Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Swede Hunts: Drowning Ghost (2004)

Drowning Ghost (Strandvaskaren) (Sweden, 2004)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Rebecka Hemse, Jesper Salén, 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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Lost Gatlin Baby: Children Of The Corn: Runaway (2018)

Children of The Corn: Runaway (2018)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Clu Gulager, Marci Miller, Mary Kathryn Bryant

I'm gonna be brutally honest; after the train wreck that is Genesis, I'm pretty sure the Children of the Corn franchise killed itself for good. And yet, here we are with a new sequel. Hurray?

In all fairness, the premise of Runaway is a lot more interesting than Genesis's feature length sit-and-talk-a-thon. With her friends and family killed under the orders of the malevolent force simply known as He Who Walks Behind The Rows, then-pregnant Ruth grew to hate the murderous child cult she became a part of and burned down the very cornfields their god resides one night before finally escaping the madness.

They're coming to get you, Ruthie~!
After spending 13 years on the road in hopes of leaving her past behind, Ruth and her now teenage son Aaron stops at a small Oklahoma town where it appears they may have a chance of living a normal life. However, with Ruth's trauma eating her up inside and fearing whatever she left back at the burnt cornfields years ago is still after her, a normal life is far from happening and someone -or something- may have finally caught up with her.

Much like Genesis, Runaway has its focus on building psychological scares instead of a kill count, so it's less of a straight cult-themed supernatural slasher and more of a character drama thriller with strong horror undertones. Thankfully, this direction surprisingly works quite well despite the slow-burn pacing and noticeable plot holes, with its rather intriguing portrayal of our titular runaway by actress Marci Miller (who also appeared in the 2015 slasher Most Likely To Die) as an individual attempting normalcy for both herself and her sons' sake but seemingly held back from doing so due to her own possible paranoia and shattered psyche. Her struggles are believably real even if the very cause is too fantastic, making Ruth humanly observable, if not relatable and empathetic at the same time.

One killer kid? Well, so long as she sheds blood right, it's all good.
Any slasher elements left in are reduced to two or three straight murder scenes involving a single killer child, while the rest of the bodycount are either Ruth's hallucinations or visions of things to come. (No straight answers were given) Any trace of the supernatural are also nearly absent, further grounding the story to realism and leading it all to a rather bleak ending that I honestly saw coming but shockingly depressing nonetheless.

Seeing this is directed by John Gulager, who is known for directing shlocky monster movies like Feast (2005) and it's sequels, as well as the dreaded Piranha 3DD (2012), I am quite surprised on how tame and story-centered this is. (I'm saying this in a good way) Given that this approach may not be for everybody, particularly those looking for a killer kid slasher flick (or something littered with blood, boobs and body parts given Gulager's filmography), I will say that Children of the Corn: Runaway is better suited for those with a penchant for the psychological. Perhaps an additional murder or two may have also earned this movie a higher rating from me but for what it is, I say it's a welcome addition to the franchise and an improvement from last Children of the Corn movie.

1 female had her throat slashed with a sickle (flashback)
1 male stabbed with a knife (hallucination)
1 male had his eyes gouged (hallucination)
1 male knifed on the back (hallucination)
1 male had his throat cut with a billhook (hallucination)
1 male brained with a croquet mallet, garroted with a metal noose
1 male repeatedly beaten with a wrench, impaled with a metal pipe
1 female found slaughtered
1 male found brained to death with a wrench
1 elderly female found dead with head wound
A number of children implied burned to death (flashback)
1 female gets a knife through the jaw, knifed to death
Total: 11+

Sunday, March 11, 2018

And They Fear The Hubby: Night-World (1972)

Author: Robert Bloch
Publication Date: 1972
Chapters: 25
Rating: ***

From the very first page, you'll read what describes a brutal murder involving a knife being stabbed to a throat. It's not overly detailed but beautifully described in its simplicity; thus forcing me to head on and read what will be my very first non-franchise slasher novel. (Or my second if one would consider Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None as a slasher novel)

From the author of Psycho, Night-World is best summarized as a proto-slasher in book form, revolving around an asylum break-out wherein one of  the five escapees happens to be very violent, evident from the four murdered staffs they left from the attack. In comes Karen Raymond, who saw the bloody aftermath and is now under the custody of the local police who questions her regarding her husband Bruce, one of the escaped nutcases. When Bruce turns out to be a disturbed Vietnam vet, he, of course, became the investigation's lead suspect, thus putting Karen in a terrifying dilemma and fears what would become of her and her husband should he be proven responsible for the massacre, a crime that's getting harder to disprove when the escapees start getting murdered one by one.

A relatively short affair, Night-World fattens its otherwise swift story with flowery descriptions of its characters' psyches and thoughts, most prominent being the killer's as they share to us what they believe is wrong with the world, and too Karen's whenever she contemplates about how guilty her husband really is. These mind-plays are usually huddled along with the leading investigation towards the killer's possible identity (the records were burnt during the escape) and location, toying around with the reader's expectations though, in occasion, at the cost of hobbling the story down from the overall drama.

Selected chapters were dedicated in building up the murders, some focusing solely on the victim's backstory first (if not providing witty observations of contemporary 70s culture on the side) before ending it with their demise. Details surrounding these deaths are usually written in simplicity and lacking much ferocity and bloodshed one may expect from a slasher fiction, but the imagery shaped by Bloch's writing was vivid enough to create some kind of achievable impact, may it be for suspense or violence.

Once the suspects thin down to a few familiar names, Night-World dabbles its last acts within pure thriller territory as investigators and suspects alike are roped into a twist where someone is not who they claim to be and cheesy monologuing expositions are a must. This led to an ending that felt a bit rushed, leaving us with one character injured and another headless from an accidental decapitation after a brief brawl, but I can honestly say the book could have ended much worse and the hamminess of it all was worth a few chuckles for how theatric it was.

Though undoubtedly no classic, Robert Bloch's Night-World is a fun fast-paced read for slasher fanatics who wouldn't mind taking a simple walk down familiar roads. Its stern yet colorful wordplay built character and a sly black-hearted charm that only fair murder mysteries can muster.

Bodycount: 11
Notable Kill: A dog owner gets the surprise of his life when his beloved dobermans jump at him and maul him to death. What caused it was rather ingenious.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Some Clownish Twat: Clown Kill (2014)

Clown Kill (United Kingdom, 2014) (AKA "Lock In")
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Roy Basnett, Jessica Cunningham, Stephen Greenhalgh

Apparently this movie stars Jessica Cunningham, a business woman-actress-TV Personality best known for competing at the 2016 series of The Apprentice. Seeing how little interested I am with The Apprentice or reality TV in general, this information does little to affect any feelings I have for this movie. (which is mostly discontent)

Clown Kill begins with the drugging, kidnapping and raping of our protagonist Jenny (played by Miss Cunningham in her debut movie role) by a nasty clown named "Charlie Boy" during one of her night outs. We then jump forward six months after the assault, wherein Jenny is returning to work at her publicity firm after an unspecified leave and has to finish a kit for a client within fourteen hours to make up for her absence. Now stuck inside the office after hours along with other employees and staffs, what Jenny doesn't know is that Charlie Boy found out where she works and has entered the building to depopulate it until all that is left is her. For what purpose? Well, nothing short of plain torment and psychotic tendencies, of course!

And yet, Clown Kill fails to be interesting or a worthwhile viewing; it ate up about two-thirds of its entire run sluggishly building around a possible red herring with misogynistic and unreasonably violent set of characters, leaving little reason to empathize with anyone and the gruesome kills (which is the only commendable thing I can think of from this movie) are simply there for the sake of creating a kill count. The story is near nonexistent, lacking any focus or competent level of realism, with a script so innate that continuity and variation seem to be myths within its written pages, as with good lighting and sound quality in terms of production.

Nothing really appears to work for Clown Kill in all honesty, even with all the flashy editing and camera effects. Our protagonist spends half of her time limping around drugged while her co-workers get killed, the villain is a joke in not a good way (or with any puns intended), and there's a twist ending that tries to explain everything but, for me, it fails to matter at that point of the film. No matter how many times I try to re-watch this film to get a good clear look of it as a product, the overall totality is that this is just a terrible, ugly movie, even for a slasher! I say leave this sad clown to rot in obscurity and save yourself a buck or two.

1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male electrocuted to death with a rigged joy buzzer
1 female killed, method unknown
1 male had his head bashed with a shovel
1 female seen with her mouth sewn shut and throat cut
1 female torso seen
1 male gets a pair of nails shoved into his eyes
1 male brained with a hammer
Total: 8

Monday, March 5, 2018

LAN Party from Hell: Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot

As of writing this, I saw the latest Hellraiser movie, Hellraiser: Judgement (2018), around the beginning of last February and I thought it was kinda good until the last act where they pulled this cheap monologue-fest that tries to be oh-so-philosophical but, really, all it did was bore the hell out of me.
So close, yet so far...
I remember the days when the Hellraiser franchise meant something exciting for me. When the presence of Pinhead, hell's high priest of blood and gore, and his monstrous cenobites meant gory eye candy and hellish philosophies are abound. Now, looking at our 2010 entries (Judgement and Revelations (2011)), I think it's best that we nail the coffin shut for good (or at least someone finally do that reboot) and this disappointment led to me binge-watch what I consider the good Hellraiser movies (The original 1987 movie and its first three sequels) and one guilty pleasure from the franchise to mend my wounds. You can make a wild guess what that one guilty pleasure is.

Much like all the other Hellraisers after Part IV: Bloodlines, Hellworld stands on its own continuity and takes a (rather confusing) Meta-stab at itself as Pinhead, his mutilated cohorts and the rest of the Hellraiser mythos apparently exists in this movie as a game called Hellworld which is so damn good, people will kill themselves for it. Literally.

The movie starts with one of said Hellworld fanatics, Adam, covered in small wounds, digging a hole and screaming. We then jump forward to his funeral as, it turns out, Adam burned himself to death because something in the game forced him to. His five common friends pay their respects and blame themselves (in varying degree) for the incident, all the while feeding us all the expositions we need to understand what's going and why this is a big deal. They all agree to stop playing the game in respect for their late friend, but it wasn't long before they're back at it two years later, this time winning invitations for a private Hellworld party at a cryptic backwoods mansion.

There, the kids meet Lance "Pumpkinhead" Henriksen as their unnamed host, a self-proclaimed ultimate Hellworld fan who tells them that the very mansion they are at was once a convent-turned-asylum, which meant there's a spooky basement full of sharp, pointy and stabby medical tools and there are hidden rooms full of medieval-esque torture devices. (Y'know, things that are obviously gonna be used to kill these teens later) The host soon lets the kids party, but it's obvious he has plans for them. Plans involving visions of dead people, ghosts from the past, and Pinhead and his cenobites prowling around while spatting cheesy one-liners.

An interesting fact to point out is that Hellworld's script didn't start out as a Hellraiser sequel but as a short story called Dark Can't Breathe by Joel Soisson. One can only imagine that the story was re-purposed into a Hellraiser movie by adding Pinhead and company into the picture, which would explain why Hellworld is so different in execution and tone; while the Hellraiser franchise have more in common with supernatural "horror-of-the-demonic" splatterpunk or urbanized dark fantasy, Hellworld's methodical one-by-one stalk-and-kill skeleton sets itself dabbling into teen slasher territory, with added haunted house tropes and low-key psychological horror elements. As a Hellraiser movie, Hellworld undoubtedly knocked the franchise down a few years with its simplistic and cliche-battered plot, but I personally found little to argue about in the sense of seeing it as a slasher movie.

The factor that Hellworld still tries to be a Hellraiser movie did made it a rather interesting take on a common bodycounter. The supernatural aspect of the franchise is still present, making up a good part of the scares both real and false, and there's a psychological tint in its direction which plays around with the dialogue and atmosphere, resulting to a faux-enlightened and partially surreal feel that sometimes work if it's not cheesing up some of the scenes or simply have them feel exploitative. The kills are satisfyingly messy even if they are simple, far below the usual splatter caused by chained-hooks and hellish machinations which itself is a clue within the story's little mystery as to why the Cenobites are so "tame" despite their extreme sadomasochistic nature.

The characters are mostly forgettable and underdeveloped, disappointingly true even regarding our villains who are normally the more interesting bunch in a Hellraiser movie whenever they appear. In here, Pinhead and his cenobites simply appear, kill a teenager, say a cheesy one-liner and then disappearing for ten to twenty minutes before repeating the process again. Even sadder is the fact this movie also happens to be actor Doug Bradley's last appearance as Pinhead, which is a shame seeing he played the character in all the previous seven movies with much flair and he is gradually wasted here. Lance Henriksen fills in the villain role for this entry instead as his character appears to be more in control of the situation killing our characters. (for a good reason but that's borderline spoiler territory!) Lance kinda works the part with the way he gave the character an air of mystery in his delivery and body language, sort of forgiving the matter that all he technically do here is talk like a James Bond villain.

And then there's Katheryn Winnick as our obvious Final Girl Chelsea. Not gonna say the character is one of the best Final Girls to appear in a slasher flick, but her misplaced wit (and shrieking) is pretty darn hilarious!

My copy's box claims this is Hellraiser's Most Horrific Tale and I completely disagree with that statement. (I believe Revelations deserves that title, though all for the wrong reasons) Rather, I find Hellraiser: Hellworld passable by junkfood horror standards and I really think it would have fared better if only it didn't desperately try to be a Hellraiser sequel. It's hardly scary or cosmically epic, but as a simple throwaway horror movie to pass the time, something that shouldn't be taken seriously and somewhat fun in a braindead level, there are far worse movies out there than this.

1 male burned
1 female had her throat sliced open by buzzsaws
1 male decapitated with a cleaver
1 male impaled through a meat hook
1 male gets a spike shot through his head, exits to mouth
1 female clawed her neck open, bled to death
1 male suffers through an asthma attack
1 male frightened to death
1 male sliced into pieces with chained blades
Total: 9

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nude Spectre Teenage Massacre: Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2009)

Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2009)
Rating: ***
Starring: Bill Moseley, Danielle Harris, Nate Dushku

One late night in 1978 Long Island, a young girl named Mary gets shipped to an insane asylum after suddenly snapping out of nowhere and brutally murdering her folks with a scissor and, as the title suggests, a hatchet. Eleven years later, Mary got raped by a guard and gave birth to a stillborn nine months after, a bad news that reawakened Mary's homicidal streak, sending her off to a killing spree (in the nude, no less) that left many dead, including herself when the cops eventually arrived and shot her down.

Over time, this tragedy spawns a local urban legend, as word around town says that "Mary Hatchet" still wanders the earth as a murderous spirit, looking for her lost baby and killing people who witness her presence. The more mischievous youths of this small community, however, opt to remember Mary's rampage by making a holiday out of it dubbed Blood Night, a mini-Halloween treatment where pranks, parties and horror flicks are a must.

In comes Blood Night '08, where we follow a group of teens enjoying the festivities, from drinking copious amount of alcohol and smacking red paint on unsuspecting female bottoms, to invoking the spirit of Mary herself via seance (at a cemetery tended by Bill Moseley as Graveyard Gus) and accidentally watching someone's parents' sex tape disguised as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It's all fun and games until they start to end up in multiple pieces. Could the ghost of Mary Hatchet be out to get them? Or is this the work of a rather nice plot twist walking around and wielding a pickaxe?

Blood Night is one of those slasher films that exists with a well-meaning goal of bringing its viewers the nastiest gore under the impression that it is a throwback of 80s bodycounters. In a simplistic way, it kinda does brought forth a nostalgic air as the gore and blood effects used for all of the kills are done in amazing practical latex and the slasher attacks get more intense the further the story goes, resulting to an impressive bodycount at the end. There's even a cheesy explanation chucked in to answer why the killings are happening and why they're so brutal, something that gets connected with the film's decent twist that I sincerely didn't saw coming upon my first viewing.

The film's not without flaws, however, as it does take a while to get the present day massacre going after the blood-soaked gory opener, hobbling about half way into the movie before one of the teens finally gets messily snuffed and all hell breaks loose. This meant we get to spend a rather sizable time knowing our characters which would have been okay if these guys weren't so disposable, barely making themselves stand out as anything else other than one-note interchangeable lambs for the slaughter. In fact, Blood Night practically lacks main characters to focus on with how much the story shifts its attention from one set of teens to the next and the sheer number of casts definitely didn't help sort out who's who and why they matter in this movie. If anything of a consolation, though, fan favorite talents Bill Moseley and Danielle Harris brought out their best campy performances with their little roles, making them slightly more memorable compared to the rest.

With this, Blood Night is, by all means, just us following some shallow partygoers with beer and boobs in their brains getting killed eventually by something that may or may not be an angry naked urban legend. Nothing spectacular story-wise, but at least its tone has us enjoying their shenanigans and eventual demise, with all the hamminess and cheesiness conjured up for extra camp and a bit of T&A for that exploitative slice. As a bloody and chunky junk food horror film, it's nothing serious except how silly fun and deliriously easy on the eyes it can be with the right mindset. It's a simple slasher that doesn't beat around the bush with overly complicated drama or mystery, so if you just wanna boogie and see some hapless twits die under a hatchet, then this movie is all of that with a passion!

1 male had his jaw shattered with a hatchet
1 female gets a pair of scissors to the eye, face chopped with a hatchet
1 female had her neck twisted
5 orderlies killed (method unknown)
1 male head seen
1 female shot dead
1 male and 1 female beheaded (story, debatable)
1 missing baby (story, debatable)
1 male had his head split in half with scissors
1 female stabbed on the head with scissors (offscreen)
1 male decapitated with axe
2 males found with throat slits and stabs
1 male had his face slashed in half
1 female pickaxed on the back, disemboweled
1 male gets a hatchet to the face, forced unto a fusebox (flashback)
1 male gets a pickaxe to the neck
1 male killed, blood splash seen
1 female had a hand chopped off, killed
1 male pickaxed to death
1 female strangled to death
1 male nearly decapitated with a hatchet
1 female presumably killed
Total: 28 (?)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Short Shear Terror: Sliced in Cold Blood (1993)

Sliced In Coldblood (1993, Scary Tales Segment)
Rating: **
Starring: Al Darago, Ilene Zelechowski, Robert Zelechowski

Have you heard of the 1993 zero-budget DIY horror anthology film Scary Tales? No? Well, no worries! Me neither. I did saw, however, it's middle segment Sliced in Cold Blood posted at a video streaming site as a standalone short and my gods, it's friggin terrible but, yeah, I couldn't stop myself from watching and enjoying it!

In this short, a husband suspects his wife of cheating and, wouldn't you guess, he is right! Catching her snuggling with another man, hubby goes crazy and kills them both before going out to kill some random people under the same day because finding about infidelity-equals-immediate psychosis, apparently.

With the first of three segments of Scary Tales, Satan's Necklace, had something to do with a cursed necklace that transforms its wearer into a woman-eating demon, and the last, Level 21, was more of a Dungeons and Dragons LARP shot on video, Sliced in Cold Blood is the middle child of this trio and the simplest one in case of plotting, featuring nothing more a random guy's sudden killing spree.

If anything, this short isn't all that original as, by it's release, we already have movies like Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness (1986) and Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989) predating its plot, but I will commend Cold for keeping it quick and easy, packing it with enough insanely crazy zero-budget effects for the more graphic yet cartoonish killings. The whole thing is really just leading to the spree, just quick excuse to get a collection of gory murders out to satisfy the inner gorehounds in all of us, so much so that the movie simply just ends with the shot of our killer hubby looking back at us. It's not getting any deeper than that but it could have been so much worse.

It's little watchable drecks like this why I always give anthology movies a fighting chance to entertain me as you never know if they're keeping something surprisingly fun among its other segments. (Saying that said other segments failed to entertain me) They say that what is great about anthologies is that if you don't like one story, there's always another that's bound to cater to your taste and this is exactly the case I have with the forgettable Scary tales (1993) and Sliced in Cold Blood. Then again, I am only covering Sliced as a short film since that's how I first came upon it and, as that, it's pretty passable to say the least. It's everything you'd expect from a zero-budget horror movie from hilarious acting and hokey effects so I if you swing that way and is more forgiving than I am, then by all means go seek out Scary Tales and see this as well as the other two self-proclaimed "scary tales" for your viewing pleasure.

1 male shot on the chest with an arrow
1 female had her throat slashed with a machete, hacked to death
1 male gets a machete ran through his head, exits to mouth
1 female killed with a machete
1 male had his head crushed until his eyes popped out
1 male had his head hacked with a machete, ripped apart
1 female stabbed through with a machete
1 male ran through and decapitated with a machete
Total: 8