Monday, April 23, 2018

Something Something Something Jump Scare: #Screamers (2016)

#Screamers (2016)
Rating: **
Starring:  Tom Malloy, Chris Bannow, Griffin Matthews

Let me get this out: I have a love-hate relationship with jump scare tactics. 

If done right, the gimmick can be a fun way to get my heart pumping and send me into giggle land, but overuse and/or badly timed jumpers can get really annoying and lower the standards of whatever horror-themed genre using it. For a while, #Screamers seems to understand this but all good things can't last...

Shot in a mockumentary/found footage fashion, the movie centers on the entrepreneurs and staff behind an internet media company called Gigaler.com as they try to contact an anonymous poster who shared a popular viral "screamer video" at their site in order to strike a deal with them. The problem with this, however, is that the poster appears to be connected to a girl who have been missing for two years, prompting our main crew to track them down and investigate in hopes of making a name for their site. That is, of course, if they all will make it out alive...

With a running time of approximately 80 minutes, #Screamers mostly filled this space with a tech-oriented mystery surrounding the strange nature of an equally strange viral video, as well as lengthy expositions about why Gigaler is so innovative and daring for a website company and the drama that goes behind the computer screen which I guess was supposed to build character. It's a move that I can learn to like or at least be patient with given that the payoff at the end will be worth the trouble and the walk down to said payoff is interesting to say the least. I admit in this case that the early banters between the staffs and their bosses were some of the funnest aspects of the movie and the titular screamer videos were decently fun for a quick jump scare. Still, one can only go so long without seeing good horror in a horror film and this is where #Screamers failed.

After so much drama and intrigue shoved down our throats for the first quarter or so, you expect #Screamer will finally pick itself up and lead us down the path of workable thrills and bloody spills like any good slow burn horror movie. And, to be fair, it did exactly that at the last 20 minutes or less, but the problem here is that the plot still tries to tediously build some more tension and possible red herrings within this short span. Whether this is to unnecessarily fatten up an already cluttered story or not, all I know is that it turned the movie's slowburn direction from engrossing to downright annoying, further shooting itself in the foot when the resulting horror scenes end up feeling rushed, dull and kinda annoying.

That creepy grinning figure that is this movie's villain? Barely lives up to its unnerving look; apart from possibly being named "Francis" (Not that it's a terrible name. Just a terrible name for a villain, even after that little red herring they threw in about Francis Tumblethy, a Jack The Ripper suspect. Now I know why a certain Deadpool (2016) bad guy preferred to be called "Ajax"...), the killer "murders" his victims strangely and annoyingly by simply lunging/charging at them, shrieking his "screamer video" scream and "offscreening" them into nothingness one by one. It does this for the last few minutes of the film, jump scaring almost everyone to an off-camera death before giving us one last heartstopper that we more or less saw coming. Let how lazy that finale sounds sink in for a moment...

I was really hoping this movie would do okay just for the premise itself, but apart from an kinda inspired backdrop behind the found footage horror format and hints that "Francis" is supernatural, #Screamers misses its goal as an entertainment piece was too far out of line thanks to its desperate attempt to do something different. I admire the effort, but if the motive behind said effort was either lost or barely reached, what exactly was the point of all of this? I suggest skipping this unless you really wanna subject yourself to a mystery with a lackluster outcome.

1 male jump scared, killed offcamera
1 male jump scared, killed offcamera
1 male killed offscreen
1 female jump scared, killed offcamera
Total: 4

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Princess And The Psycho: BodyCount (1988)

Body Count (1988) (AKA "The Eleventh Commandment", "The Destructor")
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Bernard White, Dick Sargent, Greg Mullavey

When a slasher fan brings up the title "Bodycount"around other hack'n slash enthusiasts, a likely bet is that everyone will think of the Ruggero Deodato's 1986 (or 1987?) cult backwoods classic about a knife-wielding "Old Indian Shaman" killing teens in your classic Friday The 13th fashion. But did you know there is another slasher titled BodyCount directed by Paul Leder, who also directed other obscure slashers like Vultures (1984) and The Babydoll Murders (1993) but best remembered for the exploitative proto-slasher I Dismember Mama (1972)? I didn't too until reading about it a few years earlier and it took me some time (and countless false alarms) to finally see a copy. After watching this obscurity though, I kinda understand the movie's rarity.

Instead of going the easy route of throwing random victims someplace isolated to be hacked to death by some guy who kills people (y'know, like majority of slashers in existence), BodyCount tries to build a plot focusing on Robert, a Bible verse-spewing nutcase who appears to have a deep hatred for his rich uncle Charles, who he deems guilt of murdering his father, raping his mother and throwing him into the asylum to begin with, all just to gain their wealth. On the other side of the coin, he also has an unfathomable love for his 9-year old cousin Deborah, who he sees as innocent and pure, deserving of nothing more than all things good and untainted by his uncle's greed.

Committed inside an asylum, Robert's treatment there involves being drugged and electrocuted with an electroshock machine in hopes of either convincing him his uncle's innocent or put him in a vegetative state. But one night, Robert got lucky when the orderly supposed to be watching him got drunk and falls asleep, allowing him to sneakily grab the keys to freedom, get his trusted Bible back and scalpel a bullying nurse to death. The nurse, though, happens to be a paid acquaintance of Charles and when word of her death and Rob's escape made it to the man, he's quick to send out a troubled alcoholic detective to put an end to his nephew's life, not just for the sake of the people he might kill, but also for himself as it appears there might be some shred of truth behind Robert's accusations.

Charles' troubles, however, might get more cluttered when Robert somehow convinced his cousin Deborah to join him on a mini road trip around town for what could be his final moments with the only relative alive that he cares for sincerely, before doing the vengeful deed of getting back on his uncle. Deborah's mother has also started conniving with her lawyer friend for ways to get richer and said ways may have something to do with taking advantage of Robert's escape and killing spree, leading to the titular bodycount where anybody can be a victim.

Tangled between being inspired and cheesy, BodyCount caught my attention on how much it didn't (and I mean didn't) shy away from developing its main leads, letting us watch and know well enough that our killer is not entirely evil and that with all the undesirables he murdered and his Bible-thumping borderlines, if not already crossed zealous proportions, he's simply doing this for what he believe is the greater good for his (mostly naive) cousin. A well directed and acted production with a focused characterization such as this could have resulted to a movie that's wonderfully emotional as it is horrifying, much like the case of the splatter gem Maniac (1980) or the underrated drama slasher Some Guy Who Kills People (2011), but BodyCount was so saccharine and pious in its approach to humanize the psycho that it's comical, leaning dangerously on being a parody, and rather convenient since almost all the other characters that aren't our leads are made to look like low lives, making it easy to manipulate Robert into this hammy antihero with a heart and a switchblade.

For some, this approach can be a test of one's patience as they will sit through mountains of cheesy script, eye-rollingly bad acting and an uninspired set of murders which consists mostly of knife stabbings to the gut. Others (such as myself) can look at all of these as the film's little own cheddar scented tongue-in-cheek charm however, meant to be laughed at in a B-grade so-bad-it's-funny manner, particularly around the parts our beloved Christian psycho goes pastor on his cousin expecting her to fully grasp his ramblings. Frankly, I appreciate the movie for the little laughs it gave me, intentional or not, and the effort its production did into making BodyCount something more than a standardized slasher, especially when the story's intriguing enough to warrant my attention until the end. Granted the subplot of people going murder-happy on everyone for an inheritance isn't new (please redirect your attention to the proto-slasher/giallo A Bay of Blood (1971)), but at least this movie made it watchable for what it is.

Does it deserve its obscurity? Honestly, it kinda does. As a slasher/thriller hybrid, BodyCount is lacking enough decent scares and gooey blood to satisfy most horror fans, but for hardcore slasher enthusiasts and completists out there, especially those with an affinity for bad cheese and weirdly nice villains, this one's a fair hunt to track down and see. At least once.

1 female stabbed to death with a scalpel
1 male gets a switchblade to the gut
1 male stabbed to death with a switchblade
1 female gets a switchblade to the gut
1 male gets a switchblade to the gut
1 male stabbed on the gut with a switchblade
1 female shot dead
1 male shot dead
Total: 8

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