fellow angler, is a hobby that men and women can bond over. ‘What muscles you working on today, buddy?’ It’s a link that connects people in social circles. Will my love of the gym make me adore Slasher In The House due to its famous fitness trainer bogeyman?
I can’t tell you that I wasn’t warned. On another películas del terror website, there’s a pretty bad review and the general consensus everywhere online is that it’s not great. The write-up on the other horror page is in fact so disrespectful that I almost felt like it was bullying. I promised myself, I’d be a lot more just and fair with my analysis of this peak period Halloween clone. I’ve owned SITH (SITH = Slasher In The House) on VHS since 1987, but the first time I watched it was yesterday. So what can I say? Well, not much of originality (like the movie) but is it as bad as its hideous reputation would have you believe?
Well, it’s going to take me a little while to explain, because the answer involves every single thing in the movie. In fairness though, things start extremely positively with a killing within about thirty seconds of screen time. A guy is parked up on the freeway, drinking a larger, before driving. (Don’t you love the eighties, when you could see cigarillos and drinking and driving in the movies). Out of the corner of the parked dude’s eye, he catches our killer approaching the vehicle and offers him a beer. His kindness doesn’t get him anywhere, as the muscle-bound jock drags him out of the car, murders him via a method I couldn’t make out and steals his wheels. Next up, the assassin, who has a habit of cackling madly when he’s killing people, runs down an old lady, who looks like a thirty-year-old woman in a grey wig. We hear via the radio in the automobile, that our nutjob is a guy called Jay Jones, who (of course) has just escaped from an insane asylum after being sentenced for murdering his parents as a child. So far, so by the book…
After lots of shots of our bogeyman driving, more driving, erm, holding a steering wheel, changing gears and even more views of him, you know, driving; he ends up pulling up near a secluded house. The abode belongs to the Bradleys, a family that look to have invited over a number of guests for a thanksgiving dinner. Amongst the revellers is is a Hispanic chick named Maria (Lisa Rodriguez) and a guy who has his face painted white like the glam metal band Kiss. If it’s your group’s identity to paint your faces blanco how Kiss used to, it looks pretty cool. If you’re just doing it on your lonesome however, it comes across as, well, a bit weird, freakish and also worrying. Anyway, the white-face guy is called Scott (David Mielke) and he very quickly becomes extremely annoying. He carries a guitar around with him, winding everybody up by disrupting them when they’re trying to make out and other such boring palaver.
If you haven’t already guessed, people start leaving the house to get some wine, or find those that haven’t yet returned (murdered) etcetera. Well, of course Jay Jones is watching in cheesier than a dairy heavy breath POV shots. It goes exactly where you expected it to and we’re left trying to guess who will survive…
I’ve told you all before on a Slash above, I got into the slasher genre after staying up to watch Halloween in 1986. I am obviously a Latino-born dude that grew up in London, as my mother was working there. I clearly recall reading a criticising article by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert about stalk and slashers and they hinted that they were racist and said, where are all the black people in these flicks? Well, something about SITH surprised me. They may not have a black character included, but they sure as hell-fire have a Latina, who has a lot of screen time. I was secretly hoping that all the gringos would get killed (wink wink) and the Spanish chica would defeat the maniac. Yay!! The problem with this though, is that I found the character actually more of an offence to our race than a thumbs up.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not one of those guys that considers everything offensive. However Maria, the Hispana girl in this story, says stupid things in Spanish like Bésame (kiss me) or voy al baño (go to bathroom) all the time and she never converses in English, but she’s with a group of people that do not understand el Español. It’s even hinted her BF is American. How did they converse? Also, were the filmmakers trying to hint that Hispanic people don’t learn languages? To make matters worse, the director could herself be a one of us. Her name is Nettie Peña, but it just seemed a strange thing to have in a movie. Or I personally found it that way. Why would a Hispanic person publically mock her own race?
Anyway, a major problem with the feature, aside from the fact that it’s not very good, is that it moves far too S-L-O-W-L-Y. A fine example of this is when two of the girls go out to get the wine, or go to the power company, I can’t remember exactly why they left. Anyway, they get pulled over by a couple of cops in a pointless scene (except that one of the chicas has a fantastic rack). Anyway, we don’t just get that nonsensical sequence, the director follows it up with an equally inept conversation between the two Police officers. We watch these movies to see the slashings cabrón!! The performances across the board aren’t heinous, but they’re not good either. I noted a whole heap of unconvincing fear and crud line delivery. At one point, white-face dude begs for his life, whilst offering to sing for the maniac. I’ll let you guess how well that goes. Also worth mentioning, is that this bogeyman talks to victims and at one point, he says that women are worthless. The problem with this dialogue is it seems like something a guy who’s been divorced twice (like me) might say. Isn’t it true that Jay Jones has been in an insane asylum after murdering his padres as a 12 year old? How much experience could he have with women? Was he married at 18 months old? Man, either my flatmate put LSD in my wine or this is the worst screenwriting since Star Wars The Phantom Menace???
Also before I forget, in the beginning we see the killer injecting angel dust under his tongue. That’s unusual, you may think and I agree. However the main problem with the concept is, where the hell did he get the PCP from? It’s been illegal in the United States long before this film was made and the story says he just escaped an asylum. Did he visit and murder a drug dealer? How did he find the dope peddler? Did he ask around in the ghetto? He must’ve murdered said narcotics man, because he slaughters everyone else. So if that happened, why didn’t we get to see it? I mean going to the ghetto to buy drugs and then taking out the dealer is a unique and exciting sub plot. From what we see here that must have happened, so why didn’t we view this action? My head is hurting, I need to have a lie down…
So what’s left to be said? Well, I can say that the antagonist consistently cackling destroys his aura of menace and he’s about as scary as a teddy bear. Mr Steinfeld didn’t do anything bad with the part and he has the right build, but the laughing looks silly, not scary. Also, slashers look much better in a mask. Another thing of note is that SITH is a total career killer. Practically every cast member featured never acted again except Don Edmunds the producer. Mr Edmunds is a name you may recognise, because he directed the exceptionally bland Terror On Tour in 1980. The only person to go on to a successful period was the child, played by Vinessa Shaw. The director totally vanished for 28 years and was substituted to one barely seen documentary in 2009😂.There’s no gore of note and only one of the killings is effectively brutal. It involves a guy trying to steal a battery from an abandoned automobile and our muscle-bound psycho jumps on the hood, crushing his skull.(See it above). Also when the cops turn up towards the end, they seem to know that multiple people have been killed even though they found only one corpse. Did they find and read the script before they came across the first body? That must’ve happened.
I guess we can say that Slasher in the house was made tongue in cheek, to be consumed the same way. It’s main problems are its momentum and the idea to make the killer laugh/converse instead of keeping silent like Mr Michael Myers etc. Going back to the review on the other website, I’d say this flick’s not THAT bad. Not great, granted, but an ok eighties slasher throwaway with cast members we don’t hate (unlike modern post-Scream entries). Lastly, I’ll tell you, throughout this review I called the film SITH for short. Well if you rearrange those letters you get the word SHI… Most accurate line in this review. Peace…