Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Slasher Tag (AKA How Long Has It Been Since I Last Answered A Tag?)

Slasher review site and Youtube channel The Slasher Spotlight was tagged by another youtuber TheHORRORman to do a "Slasher Tag"not too long ago, answering some pretty basic yet fun questions involving this fair and gruesome horror sub-genre. Seeing it's been a while since I did one of these tags, why the hell not?

Here are the questions:

1. What is your favorite standalone slasher film?

I actually made a list of 101 slasher titles that I considered the best (plus a few honorable mentions) and at least half of those are standalones. So instead of recycling my answers from that list, here are some other standalones that are bonafide personal faves (Read. Some!) :

Bodom (or Lake Bodom) (2016) - Four modern Finnish teens visit the location of a real life grisly multiple murders from the 60s, only to realize that there's a killer stalking them in the woods. Best described as being one part crime thriller and one part backwoods slasher, with some clever twists here and there.

Los Inocentes (2013)- A fast-paced, oddly edited yet stylishly slick back-to-basic slasher movie from Spain about teens being killed off one-by-one inside an abandoned building. Loving this one for the creative murders and just for the straightforwardness of what it is trying to be!

Girlhouse (2014)- One of the best modern slashers to be released in the 2010s, mixing old school slasher mayhem with a fairly decent teen drama, sleaze and modern tech. A bit of a boiler as it completely embraces its bodycounting nature right about the half mark or so, but oh so worth the wait.

Scare Campaign (2016) - Think April Fools Day (1986) in Australia, with more than one twist and with actual (on-screen) murders, packed with hardcore looking villains and some of the sickest weaponized cameras this side of horror!

The Final Girls (2014)- I love horror movies with a message and this one just tugged the right heart strings to get my attention and become an instant fave among my collection. Cheesy and sappy, but with bloody good murders and a silly looking villain.

Corpse Mania (1981) - A Hong Kong import about a necrophiliac running amok a small village, killing people associated with a brothel possibly out of revenge. Effectively mixes Italian giallo-esque snooping with unnervingly gruesome visuals and bloody murders, which includes disgusting close-ups on maggot-littered bodies and one guy's face being caved in after dropping from a building.

Flashback (2000) - This gooey German stab at an early 2000s teen slasher surprised me with it's neat character building, interesting mystery, blood-soaked kills and one of the best unexpected twists this sub-genre has to offer! One of the few titles that really took some work to finally get to but it was so worth it in the end!

2. What is your favorite slasher mask/look?

I'm a big fan of killer clowns, though I have a tendency to be a tad "picky" on my killer harlequin looks. For far the best killer minstrels I've seen are the trio from Clownhouse (1989), Stitches from, well, Stitches (2009) and Art from the Terrifier franchise.

Then there are the realistic animal masks/costumes. You're Next (2011), Stagefright (1987) and The Director's Cut (2006) pulled this off the best in my opinion.

3. What is your favorite slasher movie kill?

Oh God, where do I begin? Most of my most favorite kills are by Jason Voorhees, including a head-stander's bisection at Friday the 13th Part 3-D, the face imprint at Jason Lives, the ole "Faceless Sally" kill at Jason X, and the "Bed Bender" at Freddy VS Jason.

Others include the "Saturday Morning Shootout" from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), the "Sewage Pit" from Slaughter High (1986), the "Bloody Bed Wetting" from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), the "Dildo Deep Throat" from Girlhouse (2014), and "Biker Meat Slab" from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2005). I know there are more but this'll be one long tag if I went on...

4. What is your favorite slasher film setting?

Apart from the classic backwoods, I always find the idea of a having a slasher in a mall quite fun, which is a shame that the only good title that ever utilized this setting is Chopping Mall (1986).

5. Who is your favorite final girl in a slasher movie?

Katrina Bowden  as Allison from Tucker and Dale VS Evil (2010). Not only was she smoking hot, but she's actually quite fun and adorable as she hangs around with our two equally lovable bumpkin buddies! Honorable mentions include Jill Schoelen from Popcorn (1991) and Jennifer Rubin from Bad Dreams (1988) for her interesting backdrop.

6. What, in your opinion, is the most overrated slasher film?

Hands down Halloween H20 (1999). I dunno why people keep clamoring over that boring talk-a-thon. The murders aren't even that good. Well, save for the opening, one of the only two good things to come out of this movie. (The others is the fact someone was smart enough to kill Micheal with an axe. I mean seriously, Mickey's blessed with high durability, not immortality! Stop with the wimpy guns and decapitate the wanker!) Thank goodness Halloween Resurrection saved the day...

7. What, in your opinion, is an underrated slasher film?

Welp, I do happen to like a lot of slashers not a lot seems to care about (e.g. Redeemer: Son of Satan (1979) and the aforementioned Halloween Ressurection), but a few titles that I really think should be shared and appreciated more often would be Skinner (1993), Wrestlemaniac (2006), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), Midnight Ride (1990) and A Knife for the Ladies (1974).

8. What is your favorite gratuitous scene in a slasher movie?

Remember that very graphic sex scene from Jason Goes To Hell that's a tad longer and messier in the uncut version? My hormones went up back at grade school thanks to that scene!

And there you have it! What are your fave standalone slashers? Or those you think should get some more exposure among the horror community? Fave Kills, get-ups, and settings? Fell free to steal this tag and tell us your opinions! Until then, keep those machetes sharp and stay safe!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Okay, seriously...

What the hell happened to Gordon The Dog at Friday the 13: The Final Chapter (1984)? Was it doggie suicide or was he Jasoned? So many possibilities, so little concrete explanation...

Anywho, Happy Friday The 13th, Everybody!
Keep those machetes sharp!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bunk of Horror: Freak Out (2015)

Freak Out (Mesuvag Harig) (Israel, 2015)
Rating: ***
Starring: Assaf Ben-Shimon, Eran Peretz, Itay Zvolon, Kye Korabelnikov, Ofer Ruthenberg

Behind the honor and glory, one can agree that war is a horrible thing especially if you're not mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for it, just like our protagonist Matan.

An office-based Israeli Defence Force soldier, as well as a nerd by all definition possible, Matan's lack of experience in combat made him an easy picking for the three combat soldiers he'll be working with for a week patrolling a remote base in Givat Kfir, the North of Israel. Surviving the pranks and humiliation, though, is only the beginning of Matan's troubles however when during one night he is left alone to do watchtower duty, he discovers that he is far from alone.

Taking cues from movies like Carrie (1976) and Evilspeak (1981), Freak Out sets itself as a slowburn horror flick taking its sweet time building the situation and the characters within them, particularly the protagonist, before the laying waste on them in your typical bodycounting fashion. Albeit this plot is nothing new, the direction for this is surprisingly decent as our lead, despite being overall pathetic with him constantly phoning and texting his mother, still manages to be empathetic as we can clearly see he’s barely qualified to be out in the open where, knowing Israel’s case with its Muslim neighbors, danger can be literally six feet away with a knife ready to jab and the fact that almost everyone around him wants to torment the guy in one way to another simply paints the picture that Matan finds himself standing underneath the Sword of Damocles which, by the third act, eventually drops not only on him, but on everybody else.

With this, Freak Out (2015) has that sense of looming dread that you know will escalate sooner or later, which apparently became the case once Matan gets left alone to overlook the base while the soldiers and their leader goes for a night out at a nearby town. Forced in a situation that includes a skinned dog and a gang of masked intruders, it's mostly fair thrills and scares for our reluctant hero as he gets stalked and chased around the base by possible Arabs, but a little twist in this predicament leads the movie to a more familiar hack-and-stab finale that wonderfully takes advantage of both the claustrophobic and isolated settings the story has, but a bit rushed and predictable seeing how little running time was left at that point and how one scene kinda made it obvious that one of them may be not all there on the top. For it's worth, at least the murders are satisfyingly bloody, though I am a bit disappointed that the most gruesome kill happens to be a flayed dog.

The cultural backdrop is also a commendable pro as it gave a neat take on a would-be standardized story, something that I could always appreciate from foreign slashers. Though the plot leans a bit on the foreseeable and the gunky grue is nearly absent, Freak Out's high quality performances from its small cast, gripping pacing and workable execution still makes it a thoroughly watchable and fun movie from our friends at Israel, and it doesn't look half bad with its production value. With this, I say give this movie a go should you ever get a chance to see it, don't expect too much of a masterpiece and you'll do just fine!

1 dog slaughtered offcamera
1 male strangled to death with a belt
1 male hacked to death with an axe
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male knifed to death
Total: 5

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Messed-Up Messiah: Brutal Jesus And The House of Wasted Youth (2010)

Brutal Jesus And The House of Wasted Youth (United Kingdom, 2010)
Rating: **
Starring: Nick Box, Ben Brett, Alex Dawson

The son of the Christian God as a slasher villain?! Dare I say blasphemy?!

Well, I could but seeing I run a blog that's more or less dedicated in finding entertainment from onscreen violence, I don't think I warrant enough rights to play the holier than thou card. Besides, I pretty much given up on organized religion at this point of my life (Though still believing in a god. Or gods.) and there are far worse things one can depict the Messiah as.
For example, this bunny-faced freak from the Easter segment of
Holidays (2016). Seriously, what the hell happened in that short?
In Brutal Jesus, however, I do wish the title had some shred of truth to it. The film starts with someone resembling Christ walking down a sunny street and enter a house owned by a group of drugged up and/or drunk teenagers, the titular Wasted Youth. Being so out of their minds from all the substance abuse, they pay little to no attention to their awfully quiet and stoic guest, believing the man in white cloak is just another door-to-door Jesus freak. After further passing the time getting shit-faced, the teens soon learn that our Christ figure has a bone to pick with them for something they did not too long ago and he ain't there to preach. Rather, he's out for their blood.

That is, though, if blood will ever be shed. For a semi-feature that calls itself Brutal Jesus And The House of Wasted Youths, there's not a lot of brutality as our titular Jesus barely uttered a word that one may count as brutal, and the murders are relatively tame (varying forms of suffocation) which doesn't exactly associate well with the adjective. (Then again, your standards for "brutal" may not be the same as mine, dear reader) Furthermore, having our Lord and Savior as a slayer of teens is darkly humorous on its own, but the movie's tediously empty and repetitive stalk-kill-repeat plotting undermines the shlocky fun opportunities its ridiculously offensive content would have suckered us into watching, doing little and roughly coming up nothing less than a cheapie slasher.

With this, I cannot help but sense a wasted opportunity here, that it could have done more than what we currently have right now. Still, I can't totally dismiss this film for these shortcomings as I do get this is a micro-budget production and there's probably not a lot moola to go around to shoot better set-pieces. From what I can get from Brutal Jesus then were, on a level, okay on my book: I like how the movie manages to get the 70s drive-in/grindhouse feel it attempts to recreate and it even gave us a little twist questioning whether the titular Jesus is really the Messiah gone homicidal or not, doubling as a neat reveal as to why he is out to get these youths.

So overall, Brutal Jesus And The House of Wasted Youth is a slightly misleading yet deliriously entertaining quickie that may have done better with some splatter to really shake things up, as well as some editing to shorten some padding issues. What it lacks in bloodletting, it makes up with some dark humor and zero-budget charm that's tailor made to satisfy fans of shlock so it's safe to say this isn't a movie I can easily recommend, but if you're willing to subject yourself to its madness then by all means, may Brutal Jesus be with you!

1 male poisoned with pesticide
1 male smothered with a plastic bag
1 male drowned in a kitchen sink
1 male strangled with a chord
1 female strangled with a belt
1 male dropped from a floor
1 male strangled
1 male smothered with a pillow
1 male strangled with a chord
1 male had his neck snapped
Total: 10

Happy Easter 2018, Everybody!

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Family That Preys Together: The Strangers: Prey At Night (2018)

The Strangers: Prey At Night (2018)
Rating: ***
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Emma Bellomy

It's literally a decade since I first saw The Strangers (2008) and while that movie wasn't a complete crowd pleaser, I take pride on being one of its few sincere fans who appreciates its simplistic plot and practice of creating an intense home invasion horror quickie. Thus, it came with no surprise that I was stoked to find out its sequel was finally happening. Do I dare, question if the ten-year wait was worth it, though?

In this film, a family of four drives up to a trailer park campsite for a much needed bonding time while they wait to enroll their teen rebel daughter for boarding school. What they weren't counting on though is to find their nearby relatives slaughtered and become the next targets of the perpetrators, a trio of masked strangers who takes great pleasure on toying and murdering their victims. 
Pool Time Slaughter!
If the original Strangers felt like a slasher climax stretched to a feature length running time, Prey At Night is simply a backwoods slasher centered on a dysfunctional family and their three masked prowlers. I can't say this is a bad move for Prey At Night since it is still entertaining for what it is, but I cannot help but feel underwhelmed on how generic one of my favorite home invasion films ended up in its own follow-up, ditching silent dread, building suspense and choking uneasiness for a mostly direct prowl-hack-stab action that is so rushed and typical that it lacks other substance aside from being a bodycount fodder for the horror fans.

Prey At Night did try to replicate some of the creepy set-ups and villainous behavior that made the original workable, but the tone of these attempts was lacking, leaning towards uninspired, and I guess it doesn't help too that the victims here made the usual bad decisions your typical horror movie teens are known for, but I will at least commend the four leads- The Ring (2017)’s Martin Henderson as father Mike, Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks as mother Cindy, Bailee Madison as daughter Kinsey and Lewis Pullman as son Luke- on their performances as frightened victims. They have very little to work with apart from being "a family with a rebel daughter" (So not a lot on the character development factor despite talking about financial issues and the old 'friends-over-family' spiel) but once the hack-and-stab got going, they are at least reactive enough to the supposed horrors happening to them and about a half of their characters were given a fighting chance against the killers.
Peek-a-boo! I Kill You!
And speaking of whom, the titular strangers - The Man In The Mask, Pin-Up Girl and Dollface - practically became carbon copies of early days Halloween's Michael Myers or Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees in this movie, minus the horror titans' invincibility and murderous creativity (but not the onscreen bloodletting) which meant the trio are sadly as replaceable as the fact they're now also susceptible to being killed off themselves. I will admit it was a shocker for me seeing my favorite trio of home invaders getting snuffed off (or seemingly so), but with the way they're portrayed here, it almost felt natural, deserving even for some of them to die as they're so far from the effectively methodical creeps I enjoyed the first time around that I can't help but root for what will remain of their targeted family to bash their brains in with a baseball bat for being so reckless now.

Quality-wise, Prey At Night looks slick with it's 80s inspired motifs such as bright neons and bubblegum pop tunes blaring out of the killers' truck, a complete contrast to the original's 70's exploitation-inspired grittiness. Apart from Friday the 13th and Halloween, the film also made a few nods to John Carpenter's killer car sorta-slasher Christine (1983), the 1983 Stephen King adaptation of The Dead Zone, Fulci's Zombie and much to my joy, even the finale of Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Its fast pace can be a saving grace for some, and too some of the jump scares for that popcorn quality "Boo!" moments and its fiery climax that's probably one of its better set-pieces. 
That's not how keys work, Dollface.
In fact, if one would look past the point that this movie is supposed to be a sequel and just see it as a standalone, it ain't half bad. The Strangers: Prey At Night may not have an effectual set of villains or potent scares, but as long as basic slasher fanfare is concerned, it is a fairly decent streak of mayhem and chaos that one may enjoy more with an incomplex mindset. Not a total lost, just failing to impress.

1 female killed offscreen
1 male killed offscreen, found slaughtered
1 female knifed to death
1 male stabbed with an ice pick
1 female knifed to death
1 male had his throat sliced with a knife
1 female shot dead with a shotgun
1 male bashed on the head with a baseball bat
Total: 8

Friday, March 23, 2018

TV Terror: Scream (2015 TV Series)

Scream (2015 series)
Starring: Willa Fitzgerald, John Karna, Carlson Young

In a way, turning the classic teen slasher franchise Scream into a TV teen horror series seems like a fair idea to try, especially since the films themselves have a whodunit flair which can be easily translated into a TV drama albeit a tad less bloodier and possibly less cheesier. The question remains, though: will it have the same feel of the movies? Can it be fun all the while witty?
Yes and, er, no.

Much like the movies, Scream the Series starts with the death of a blonde girl, this one posting a viral video of two other girls making out in a car before finding someone in her home literally giving her a head and the wrong end of a blade. This murder inevitably gets around town by morning and old memories of a local killing spree resurfaced among the older townies, which also sparked the interests of some curious youngsters.

Caught in this web of intrigue is one Emma Duval, the daughter of the local medical examiner and a friend of one of the girls in the viral video. Not long after the killing was made public, she somehow got the attention of who could be the murderer responsible, taunting her as they begin slaying off those associated with her. Could this just be the sick work of a maniac without a pattern, or does Emma have a thing or two connected to the killer?

Standardized in almost every way possible, Scream The TV Series didn't really deviate itself that much as a small screen mystery drama apart from taking some jabs from late 90s/early 2000s teen slashers. For ten episodes, its mystery gets churned and stretched out to as many red herrings as possible in an attempt to build around the mythos of the series' universe (since, despite being called Scream, it has nothing to do with the film series' continuity), as well as develop the characters involved for that classic teen TV drama flavors of bad relationships going bad or better. Often at times it can work in the midst of the growing bodycount as broken friendships mend and family secrets are revealed which sometimes bring forth sympathies to unexpected characters, but it has the tendency to slow and drag things down making the series quite tedious to sit through, especially around the middle episodes when the whole plot suddenly goes dry on the bloodletting and even gave way for some sort of ghost thriller as visions of one of the victims (of an enjoyably brutal murder) suddenly starts making appearances to lead our main character to some clues. (Strangely out of place in what is mostly a realistic slasher series)

All sets itself up straight no soon after in the next few episodes (thank God) as the killcount continues and the plot thickens, but it's mostly everything you've seen in a slasher by then, down kids going down to a lake and a twisty reveal that kinda made sense.With all of this being said, Scream The TV Series could have been better; while the whodunit is good and it did manage to develop its characters, including you normally expect to bite it as a nameless lamb existing only for the kill count, it definitely needed some work with its pacing and balancing out its subplots. Perhaps some additional victims and more creative killings would have also made this series a tad more exciting, but from what we have right now, Scream The TV Series is far from the worst small screen slasher series to exist.

1 male found beheaded (S1, E1)
1 female had her throat cut with a knife (S1, E1)
3 victims mentioned murdered (flashback) (S1, E1)
1 male shot dead (flashback) (S1, E1)
1 female hanged (S1, E2)
1 female gets a throat cut (flashback) (S1, E3)
1 male stabbed on the eye with a branch (flashback) (S1, E3)
1 female repeatedly stabbed with a hunting knife, bled to death (S1, E3)
1 female knifed (dream) (S1, E6)
1 male had his head sliced in half with a mechanical trencher (S1, E7)
1 male mentioned died from a drug overdose, body seen (S1, E8)
1 male seen stabbed to death (S1, E9)
1 male disemboweled from a gut wound (S1, E10)
1 male found with a throat cut (S1, E10)
1 female shot on the head (S1,E10)
Total: 17

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Swede Hunts: Drowning Ghost (2004)

Drowning Ghost (Strandvaskaren) (Sweden, 2004)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Rebecka Hemse, Jesper SalĂ©n, Jenny Ulving

A nearly harmless saunter down familiar paths, Drowning Ghost is as standard as standard can be when it comes to being an early 2000 teen slasher, with the only variety offered is that it takes place in Sweden. And it's in Swedish. (Because it is made in Sweden. You see where I am going with this, right?)

A century ago, a vengeful local farmer murdered three students at the Hellestad boarding school before drowning himself in the nearby lake. Now as the school's legend has it, the farmer's ghost (the titular "drowning ghost" or Strandvaskaren) returns once every year on the day of his death to wander the school's halls and a grim tradition among the students is to have a party at that same day, in the barn where the farmer once lived. Now if that's not troubling enough for you, an intern at the school named Rebecka also took her life a year ago, by jumping off from the school's tower in front of a gathered group of students. 

Forward to the present, Sara is one of the people who witnessed Rebecka's death and is currently researching the history behind the "drowning ghost" for her composition, two things that most likely factor her as our lead girl and will soon be stumbling unto dead friends as a masked killer has started making short rounds hacking people within campus. Could this be the farmer's ghost in the flesh? Or someone who have something to do with the suicidal Rebecka?

Despite the interesting lore behind the school's unusual celebration (which awfully reminds me of Urban Legend (1998)'s Stanley Hall massacre frat party) and the movie's competent looking production value in terms of camera work and score, Drowning Ghost sadly fails to make a mystery anymore exciting than what it already have, missing out on plenty opportunities to build a more complex whodunit out of the two to three overlapping red herrings it features. Its overly simplified direction, numerous plot holes and lack of interesting characters definitely didn't help improve Ghost's recycled collection of 90s teen slasher cliches, though this isn't to say that the movie didn't have its fair share of surprises nor is it completely unwatchable.

For its worth, Drowning Ghost at least has a workable mystery and fine concept for its ghost story backdrop. The casts involved are fine if not a tad too serious with their performance and the featured killer looks alright with their simple sack masked get-up and fairly unexpected reveal. The murders, despite having a decent variety, could have used some more onscreen carnage or at least some blood splatter or two though, but with the aim being more on whodunit thrills, I can understand the tameness.

Far from memorable, Drowning Ghost is simply just okay. Nothing groundbreaking or too offensive in the eyes, it's a foreign teen slasher made for sub-genre completists and/or forgiving horror fans who have the patience to sit through a predictable mystery.

1 female falls to her death
1 male had his head bashed against the wall
1 male stabbed to death
1 male decapitated with a scythe
1 female found with her head impaled unto a coat hook
1 male struck on the face with a garden fork
1 male knifed on the leg, killed with an axe
1 male stabbed on the gut with a pitchfork
1 female killed offscreen
1 male skeleton found
Total: 10