Stripped To Kill 1987
Directed by: Katt Shea Ruben
Starring: Kay Lens, Greg Evigen, Norman Fell
Review by Luisjo González
John Carpenter’s Halloween is certainly one of the most imitated movies ever released. It could, in fact, be THE most copied in motion picture history. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the only slasher movie to create a string of wannabes. Friday the 13th started all the killer in the woods flicks and it even got a straight up duplicate with 2000’s Scream Bloody Murder. 1982’s Slumber Party Massacre also had a landslide of impersonators, including Fatal Pulse, Sorority House Massacre and Cheerleader Massacre. There was another eighties slasher that inspired production teams to become magpies again and that was this Roger Corman beauty. In fairness, this itself is an echo of Murder-Rock from 1984, but it’s overwhelming success created a raft of similar themed cinematics that continued until the early nineties.
I’ve told you guys previously that as a born and bred womaniser, slashers in strip bars are possibly my favourite kind. I’m a successful businessman, but all my bosses will tell you, I put the ladies before everything else, always; – even work. Will this mindset make Stripped to Kill my all time favourite genre entry? Let’s see…
When Detective Cody Sheehan discovers the body of a stripper from the Rock Bottom dance club, she begins an investigation. Her partner, Detective Heineman, is equally involved, but the only way Cody can get the assignment from her superiors is to go undercover as a stripper at the club…
Here we have a movie that truly is 95% strip, 5% slash. With only a couple of murders until the final five minutes, calling this a stalk and slash flick is more than a bit misleading. I’m actually surprised STK was so popular because it’s true most men like watching girls strip, but most women don’t; – and it’s literally non-stop dance sequences for the majority of the runtime. The laydees featured are better than the ones we usually see in films of this ilk, because they do flips and cartwheels on stage. It can get monotonous viewing them after a while, when you’d prefer to see more slasher action and we get kind of disappointed to be stuck with the same old sh*t. We see none of the stalking sequences that made Halloween so enjoyable, the hooded killer just turns up briefly once or twice. The slaughters are creative in their MO, with a strangulation and setting someone on fire, but the director shows us no build up, so there’s no excitement or tension at all. We don’t even get heavy breath POVs or slow-mo stalking. Alfred Hitchcock said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it”, but Katt Shea Ruben must not be a fan of the legendary filmmaker, because she gives us a disappointing ZERO. Whilst I was disenchanted by the lack of key genre trappings, I liked most of the characters and Lenz actually has ok-ish chemistry with Evigen. They were a couple that genuinely looked like they could be together.
The crux of the synopsis is the police investigation into the murders and we get a couple of attractive young cops that are hot on the case. Unfortunately the script doesn’t even get this right, because it’s impossible for anyone with an IQ bigger than an ant to believe any ‘constabulary of the law’ would let one of their detectives work undercover as a stripper. They do attempt to explain this later in the runtime, but once things fall into the realms of make believe, we struggle to take the feature seriously again. I guess, the best thing, was that STK certainly seemed more ‘eighties’ than usual and the spandex, big hair and mullets really took me back to the decade I grew up in. Surprisingly enough, whilst many slasher pictures from this time were undeniably cheesy, this one steers clear of being too camp, which is a shock. Whilst I was disenchanted by by the lack of slasher action, I didn’t hate the characters and Lenz gives us a final girl that we want to succeed. Director Shea used real strippers in her cast, but none of the girls here have a decent rack at all. As I said in my review of Strip Club Slasher, I’ve dated a couple of strippers and they and all their work buddies were well endowed with huge breasts. A couple of them were silicone laden, but busty all the same. I guess, because my personal taste is not the slim, sporty Keira Knightly type, I am being selfish by criticising the girls featured in this flick. If you like laydees with cero curves, you’ll be happy with the chicas featured. I suppose you could say I am a true Latin guy that likes the Latin, coca cola bottle shaped figure. I just prefer voluptuous curves to slim stick insects. In Spain we say, eres tanta curva y yo sin frenos!
Obviously I saw this many years ago and revisiting it the day before yesterday reminded me that I’ve never particularly liked STK. It’s an ok thriller with a twist that I didn’t guess, but it’s often poorly acted and as I alluded to, almost fantasy with its screenplay. Roger Corman regularly used female directors to cover up accusations of misogyny, but Katt Shea Ruben is not one of the better ones. It’s a disappointment that a film with such a huge budget couldn’t have been better, but it did lead to a number of great imitations including the wonderful almost remake, Dance with Death. I guess you can add it to your collection if you love slashers, but it’s not one I’d recommend to convince non believers. For a Strip & Slasher it falls far too short.
Bailando Con La Muerte 1992
aka Dance With Death
Directed by: Charles Philip Moore
Starring: Jill Pierce, Maxwell Caulfield, Barbara Alyn Woods
Review by Luisjo González
I’m not going to repeat the same stories I’ve told you all before about watching Halloween when I was six-year’s-old and then becoming a slasher addict. However I can tell you an amusing story that relates to this picture. I was obviously hunting through my video rental emporiums for more slasher trash and I came across the cover of Stripped to Kill way back when. The back blurb seemed pretty slasher, but the problem was, my madre wouldn’t let me rent it because of the suggested nudity on the package description. Eventually, I was able to go to Stoke Newington high street with an older kid from my street, and I was able to pay a homeless guy to rent the forbidden movie for me.
Obviously I love the ladies and the eight-year old me was enamoured with what I saw during that runtime. It’s sad to think that we grew up so quick in crime ridden London and sometimes I regret not having a childhood. What does information about Stripped to Kill have to do with Dance with Death you rightly ask? Well, this motion picture is a jazzed-up remake of STK, they even use the same dialogue and it’s from the same author. DWD was one of a number of dance/strip related slasher movies that were released following the success of the 1987 Roger Corman thriller, Stripped To Kill. Some others include: Slash Dance, Deadly Dancer, Last Dance, Strip Club Slasher and The Rain Killer. Whist we’re on that subject, it must be stated that STK was not an authentic movie and was itself a rip off of Lucio Fulci’s Murder-rock from 1984.
A number of killings at a local strip joint give a reporter the chance to go undercover and begin an investigation. Kelly gets a job as a stripper and begins to question the resident dancers. As she gets closer to the truth, more and more people end up dead and she looks to be next on the killer’s list…
I understand that certain people may believe that a slasher movie in a strip bar is going to have zero class and be extremely exploitive. Whilst I admit the setup is tacky, the characterisations are not. The females in the cast are all written as strong women and the heroine is a fiery reporter with a forceful will. This is a slasher movie of course, with a masked killer and all the trimmings, but at times, it’s possible to forget you’re watching a horror film. A couple of the dancers have issues that are covered, we have the journalist backstory due to the final girl’s employment and finally the owner of the club, which is called Bottoms up, is having regular issues with his employees. There are a few slaughters, but they’re not spaced close together, which makes you wonder what tone the production team was aiming for. We go from a strip scene, to a brutal murder, then attempts at humour, something of a romance between the leads and it’s all thrown at us in about five minutes. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel? Was I meant to be scared? In a comic mood? Or involved in the liaison?
The key element of the story of course is the mystery of who’s killing everybody. There’s a number of suspects, but I worked it out by the dialogue. It took me a while and I admit it’s not an easy one to solve, but listen to what they say closely. What’s interesting is that Bottoms Up the bar is always full, but the car park outside is consistently empty. Do they walk home at 2am? Rather them than me, I tell you. I’ve never been to a strip bar in reality, because I am not interested in looking if I can’t touch. Being a handsome guy gives me that luxury (wink wink – joke, I’m handsome but not arrogant!!)). Anyway, If I were to venture to Bottoms Up by chance, I’d demand my money back. The only girl with a decent rack, the stunning Lola (hottie Jill Pierce), is the first killed and the rest of the laydees are flatter than a pancake on my ironing board. If these guy customers are paying to watch these strumpets, they must be desperate. Go to a disco and get yourself a girl you can take home with you after.
One of the striptastic boogie queens is reported to have a drug problem and we see her laughing and then falling in to the crowd. She gets sacked for being a junkie and then if that’s not bad enough, she gets killed (brutal murder btw). It’d be nice if the screenwriters did some research when writing the dire-logue for a movie that’s going to be shown in cinemas. The only drug that makes you laugh is marijuana and it’s not so bad that you’d burst into hysterics on stage whilst working. Cocaine, crack, heroin, PCP are not giggling drugs and she wasn’t on LSD, because no one mentioned hallucinations. Whilst we talking about the script, I bust out laughing when the cop was telling some criminal sales guy that he was interrogating to go away. He said, in Spanish ‘vamos amigo’ and walks off?? Vamos means we go, not go away. What he meant to say was, vete or vaya (go away or you go). I wonder how much these authors got paid for this crapola??? Why use Español and get it wrong. My head was in my hands. 😂
I always disliked Prom Night’s balaclava, because I thought it was lazy from Peter Simpson to go for something so basic. The assassin here also sports a similar black mask, but I thought it worked much better in DWD. I guess it could be because of his height/build. Drew Snyder from Terror Eyes plays the editor, but thankfully they had more sense than casting him as a womaniser as he was in the 1981 slasher classic. I mentioned in my original review, how unrealistic that looked having the balding Snyder as a lady killer. Maxwell Caulfield is the detective and whilst he’s not a horrible actor, the way his career fell apart is a real shame. To go from a huge film like Grease 2 to Dance with Death is really disappointing. He stayed busy, but for a handsome guy, it was a big fall from the top. None of the performances featured stink the place out and all in all it’s an enjoyable runtime.
A slasher movie that allows me to see topless women is always going to be my favourite kind, so expect me to review of the rest of this type before the end of 2022. I had fun with Dance with Death. One or two brutal murders, an interesting plot, a good mystery and the chance to see topless women. If that ticks your boxes, check it out. One last question I’ll answer for the ladies… Is this a motion picture for slasherettes? I still say, yes. They won’t enjoy the female nudity (unless they’re gay), but as I said, the puzzle is good and it’s not tedious. Perhaps the biggest plus of all is the beautiful and breathtakingly stunning Jill Pierce plays the first victim, Lola. I first saw her in Darkroom, but it seems she had a boob job, because since then, she’s gone from a 32A (it looked about that) to a 34DD. That’s some enlargement in three years. She’s up there with Traci Lords, Natti Natasha, Abbie Shapiro, Christine Hendricks and Ariel Winter in the gorgeous stakes. Married and madly in love, I still 1000% would🤣. I wish my Mum moved to USA instead of England all those años ago. I guarantee that if I was working close to that set when they were shooting Dance With Death, I would’ve asked out and dated Jill Pierce. Maybe I’d have another kid with her by now haha. Peace
Pool Party Massacre 2015
Directed by: Drew Marvick
Starring: LeeAnna Vamp, Alexis Adams, Destiny Faith Nelson
Review by Luisjo González
You know what? I think too much. ‘Think too much you’re asking?’ Well, my brain is always running at 260km per hour, all the f**ing time. If I wake up in the night at 1am somehow, there’s zero chance of me returning to sleep. I’m up until morning, thinking bullsh*t. My job is mentally challenging, so my mind doesn’t wander during the working day, but outside of those hours, I’m always pondering. Stupid stuff like, what started the Avalon and Cambrian explosions? Has Jupiter’s moon Europa got life? Why did evolution create a perfect apex predator in Gorgonopsid and then go backward on itself? Why do people with an IQ above .5 still believe in god, even though there’s a whopping ZERO proof? Why doesn’t every woman I see strip naked and sexually assault me? How did Joe Bidden get elected? Why do people still support Tottenham? Why aren’t I a multimillionaire? It’s pretty draining to have a brain like that, I can tell you. There’s a new conundrum that’s haunted my brain just recently and that is, why is it that only slasher flicks have so many horrendous actors? No other genre of cinema makes movies with hideous dramatics as often.
PPM is one of those slashers that I picked up a few years back on Amazon, put on my shelf and then never bothered watching or paying attention to. Very recently, I was looking for a copy of Bikini Party Massacre online, because I have slasher movies stored in four different locations and they’re in three countries, so I never can be sure of what exactly is where. I typed BP massacre in Google to find a downloadable version and this popped up, available for free on YouTube. I watched about five minutes, loved what I saw and headed to my shed quicker than WOKE people get offended. (I put all my slashers there when I wasn’t updating a Slash above)
Blair’s pool party rapidly becomes a nightmare when a violent killer begins stalking and murdering the bunnies one by one.
I have to admit that PPM started incredibly well. Stupendously so. The first thing on the screen is a busty hottie (LeeAnn Vamp) and she’s saying sexual things that all men adore (unless they’re gay) to a pool cleaner. An unseen someone creeps up behind her in heavy breath POV shots and slices her throat (fantastic gore shot) in gruesome fashion. I loved what I was watching so far and was excited to see more. Sadly, I had to turn off the TV, because I wake up at 5:10am everyday and I’m generally out for the count by 21:00 during the week.
The next evening I put the film on again and I was eminently hopeful. Only problem was, when we get to meet the rest of the characters, the amazing impetus that the film started with totally vanishes and pathetic performances begin to take control. I don’t want to continually say the same things in my reviews, but sometimes I have to, unfortunately. The Scream generation or maybe it’s just the modern era of slasher victims are all eminently unlikeable as Homo sapiens. Once again the cast is filled with conceited, shallow, plastic (and apparently rich) idiots that become painful to watch. You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that films work much better if viewers like the cast and want them to survive. I’m guessing you guys/gals are all slasher or horror movie fans. I ask, what type of heroine do you prefer? Laurie Stroud played by Jamie Leigh Curtis or I can’t remember her name… stuck up girl… hmmm… oh yeah – Nancy (Margaux Némé) from Pool Party Massacre? I admit it seemed the script was deliberately trying to make the cast members people we wouldn’t root for, but the logic of such an approach was lost on me. What’s the sense in deliberately making the people filling your runtime unappealing? Director/screenwriter Drew Marvick attempted to try and make the aforementioned Nancy a virginal type of final girl like the old days, but somehow he doesn’t script it correctly. We witness her drinking alcohol a lot, talking like she’s sexually experienced and I don’t think I’ve seen that previously in the movies from the period that PPM is obviously trying hard to reference.
I must take my hat off to Marvick though, because he chose actresses with decent racks (including porn star Alexis Adams) and as I’ve said here many times, that’s certainly my type. Unfortunately, the slim one becomes the final girl and she has the magic ability to go swimming and emerge from the pool in the next scene with perfect, bone dry and blow dried hair 😂 I honestly can’t say that I wanted her to survive and I didn’t particularly like her either. I won’t ruin what happens to her, suffice to say, the only character that I didn’t hate was the guy that they were all mocking and making fun of (Clay – Nicky Byer). At least he was trying to get laid and it seemed like he had a target that he was working to achieve. The rest were just ladies that I’d do my best to avoid in reality.
Ppm is a low budget movie, but it does a superb job of making itself look higher funded. The way I worked out that it was cheap was that the awesome gore shot in the opening was followed with a lot of basic blood splashing and effects that you or I could create. The entire picture takes place in only one location and whilst that’s not a major problem (entries like Slumber Party Massacre did it to good effect), the same backdrops become tedious after a while. Catching screen scaps for this review was tough because it was always the same group of skets doing the same things until they get killed. There’s a part where we see a pizza guy get gutted and after the slaughter, we see his intestines. Whilst the killing was ok, his bowels looked like the frankfurters that I buy from the Polish shop. Despite the bargain-bucket special fx, I still enjoyed what I watched and it totally did not ruin PPM. The killer uses a number of tools to murder the teens and interestingly enough, we get to view his tool shed/armoury. He returns each appliance after he takes out someone to grab another and we learn what weapon will be next. I thought that was a neat touch, and Drew Marvick has a bundle of superb ideas. He’s not an awful director either and some shots were well planned and slick. I totally didn’t guess the twist, and it plays like a whodunit, with the antagonist’s face off screen. Unfortunately, it turns out to be somewhat unfair and I felt a tiny bit cheated. I can’t tell you more as it may ruin the surprise, but if you manage to guess it, you’re a better person than I am.
I watched this a day after my six-year-old daughter’s junior play at her school and I’m sure that I saw far more credible dramatics there than I watched on display in Pool Party Massacre. Either Marvick has zero idea how to direct actors or this is the most talentless group put together in the whole history of moving pictures. As a slasher fan, I’m obviously used to crap acting, but this stuff was so bad that it ruined the movie in places. Time spent alone with the cast is heinous and it’s not surprising that many of them quit cinema after this one effort. Either that or they got zero role offers, which seems more likely.
I think, to be honest, it may sound like I hated PPM, but that’s not true. It’s got two decent boob shots, attractive females and a lot of blood. There are some great moments that I enjoyed, I would ‘drill’ all the busty chicas and I was never bored. The main issue for me was that I saw most of the things that I hate about modern slashers: conceited and unlikeable cast members, horrendous performances and a flat chested heroine (joke 😂). If you haven’t seen Drew Marvick’s praise peace to eighties slashers, by all means check it out. It’s fun, gory and certainly worth a look. I won’t ever watch it again though, because age has destroyed my tolerance of abhorrent dramatics and I just can’t suffer them anymore.
The House Where Death Lives 1981
Directed by: Alan Beattie
Starring: Patricia Percy, Joseph Cotton, David Hayward
Review by Luisjo González
I must admit that I treat this movie somewhat unfairly. Many times I have written about the first slasher flicks that I came across is in my local video stores in Spain, before I left the country after the break-up of my parents. I never have named this one, even if it was one of the first I found under the title of Delusion in España. In the UK, I found the VIPCO VHS under the the name of this review. I refreshed my memory by revisiting it and I even started a review back then for the IMDB, but I never got around to finishing it. That must’ve been around 2002. I bought an NTSC copy of the movie and it was that VHS I watched anoche. Despite suffering amnesia in the accident I told you about in my review of Paranoid, I could clearly remember watching this one and my opinion of it.
One of the main things that initially caught my eye about the UK release was the inexplicable and nonsensical moniker of the feature that made not a lick of sense to the junior me. How can ‘death’ ‘live’ in a house? Think about it: The house where death lives. If you’re alive and living somewhere, then you’re not dead, so how can death live anywhere, let alone in a house? During my first view, I awaited patiently for the first reanimated corpse so the name would seem logical, but of course, such a thing never happened. THWDT is certainly a stalk and slash movie and it was released during the peak year of 1981. Thing is though, if you take an entry like Friday the 13th and compare it with this, the differences are astounding. The two are about as contrasting as a pet cat and a smilodon, so how is it possible that they’re in the same sub-genre? Well, allow me to explain…
A nurse named Meredith Stone goes to a house to care for a crippled old millionaire. She is soon joined by the gentleman’s 16 year-old grandson, Gabriel. As soon as the teenager arrives, someone begins killing off the house members and it becomes apparent a vicious maniac is on the property…
I mentioned that this is disparate from Friday the 13th above and whilst they both stick to the same basic principles of the slasher rule book, one is pure popcorn ‘jolt’ horror and this is more of a pseudo psychological tale that’s quite involving. Whereas Sean S Cunningham’s entry moved at a fast pace and went for a few bloody deaths, Alan Beattie’s thriller is gradual moving and rather drawn out in what moods it aims for. Whilst watching initially, I was reminded of The Silent Scream from 1979, which had a similar set-up and ended up being a fantastic project. THWDL couldn’t maintain the same momentum and it never gained the correct velocity. It’s also extremely anaemic too and there’s barely any shots of blood throughout the entire runtime. It was released in the United Kingdom as a 15 certificate, which confirms its bloodless visuals. Don’t let that put you off though, because even if there’s no goo on display, the murders are extremely brutal and there’s a couple of really tense jolts throughout the runtime. It’s quite atmospheric overall and boasts a really creepy score, but it’s not particularly scary or a film that you’d watch on a date.
The story concentrates purely on the mystery and it certainly owes more to Christie than Carpenter in that sense. It’s a very engrossing puzzle to guess who’s wiping out the residents, but people that are experienced at guessing whodunits like myself, will read the clues and work it out within 45 minutes. When the killer is revealed, it’s a smart choice from the screenwriter, but hard to picture after the final credits have rolled. Without giving anything away, it somehow didn’t seem physically possible that the maniac would be able to do it, but there is a visual example that looks really good and convincing. It still doesn’t sit right with me somehow. Interestingly enough, the marketing media for the USA cinema run gave away the killer’s identity on the posters. If you went to see the movie and became engrossed in the conundrum, you’d know exactly who it was by remembering the advertisement.
Alan Beattie seemed to have the modus operendai to ‘wow’ them in the end with a big, shocking twist. The obvious problem with that methodology is that I predicted the revelation and so, the climax felt almost like having to pay twice for only one meal. Everything had really built up to the unmasking, but it was lessened for me, because I guessed what would happen. Along the way though, various interesting areas are explored, including Meredith being sexually attracted to a sixteen year-old boy. This is quite a strange story-branch and even if one-six is not an age that’s illegal, Meredith was much older and my hatred of paedophilia made it uncomfortable to watch. It’s really hard to work out what the director was going for with that idea, but go there he does, including a sex scene. No skin is visible and there was no boob shots in this film, which is unusual as that’s a slasher key ingredient. This was, in fact, an older cast in many ways than the norm, because most of the characters were elderly and even the sixteen-year-old was played by a man who was twenty-two. No screaming teens here. No hot chicas either, although Patricia Percy is beautiful, if you’re a man that doesn’t need big boobs like I do.
The director shoots the scenes comfortably and it’s bizarre that he only had one more directorial credit inside him following this release. There’s some really neat cinematography and THWDL certainly looks well financed. Also worth mentioning are some fabulous performances throughout the cast including Joseph Cotton as the cripple. Patricia Percy from Squirm was fine as the protagonist nurse. She’s not a bad actress, but her performance was kind of like a zombie and she doesn’t boast a strong presence on the screen. I was impressed with her physicality in the last couple of scenes and she never came across as unconvincing in a dramatic sense. I prefer actors that dominate the visuals, which she never achieved, often being outshone by others.
As I said, The house where death lives is definitely a slasher movie, but it’s atypical of the rest of its brothers and sisters released around the same time. It is extremely snail paced and some may find It a battle to stay engaged and focused. It takes a while for the killings to start, but they’re quite aggressive when they happen and the killer utilises a table-leg as his tool for slaughter. I’m not really sure if I can recommend THWDL, because it is lento (slow) in a major way. If you’re looking for a mystery though, you’d find a lot worse on the shelves and 8 is not a small body count. One problem I had with the film is that the busty beauty on the cover doesn’t appear in the movie even once! She was better looking than every other girl throughout the runtime kurwa! A well made psychodrama that is also a slasher, but a bloodless and not a fun-party one
Bikini Spring Break Massacre 2008
aka Girls Gone Dead
Directed by: Michael Hoffman Jr, Aaron T Wells
Starring: Katie Peterson, Shea Stewart, Brandy Whitford
Review by Luisjo González
I often wonder if exploitation cinema may be reaching its date of expiration. For decades, a host of low-budget titles would provide horror, shocks, nudity and gore that would fulfil both morbid curiosities and rebellious desires. Having grown up during the tail-end of the exploitation boom, I experienced first hand the excitement of hunting out hand-drawn VHS covers and guessing what forbidden treasures might be included within. Nowadays of course, the most explicit content imaginable can be found quite easily with a Google search, which is why I wonder whether the market might be drying up for the exploitation genre.
Released in 2012, Girls Gone Dead was marketed as a T&A slasher; – a style that we saw in abundance during the noughties. Generally, T&A slashers lack technical quality in their attempts at delivering terror, so they up the ante with nudity and silicone enhanced ‘babes’. Good examples of the phenomenon are, Strip Club Slasher, Porn Shoot Massacre, Blood and Sex Nightmare, Fatal Delusion, Sandy Hook Lingerie Party Massacre, Fatal Pulse and Massacre at Rocky Ridge. As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, I can’t help but assume that the growth of free-access online porn has stolen a percentage of the audience for titles that sell themselves on having a couple of extra nudity shots.
A group of girlfriends head off to the remote mansion of one of the troupe’s fathers for a weekend of crazy partying. Missy, the daughter of an over-zealous church member, promises that she will let her hair down and finally break the shackles that have been imposed on her by her incredibly strict mother. Excitement leads to disappointment when they learn that their ‘house of fun’ is actually located in a retirement community. The bad news gets worse when a hulking masked killer turns up with a large axe…
Whilst T&A slashers are my least favourite sub-category of our favourite sub-genre, I will never complete my mission of reviewing the entire pool of these flicks if I don’t go against my preferences from time to time. I’m reminded of something a girl I met in Kraków once told me, “Be more intelligent than the rest, without making it obvious”. Another suitable quote might be, “The smartest disguise is that of the clueless clown”. I mention these because, GGD is an interesting addition to the slasher collection and it’s one that may have a hidden layer.
I watched it straight after Most Likely To Die and whilst they are both modern slasher movies with slick productions, they are totally different beasts cinematically. MLTD spent a while expanding the complex identities of its unique personalities, whilst GGD rolls out the clichés without a second look. Directors Michael Hoffman and Aaron T. Wells have a ball with their cast of attractive bunnies and said bunnies carry the lengthy exposition parts comfortably. At 102 minutes, I was expecting the momentum to stagnate whilst watching the girls getting drunk and pulling off the predicted shenanigans, but the script has enough wit and endeavour to keep things moving. There’s a sub-plot about an adult porno/big-brother type website, which I initially thought was an unnecessary diversion. It leads to a house party sequence that includes a humorous (if misplaced) cameo from Ron Jeremy, tonnes of bikini-clad bimbos and an abusive wannabe Hugh Hefner with a face that you’d love to punch. With a crowbar. Thankfully, the killer turns up and puts an abrupt end to the decadence with his trusty hatchet. Due to the cameras that were capturing the boogieing hotties, some footage of the murders is posted online and we get to see our key players watch it, in jest, a short while later. The irony didn’t escape me that they were mocking the earlier massacre, whilst blissfully unaware that they’re next on the maniac’s list.
Eventually the killer turns up to take care of Missy and her pals, and begins picking them off one by one as they wander off to get up to mischief. Hoffman and Wells go all guns blazing and deliver some brutal murders and gratuitous gore. We get an antagonist dressed in a robe and cherub mask (nod to Valentine?) and there’s a few interesting set-ups, including the death of a valiant chica that I really felt deserved to escape the maniac’s clutches. It’s fair to say that 90% of the runtime sustains an ‘entertaining’ (but non threatening) tone, although the final twenty-minutes did deliver some really neat tension and a couple of scares. I mentioned earlier that these types of pictures are generally pretty shabby from a technical perspective, but that’s not the case with this one and the directors pull off some interesting stuff. Some other reviews that I have read criticised the mystery saying that it was too easy to guess who it was under the mask. In honesty though, I didn’t notice it to be worse (or better) than any other slasher/whodunit I’ve seen of late. One thing I will say is that I often complain about unlikeable characters in modern entries, but GGD managed to even make me root for the spoiled brat. That’s a real achievement.
Going back to the comparison with Most Likely to Die, for the best part of GGD, I was thinking that it lacked the intelligence in scripting and preferred ticking boxes over attempting MLTD’s more ambitious style of storytelling. Later though, I noticed the aforementioned ‘hidden layer’ and that GGD possibly included a subtle comment on modern voyeurism and the easy access to society’s ills via social media, which in effect makes them dangerously acceptable. Perhaps there was also a nod to parental relations and how there comes a time when padres need to accept generational differences. I also noticed a view on religious fanaticism and how certain ideologies have become outdated with the technologies and desires of modern society. Then again, maybe it’s just a silly slasher and I was overreaching when i noticed those depths…?
What I can be sure of is that Girl’s Gone Dead is an entertaining and fun entry that is as close as it gets to an eighties cheese flick without being an eighties cheese flick. It’s overlong; for sure. Actually, if they removed all the cuts away to Ron Jeremy and his chums, the film would work a damn site better. Still, I managed to remain hooked and I couldn’t ask for more than that. In reference to my comment on the fading appeal of exploitation pictures, it’s fair to say, if they’re this fun, there’s still a market for them. Oh and one last thing, I’ve proved many times on a SLASH above that the IMDB is an awful guide to slasher movies. Well this one has a rating of 3.5 on there! Stop the world, I want to get off…
School’s Out 1999
aka Schrei Denn Ich Werde Dich Toten
Directed by: Robert Sigl
Starring: Katharina Wackernagel, Niels-Bruno Schmidt, Nils Nelleßen
Review by Luis Joaquín González
In my review of Amerikill, I made an unforgivable error. I said that it was strange that there are so many killer clowns and hardly any psycho jesters in the slasher genre. Slaughter High got a well-deserved mention, but I failed to acknowledge School’s Out, which includes arguably the most slasheristic jester disguise of them all. I hope that you find it in your hearts to forgive me…?
I picked this one up back in the early 2000s on an Amazon multi-buy with Party Crasher, The Catcher and Carnage Road. There’s another German slasher called School’s Out Forever that I will likely review soon, but to the best of my knowledge, it has nothing else in common with this. Whilst researching, I found out that this was originally a TV production, which I’d never have guessed, because aside from a lack of gore, it looks plush enough to have been a cinematic release. I’m quite surprised by its lack of popularity amongst slasher completists and that it has picked up only a few mixed reviews. With this in mind, I thought it was about time that I set the record straight with a gloves-off autopsy here on a SLASH above…
We begin with a young girl heading along a dark road and listening to music, which immediately brought to mind the opening of Urban Legend. She even comes across a creepy looking stranger whose car has broken down just to confirm the homage. Jessica slows down to offer assistance to the incapacitated driver, but comes to her senses and speeds off when he tries opening her door. As she heads along the road, her cellular phone rings and the voice quickly identifies himself as the man she just left in a layby. He admits that he has her number because it’s painted on the side (she’s driving her father’s taxi) and pleads again for a ride into town. The mystery caller gives his best Scream ‘creepy mutter’ impression, but it doesn’t prevent the foolish youngster from turning around and returning to the scene…
Next up we meet a group of students that are going to stay over at their campus to celebrate graduation. Nina has recently broken up with her boyfriend and that’s just one of a number of delicate complexities that surround the relationships of the troupe. As they begin to party through the night, it soon becomes apparent that a maniac that was responsible for a massacre on the site a decade earlier has broken out of a local asylum. Their worst fears are realised when a masked killer begins slicing through the revellers with the same weapon that the escapee used all those years ago – a large pair of scissors…
School’s Out is a film that’s split into three distinct acts and the best way that I can review it for you is by describing how each one delivered varying moods. For the first thirty minutes or so, I was struggling to adapt to the tone, which was mainly due to the most unconvincing dubbing since The Blazing Ninja and some peculiar lines that had been awkwardly translated from the German script. There were a host of conversations that sounded unusual and noticeably peculiar, so I would have preferred to have viewed a subtitled copy. On top of that, the fact that it had started with the aforementioned elements that were clearly lifted from Urban Legend and Scream meant that my initial impression was that this was an extremely poor European rendition of its American brethren. We were given a few scenarios that attempted to bring the key players to life, but the staggered flow of the klutzy dialogue meant that I couldn’t buy into what I was seeing. With so little to keep me engaged, I began to fidget and lose interest whilst waiting for the action to commence.
When the killer gets to work though, the pace begins to tighten, which is mainly due to a couple of splendid decisions from director, Robert Sigl. Never has the inside of a school looked so gothic and he traps his characters amongst terrific backdrops, including an ominous spiral staircase and a room that’s filled with mannequins and tarpaulin maps. Without any gore, the crew rely on sharp editing and frantic movement to bring the kill scenes to life and there’s a tense moment when a fleeing bunny tries to grab the assailant’s weapon whilst he’s temporarily immobilised. Another notable sequence sees a victim slaughtered whilst her friend looks on through an air vent and there’s a fairly tight mystery that will keep you unsure of your choice of cast member that’s under the mask. I mentioned above that this is the most ‘slasheristic’ jester guise of those I’ve featured on a SLASH above and with a red mask and period costume it’s hard to disagree with that statement. Sadly, I also think it’s the weakest of the three; – because the plastic look of the visor is at odds with the rest of the attire. Amerikill and Slaughter High did it better for me.
The third and final part of School’s Out is my favourite and its authenticity allows the film to overcome allegations of being a complete Scream clone. Our heroine Nina and one of her friends survive the school massacre but they do not believe that the Police have pinned it on the correct suspect. We get some effective dialogue scenes that open-up new layers to the puzzle and they all lead to a final confrontation back on the campus that’s staged well enough to build drama. It’s unusual for a slasher to go for an aftermath plot-branch and I liked the way that the script didn’t push itself into corners or run up blind alleys. Nina makes for a subtlety appealing heroine, if again, let down by the scripting; whilst the motive, when revealed, is totally ‘out there’ but that’s pretty much par for the course.
Even if it may be a bit long-winded in places, School’s Out is a satisfying slasher film that has some slick embellishments. If I could track down a subtitled copy, I’d give it an extra half-star, but as it is, it’s still worth the effort of checking out. It was followed by an equally enjoyable sequel that has, strangely, become almost impossible to track down. On another note,I just noticed I’ve posted this on the weekend after Brexit. As a Spanish/Irishman that lives in the UK, perhaps reviewing a German slasher could be considered a political statement of kind…? Then again, perhaps not…
Most Likely to Die 2015
Directed by: Anthony DiBlasi
Starring: Heather Morris, Jason Tobias, Tatum Miranda
Review by Luis Joaquín González
For me, the biggest mystery surrounding the slasher genre is how such a basic and straight forward formula has resulted in so few genuinely credible motion pictures. Of the 800 or so entries that have been produced, you can count the truly outstanding ones on your fingers. For movie watchers that aren’t slasherholics, there seems to be a thin middle ground and these flicks are either superb or trash-can worthy. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons why the category hosts so few exquisite inclusions, but I think a big part of it is that filmmakers often try to expand on the traditional template when there’s really no need to.
Most Likely to Die is refreshing because it’s a big(ger) budgeted effort that proves that you can still make a sharp and thoroughly entertaining movie by sticking to the guidelines. Instead of flamboyant recalibration of the nuts and bolts, Anthony DiBlasi has decided to polish the old ones and paint them in chrome – and it works
A group of youngsters arrange a get-together at the remote mansion of one of their friends to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their graduation. As they begin to arrive, they notice that Ray – the house owner and a professional hockey player – is mysteriously absent. Still, they begin to catch-up on their achievements and celebrate their reunion. Little do they know that a brutal masked killer is watching them and before long they’re fighting for their lives…
When I first learned that DiBlasi was making a slasher movie I was extremely keen to see the net result because he’s a director that I have a lot of respect for. His previous features have shown a unique flair for mixing horror with strongly developed characters and I wondered how he’d get on with the more basic trappings of a stalk and slash flick. If there were any lingering doubts about his potential as a competent up and comer, he washes them away with MLTD, by staying true to the category’s principles without betraying his own vision. The film offers a wealth of intriguing set-ups that allow its players to transcend the usual stereotypes and this is most-evident in the choice of final girl; – a professional poker player with a self-destructive lack of trust. At first I wrote a note that the friendships looked unconvincing, but as the film progresses, we are given more insight on the complex relationships that exist between the former classmates and why some of them may have the motive to kill. Whilst I wouldn’t say that the mystery is outstanding or that the conclusion was a shock (it is in fact fairly underwhelming), it does add an extra layer to the tension of the marauding killer.
DiBlasi is wise to pay tribute to the slashers of old without making it obvious that he’s doing so. The film can be described as a mix of Terror Train, Pranks and Slaughter High, but it doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that it’s been filmed in 2015. We get a host of gimmicks that we’ll recognise from the classics including the killer putting a red X over the yearbook pictures of his victims and a subtle sub-plot of a prank that backfired. In time-honoured tradition, the opening scene includes a chase sequence and a (surprisingly) bloodless slaughter, but we don’t get to witness the antagonist for quite a while after. The in-between parts are spent unraveling the personalities of the school friends and there’s some interesting tweaks that bring them to life. What I liked about MLTD is that it breaks away from the ‘one by one they wander off to die’ chestnut, because the entire group are made aware fairly early that there’s an uninvited guest on site. This means that the script needs to be more creative in the way it strands its victims and puts them at the peril of their pursuer.
Our antagonist has a unique guise and he strikes with a ferocious brutality. There’s a really well set-up scene in an alleyway that provides suspense as the maniacal menace closes in on a trapped victim, smashing lightbulbs along the way, like we saw in both My Bloody Valentine and Terror Train. It would be an extreme exaggeration to call this a gore film, but there are some gruesome moments and an audacious kill with a hockey stick that’ll satisfy blood hounds. DiBlasi directs with confidence and draws pitch-perfect performances from an inexperienced cast. His choice of lighting for the second half of the picture is perfect and he delivers a vibrant combination of audio that hits more often than misses. Using the English National anthem for a kill scene was a masterstroke that I’m surprised didn’t come with an explanation of kind.
The lengthy attempts at dramatising the key players may be off-putting to those looking for a fast-paced slasher flick. It could also be said that the killings aren’t graphic enough for hardcore hounds, but you’d have to be hyper-critical to truly find much more fault with Most Likely To Die. Here we have a movie from a production team that made the right decisions: don’t waste budget on non-essential ingredients when all you really need is competent actors, a cool killer guise, some blood and a director with the ambition to succeed. Sometimes doing the basics to the best of your ability outshines an overload of creativity. This may not be a genre-defining movie, but it’s a worthy inclusion that should be a lesson to filmmakers looking to continue the legacy.
Bone Cave 2011
Directed by: Matthew Brooks
Starring: Justin Rose, Jeremy Jusek, Andrew Hart
Review by Luis Joaquín González
So here we have yet another extremely rare slasher movie, but it’s one that is refreshingly unique. Even as a fan of the genre, I often get tired of the amount of films that traipse along the standard clichés without even attempting to inject any authenticity. Bone Cave on the other hand is unlike anything that I’ve seen before and despite its limitations, it offers an encouraging slant on the stalk and slash formula.
A pair of college kids hatch a life-changing plan to get rich by robbing a local ecstasy dealer and hosting a rave so that they can sell the tabs that they stole. As the party gets underway, it soon becomes apparent that a caped killer is lurking among the revelers and looking to slaughter the drug-induced teens…
For the first twenty-minutes or so, Bone Cave played like it was little more than a slasher by the numbers. It kicked off with a pair of poorly acted lovers being murdered in a cave by a caped menace with a painted face. There was nothing about the sequence that couldn’t have been copy and pasted from a million other genre entries and when the next cut showed us a couple of kids sitting outside a high-school, I felt like I was watching a lower budget knock-off of President’s Day. However as those same characters began speaking about their ambitious plan to rob a local drug pusher and host an illegal party, I began to realise that Ohio based director Matthew Brooks was on a thoroughly different wave-length.
Whilst there’s no denying that Bone Cave is a slasher movie, it’s one that plays like it’s only half-aware of the trappings, which I mean as a compliment. We get forty-five minutes of plot development from the three main players and perhaps because the dialogue has been written by a youngster (Brooks was in his twenties) it comes across as genuine as to how youngsters speak. It could be said that the pace during these parts isn’t as tight as it should be and a couple of killings might have made the runtime sharper, but Brooks’ flair for witty lines and realistic scenarios kept things afloat. If you’ve been a long-term reader of a SLASH above, you’ll know my thoughts on the challenges of mixing slapstick and terror into a palatable cocktail. There are many entries that have tried this formula (Easter Sunday/Slaughter Studios) and the majority of them are disjointed and shabby. It would be unfair to call Bone Cave a slasher/comedy, but the script delivers a nice blend of humor (from the dialogue) and horror (from the multiple victims). I expected the theft of the ecstasy tablets to be a small background sub-plot, but it is smartly expanded to generate a solid spine. It’s fair to say that there are no real surprises in later revelations and the killer’s identity is easy to guess, but most of the ideas here are novel and smartly delivered.
The second half of the film takes place inside the cave of the title, which was the location chosen to host the rave. The exteriors were filmed locally and are impressively conveyed considering the lack of experience and I can only guess that a hall was used for the other parts, but credut to the set designer(s) that worked hard to make it look as realistic as possible. Early on, I was a little worried that the lighting would be a problem, because we have about ten-minutes of footage that is illuminated by a couple of torches, but this soon improves and the crew did a good job technically. I also thought it was original the way that the killings were staged. Initially we get a torture porn-esque kidnap of a young girl that gets acid thrown in her face, but then the maniac goes on a rampage and runs into the middle of the party-goers with his custom blade and begins slashing… Cue pandemonium! We do get some blood splashing and a couple of gooey moments, but Bone Cave is fairly light on the gore score. It draws to a conclusion with the three main characters trapped with the maniac and they must overpower him in order to flee the carnage. If I were to be really harsh, I could say that the film might’ve worked better with a meaner spirit and I also didn’t think that the killer’s dialogue (he’s a real chatterbox) was effective. Still, earlier on I mentioned President’s Day and whilst the pair have very little in common, they share an alluring vibe that’s impossible to brush off.
All in all I enjoyed Bone Cave. It’s certainly full of innovation and a handful of smart accomplishments. The pace does stagnate a bit during the first half and some of the effects are visibly cheap (the grenade explosions are PSone-esque!!), but I guess that they made the most of an extremely tight budget. Matthew Brooks is certainly a talented filmmaker and his inclusion to the genre is worth a look.
Paranormal Xperience 3D 2011
Directed by: Sergi Vizcaino
Starring: Amaia Salamanca, Alba Ribas, Miguel Ángel Jenner
Review by Luis Joaquín González
Like most slasher fans, I’d be a liar if I said that I hadn’t considered making my own entry to the sub-genre. On the drive from Aracena, my family’s pueblo, to Huelva, there’s an old quarry that is one of the most historical sites in Southern Andalucía. Nowadays, Parque Minero Riotinto has a museum that displays artifacts from its 3,000 years as Europe’s biggest mine. The story began with the Phoenicians hunting for copper, and as the tides of time swept over the Iberian peninsular, the Romans took over when they discovered large stashes of silver. In the late nineteenth century, an entrepreneur from London purchased the site and it became one of the first British settlements in Spain. Even if the visitors loved the hot weather and spacious deserts, they missed a few of their own novel customs and decided to introduce them to their gracious hosts. Before long, a Golf course was opened and a soccer team by the name of, Recreativo de Huelva. None of those early settlers could have predicted that they had laid the foundations for the creation of the league that would give us the largest match in the world, ‘El Clásico’ between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
With its dilapidated tunnels and isolated landscape, I often felt that the Riotinto mine would be the perfect location to shoot a slasher movie. A lack of time and funds however meant that I never took my daydreams further than the initial stage. When I learned about the production of XP3D, I hoped that the crew would make the most of the concept and I can’t deny a slight satisfaction in thinking that an idea of mine was actually being developed for the big screen. Albeit, by someone else and without my involvement :((
A group of medical students are given the task of hunting out any truth to the rumours that surround an abandoned mine. Years earlier, a professor ruthlessly butchered some locals, but his corpse was never discovered and legend dictates that he still roams the grounds. Due to a lack of transport, Ángela invites her younger sister, Diana, who owns a van to join them on their expedition. Their relationship broke down after their father committed suicide and since then, they have never seen eye to eye. Almost as soon as the group arrive, they sense an ominous presence and are left having to fight to survive…
I’m from Andalucía and the fact that so much of Spain’s globally recognised culture comes from my community (Siesta, Toros, Flamenco, Tapas etc) makes me extremely proud. Even Cristóbal Colón set sale on his groundbreaking journey of discovery from the ports of Huelva. When it comes to slashers though, I have to take my hat off to Cataluña, because their track record of Los Inocentes and Los Ojos de Julia speaks for itself. XP3D is another Catalan entry and I was keen to see if it could be the Luis Suarez to sit alongside Messi and Neymar in their slasheristic attack.
On a relatively light budget of €3,200,000, the film looks as good as any of the entries that have thrown untold-millions behind their developments. Shooting in contained underground environments is always a recipe for a bad lighting rig, but Rosa Ros’ sets are extensive in their detail and perfectly displayed. Whilst It takes around forty minutes for our first killing, Paranormal Xperience sustains interest due to an exquisitely mastered intro, which I won’t spoil for you. I will say though that it is a masterclass of tension in a confined environment. From then on, we spend time with a group of youngsters that may not be extensively developed, but they are at least likeable and given interesting tweaks. It was a risk to fill the cast with actors that hadn’t even really made a mark in TV shows, but the dramatics are surprisingly solid, especially from Maxi Iglesias and Amaia Salamanca as our beautiful heroine. Although they prove that they weren’t only cast for their physical appearance, the camera does linger longingly on Úrsula Corberó’s rear-end almost as many times as it does her face. I guess though, a culo like hers deserves to be appreciated 😉
Director Sergi Vizcaino shoots the action with a visible gloss and it gives the film an adroit realism. I recall the advertising campaign, which created the impression that we were in for an out and out gore extravaganza. We do get an extremely gruesome CGI head-rip and a wince worthy moment where a rock hammer is removed from a victim’s eye socket (nasty), but not everything was shown on-screen. I did like the look of the antagonist, who sports a ‘Phantom of the Opera’ style half-mask, but his taunts are neither threatening nor witty, which leaves them lingering without substance.
Even if Spanish cinema is renowned for its unique character driven narratives, I’m the first to confess that we do often make films that are inspired by Hollywood trends and conventions. Following the success of Saw and My Bloody Valentine in 3D, XP attempts to follow In their footsteps with the same visual gimmick. In doing so, I feel that the film sacrificed some of its potential. It’s almost as if they were halfway through writing the script when a producer came up with the idea of 3D and then everything else fell by the wayside. All the realistic dialogue and depth that had been visible from the launch suddenly evaporates and it felt like someone gave acupuncture to the second-half of the screenplay. The characters clearly have mobile phones (I won’t mention the most obvious Sony product placement ever) and use them to contact each other whilst at the mine. When the killings finally start, not one of the panicking victims even mentions calling for assistance, which looked like a bizarre thing for the author to overlook. (?) In fairness, the invention of cellular technology was the biggest challenge that the slasher genre’s basic structure has ever faced. It can be overcome though with a simple line of goofy but expository dialogue like, ‘My battery’s dead’ or, ‘I have no signal’ (I mean, they were in an underground mine). Штольня even went as far as to give us a scene that explained the lack of a call for help; – and whilst that’s not always necessary, anything looks better than absolutely nada.
Another issue is that the film overestimates the intelligence of its gimmick. I won’t tell you how so as not to ruin any potential surprise, but it reminded me of an excited present bearer that wants to tell you what your gift is before you shake the box or rip the wrapping paper. There’s nothing wrong with a twist, because many slasher movies are built upon them, but it was easy to predict the outcome here. It could also be said that the storyline doesn’t really know what it wants to be. We launch along a pathway that makes us believe that we’re watching a film about a haunting, which makes sense considering the ‘paranormal’ title. Then the masked killer turns up and we slot into the traditional template without a second look. I mean, they do mention a supernatural-ish aspect later, but it felt like it’d been bolted on at the last minute when someone on set said to the screenwriter, “Yo dude, what about the ghostly stuff?”. The response was probably something along the lines of, “Oh yeah… Damn it, I forgot about that…” I don’t know; it just looks like the script was completed in a week and based on a combination of ideas that were cobbled together in haste. If you compare XP with Los Inocentes, it’s easy to see that one had a logical plan THAT WORKED and the other plays like a skateboard rolling down a pebbled hill.
It’s a strange analogy, but you can’t prepare a good curry by simply throwing in more spice. It’s about the finer details; the timing, the seasonings, the blend of the right herbs. XP borders on being an exquisite main course, but the fact that it throws too much into the Tandoori oven, leaves it a bit too overdone to be truly succulent. Not even a helping of gore-soaked poppadoms could perfect the taste. So with that I’m off to the kitchen…
aka The Pit
Directed by: Lubomyr Levytskyi
Starring: Svitlana Artamonova, Mykola Kartzev, Olga Storozhuk
Review by Luis Joaquín González
The fact that my kids are half Polish and I speak the language fluently means I feel like an honouree Pole of sorts. Due to this I always wanted to review a category addition from that country, but despite the fact that horror is extremely popular in PL, they haven’t yet given us a true slasher flick. I had high hopes when I learned about the production of 2008’s Pora Mroku, because it had been listed in the media as a similar concept to Wes Craven’s Scream. The net result though turned out to be more of a Hostel clone, so we are still waiting for an entry from the land of żubrówka. Some may cite Fantom Killer as a Polish slasher, but it was actually filmed in East London and Roman Nowicki is an alias for British filmmaker, Trevor Barley.
The reason I tell you this is because I was excited about seeing this offering from Ukraine, which neighbours Poland along the Eastern border. Ukrainian as a language utilises the same Cyrillic alphabet as Russian, but a lot of words are far more similar to Polish (Jak instead of Kak, Tak instead of Da etc)). I speak Russian, Polish and I’m learning Bulgarian, which means I had no problem at all in understanding the dialogue spoken throughout this movie.
A group of students head off to explore an underground chamber where it’s rumoured that an ancient Pagan cult had hidden valuable artefacts. They are accompanied by their college professor and soon discover a locked entrance to a tunnel that leads to the darkness below. When they wake up the next morning, the professor has disappeared and the gate has been mysteriously opened. They venture inside to hunt for their colleague and some treasure, but eventually discover more than they bargained for.
Much as with the case of the aforementioned Pora Mroku, there are various different synopsises that can be discovered online for Штольня. If you were left wondering if this actually is a slasher movie, you’ll be happy to learn that it certainly is, right down to a hooded menace bumping off students one by one. It’s surprising how much the film plays true to the genre’s trappings, especially in the cliched personalities of its personnel. We get the stereotypical jocks, cute heroine and geeky hero and there’s even the chance to guess if the maniac is someone we’ve already met. Debutant Lubomer Levytski draws solid performances from his actors and Olga Storozhuk is brilliant as the beautiful heroine. Eastern European women are amongst the most gorgeous in the world and the director certainly makes the most of this fact by casting a few staggeringly hot chicas. I was disappointed that other titles from Slavic countries, like Slovenia’s Masaker, were so weak on the eye-candy factor. Luckily, Trackman – a film arguably inspired by this – brought back some credibility.
We get a couple of fantastic set-pieces that really underline the abandonment of the victims. The most memorable is when they discover a ventilation pipe that leads outside and begin screaming for help in the hope that someone will hear them. We are shown a worker that is a few yards away and would immediately be able to assist if it weren’t for the fact he was wearing sound-mufflers to protect from the roar of his chainsaw and generator (!). Perhaps what makes the scene all the more hard hitting is that he turns off his devices and removes the earplugs at the exact same time that the troupe take a break from shouting. Just as he puts them back in, their cries begin again….only more frantically!. Don’t you just hate days like that?!? There’s also a very effective jump scare that hits us as the kids are driving to the excavation site. It shows impeccable timing from Levytski.
With the underground backdrop, flashlights and dark tunnels, it’s impossible not to think of My Bloody Valentine when analysing this entry. The difference is, George Mihalka’s classic boasted a hulking antagonist that was regularly on screen and shown to be stalking his intended prey. Maybe it was an attempt to add an extra layer of mystery to Штольня’s premise, but the killer is barely seen up until the climax. I don’t even recall a chase sequence that attempted to deliver suspense. I’ve always believed that it’s much harder to direct a horror movie than it is any other genre and whilst Levytski does well with many of the core principles of filmmaking, he fails to capture the tone of dread that this feature needed. With so much at his disposal in terms of a great location and a convincing set-up, it’s a shame that the flick didn’t deliver much tension or terror. We cared about the characters and wanted them to prevail, but we never faced a genuine aura of trepidation. I sat watching in the hope that a dark cloud would engulf the purity of the runtime, but the threat wasn’t really visible to us. Looking back at Halloween, we had the eerie scoring and ‘the shape’ lurking in the background of many shots. Here I couldn’t shake the feeling that the characters had to tell us that they were scared because there was no visual antagonist to impose fear upon us. It’s also worth noting how little the flick offers in terms of cultural recognition. The cast and language are Ukrainian, but aside from that this could just be a dubbed copy of a US film. I was hoping to see some expository dialogue whilst they ate Pelmeni or prepared Borsch, but unfortunately there was nothing that truly represented the blue and yellow of the former Soviet state.
Штольня is a solid slasher film that would be a great one if it had an atmosphere of doom and a central villain. We needed a lot more stalking and even a few more heavy breath POVs, but instead it was left up to the actors to convey the terror verbally. Of course that doesn’t mean that this is a bad movie, in fact it’s actually pretty good. It’s just a shame how close it came to being outstanding and just missed that certain something.