Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Deranged Head-Humpers: Headless (2015)

Headless (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Shane Beasley, Kelsey Carlisle, Ellie Church

If necrophilia offends you then Headless is going to be no cake walk.

Shot and marketed as a supposed lost slasher from 1978, the film features a nameless skull-masked killer who (under the guidance of a skull-headed and possibly imaginary boy) hunts and murders women before decapitating them and violating their freshly chopped off heads.

Unknowingly caught in this is one Jess, a girl working at a disco roller rink who spends most of her time working in order to support herself and her weed-smoking slacker boyfriend. When the killer sets his preying eyes on Jess, he takes his time to stalk her and murders anybody that got in the way, all the while treating us to some trippy visions and flashbacks revealing the events that turned him into the insane monster that he is right now.

Originally a faux-trailer featured in director Scott Schirmer's debut 2012 thriller Found, Headless became a reality after a successful crowd-sourcing. Truth be told, Headless is shockingly grittier than most of the slashers being released nowadays but in a manner that it stays true to its supposed grindhouse origin.

Taking cues from early slashers like Driller Killer (1979), Maniac (1980), and Don't Go In The House (1980), Headless focuses more on the exploits of the killer rather than his victims and it can be a bit unnerving to sit through seeing the film made it clear through his screams and brutality that he is one unwell individual.

With a good chunk of the movie concentrating on the murder spree through the killer's perspective, Headless resembles no more than a feature-length stalking scene that you can find in any slasher, only with multiple hardcore murders, disturbing display of necrophilia and some bits of flashbacks revealing that the killer was raised by an abusive mother and an incestuous older sister. (as most slashers are)

This being said, the film was close to having no story and, honestly, it kinda felt like it; our supposed main girl was going through her own subplot and it barely made any direct connection to the killer's murders until the last act where one of her friends was killed and Jess finds herself kidnapped along with her boyfriend, to be tormented by the maniac. This was a rather workable way on keeping the viewers from being overly bombarded with Headless' unrelenting horrors though I wouldn't say Jess' situation is anywhere less distressing (unless you find poverty and rocky relationships enlightening) and in the end, this became no more than a tricky ploy for those who were looking forward for somebody stopping the maniac.

So is Headless a good movie? On a technical sense, it is. This movie can flaunt its gritty direction with pride as it boasts a pacing that works despite some steady moments, talents that are just okay seeing we only get to focus on three characters, and an overall impressive visuals despite that one scene that looked too crisp to be in a supposed "lost 70s slasher". So yes, I can definitely say this is one movie to try but be warned: showered with top-notch practical gore effects and a distraught portrayal of a lead killer, Headless is undoubtedly a slasher that will divide an audience; there will certainly be nay-sayers who will disregard it as disturbing trash, but some will appreciate its blood-red artsy attempt to recapture raw 70s exploitation.

It's disturbing all through, bound to upset stomachs, and emotionally drain anybody who isn't prepared for its brand of madness. Heed this warning and you may find a little gem underneath the bottomless pit of bodies and blood that is Headless!

1 female head seen
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 female decapitated with a machete
1 male disemboweled with a machete
1 female stabbed with a machete, decapitated
1 female seen murdered (flashback)
1 male castrated, knifed to death
1 female hacked with a machete, dismembered (flashback)
1 female nearly beheaded with a machete
Total: 10
Director Scott Schirmer's future project?

Your Party Cannot Be Reached: Party Line (1988)

Party Line (1988)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Richard Hatch, Shawn Weatherly, Leif Garrett

A pair of siblings, Seth and Angelina are targeting unfaithful husbands (and anybody who got in the way) through a popular dating hotline, luring them out with murder on their mind. On their trail is one Lt. Dan Bridges, a detective who likes to talk with his fists, a method that made him an great at the job but not so much when it comes to earning the governor's respect. Paired with him is D.A. Stacey Sloan, a by-the-book assistant of Dan's police captain friend. Together, they try to figure out whether these killings have a connection and race against time before the deranged siblings strike again.

Plot-wise, Party Line is everything you can expect from a late 80s slasher-thriller which is stylized on the outside and cheddar in the inside; it tried to tell a serious story of cops and killers but the over-the-top nature of the premise and the villain themselves made it otherwise.

In fact if it wasn't for the killer's craziness, the film would have made an rather dull thriller; while I do like the fact how our main leads are two-dimensional cliches of a good cop/bad cop duo and kept a straight partner relationship rather, the killer siblings shared enough focus on the plot as these cops did and whenever they're on screen, the film wastes no time showing how messed up they are.

To put it simply, the brother and sister once belonged to a wealthy family where Seth was a favored child prodigy and Angelina was the down-beaten reject; Seth was in love (and still is) with Angelina and she decided to prove this to her by murdering their father (who molested Angelina) and their mum (who blamed Angelina for seducing her own father). Problem was (and still is), Angelina hates Seth with a passion for being the favored child but decided to manipulate him through his one-sided infatuation and use him to rid the world of terrible fathers. All of this revealed through us in maddened ramblings as the movie goes forth with the murders and a few other extra oddities such as Seth dressing up in his mum's dress and Angelina teasing it up in front of Seth.

Some sub-plots revolving around the party line were also added for additional thrills such as one concerning a nymphomaniac looking for people to hook up, a babysitter who is just messing around the hotline, and a married father who takes any opportunity to frisk up with the aforementioned babysitter. Most of these people ended up as no more than kill count, but it is not to say some of them did helped with the investigation.

As a slasher, Party Line isn't all that; the kills are okay but low on the splatter and bodycount, and the story itself is really no more than us waiting for the leads to figure out the connections of the killings while working a way around their own set of personal problems, and a pair of deranged siblings crazying it up and killing whenever they feel the need for it. It's rather forgettable but, then again with characters like these, you can always overlook the hammy plotting in favor of the bizarre,

Thus, in my opinion, Party Line is far from the worse cop-out slasher I'd seen and the cheesiness was well worthy of our attention, at least as a single rental. A little dated but still a fun viewing if not taken too seriously, this is one rarity worth checking out and probably forgotten after a day or two.

1 male killed with a razor
1 male had his throat cut with a razor
1 male had his throat slashed with a razor
1 female had her throat cut with a razor
1 male and 1 female found with throat cuts
1 female strangled
1 male shot to death
Total: 8

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Blood For Baby: Hellions (2015)

Hellions (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring:  Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland

Back from terrifying us with zombies that spread their infection through the English language in 2008's Pontypool, director Bruce McDonald returns this year with a trippy little Halloween movie that is a cauldron pot of killer kids, demonic horror, home invasion, and a lot of surrealism.

Dora is a 17 year old girl who just discovered she's pregnant with her boyfriend's child and is unsure how to feel about this. This being Halloween night, she decided to stay behind while her mum and kid brother go trick-or-treating, thinking up ways on how she will approach her unplanned pregnancy. This was until a group of trick-or-treaters began pestering her repeatedly, which soon turned out to be a horrifying fact when they returned with the freshly decapitated head of her boyfriend.

Genuinely frightened, Dora was soon plunged into a world where the children rule the red night and any help that will come to her is a play thing for them to manipulate or destroy. Can Dora survive her ordeal or will she succumb to the children's demand of "blood for baby"?

Hellions is a film that dwells on nightmare logic, all the while showcasing some solid horror sequences and even some hint of symbolism. On its outer core, the movie resembles a supernatural siege/home invasion horror movie with some decent slasher-inspired villains and killings.

While the count is rather low and all of it occurs offcamera, it was rarely boring and entertaining at a modest level. I did enjoy the concept of the villains being demonic children that appears whenever there is an unwanted and unborn child on Halloween, where the line between the dead and the living blurs. They're hellbent with a bloody mission to get this child in order to increase their number and, as movie monsters, they worked pretty well in the creep factor thanks to their genuinely statures and get-ups, as well as being dangerously homicidal and manipulative in their attacks.

It remained like this for the good chunk of the first half but once the children seems to be getting the upper hand, the movie flips into a dreamlike state where continuities are questioned, body horror is ever present, and haunting imagery is everywhere. I may go as far as saying that this sudden change to the surreal is what divided this movie's audience and I completely understands this as it left too much questions unanswered, leaving the movie too open for interpretation.

Some may say that these killer kiddies symbolizes Dora's fear of accepting her child and the responsibilities around it and, seeing how much the entire film has this surreal feel to it, it may not be far from being true. Perhaps they were all in her head and the entire attack was just a fever dream but in the end, we will never know whether people actually died and if the supernatural was afoot.

Hellions is a horror movie made to visually frighten us and though the final act may not be as sensible or thought-provoking as the producers wanted it to be, it does made it worthwhile with its thrilling demon attacks and some chilling themes. Maybe next time Bruce McDonald can have these terrible tykes appear in a solid slasher movie cuz, damn, we need more creepy killer kids like these in our hack-a-thon and they have potential!

1 male head found
1 male murdered with a hatchet and an electric knife, decapitated
1 female seen slaughtered (flashback)
1 male murdered, method unknown
Total: 4

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wristcutters On The Prowl: Some Kind of Hate (2015)

Some Kind Of Hate (2015)
Rating: ***
Starring: Grace Phipps, Spencer Breslin, Maestro Harrell

Bullying in slasher movies is nothing new when you have films like Evilspeak, Slaughter High, Bad ReputationTormented, and Unfriended flocking around. Each film centers a bullied outcast who will eventually snap and turn their tormentors into mince meat, so what makes Some Kind of Hate any different? Nothing much but it did featured some neat ideas.

The film centers around Lincoln, a greasy-haired outcast with a slight temper problem and the constant target for bullies, from his own alcoholic to the gang of jerks at his school. When he decided to fight back and stab one of them in the face with a fork, he is later shipped to a remote desert retreat for troubled teenagers. There, he befriended a decent guy and a girl who is really warming up to him, but unfortunately caught the attention of another group of troubled teenagers, who I assume were sent there for being bullies.

Fed up by the constant bullying, Lincoln unknowingly summoned the ghost of Moira, a bullying victim just like him who may have something to do with the retreat's dark past; wanting to help the boy by ridding his tormentors, Moira began slaughtering everybody she deems a bully, may it be Lincoln's or her own. But when friends and innocent bystanders are getting caught in the mayhem, Lincoln have no choice but to try to stop his undead avenger.

Some Kind of Hate is an interesting take on a familiar premise of bullied outcasts fighting back as, unlike most slasher movies that tackled this subject, it is not the tormented that gets even with the bullies but somebody or something else that had taken interest on them. Much like how the Lord of the Rink from My Super Psycho Sweet 16 killed off his daughter's bullies, Lincoln here have Moira, a girl that used to be in the same predicament and apparently appears whenever an outcast wished their bullies are dead. Her purpose is to make sure these people feel the same pain they inflicted upon their targets and she does this in a rather unique way by turning herself in some sort of humanoid voodoo doll that whatever damage was done to her (may it be by her own doing or her victims'), it happens to whoever she sets her eyes on.

I find this rather clever as it shows an inescapable cycle of violence that reflects bullying in real life; karma will get to those who deserves it and it will hurt those who are in the line of fire. The only way to escape it is to simply walk away and let everybody be, a philosophy that I believe the main character Lincoln knew all along as while he wanted the bullying to stop, he is willing to do anything to save everybody from a danger he unknowingly brought upon them, even the punks who deserved it.

Thankfully, Some Kind of Hate didn't try to shove this idea but rather implicated it in a sort of discreet way. While the first half build around on Lincoln and his troubles, the rest of the movie is this fun bloody ride that sometimes delves into slasher cliches every now and then; cops are useless, random victims are plenty to heighten the kill count, and an obvious twist is made somewhere in the midst of the massacre. The only problem with this is that it has its slow moments, especially around the first act where we focused on the retreat's bullying issues; Lincoln can be a tough character to feel for as his punk-seque personality may not appeal for everyone and the teenage melodrama he engages in can be a drag.

Nevertheless, the film looks beautiful with its desert scenery, the scores work, and while the CG effects looked cheap, the simple make-up and blood effects fits the film's theme and tone quite nicely. At that, Some Kind of Hate is a decent entry to the bully-themes slashers, one that has a lot to say and offer while not afraid to play around with a bloody piece of razor.

1 female burned alive
1 male slaughtered offcamera, bloodsplash seen
1 male repeatedly cut, throat slashed
1 male had his throat cut
1 male had his mouth crushed
1 male had his throat cut
1 male had his head beaten
1 female found dead with wrist cuts
1 female found dying from cuts
1 female had her head blown open
1 male gets a throat cut
7 victims seen murdered
1 male burned to death
Total: 19

Barcelona Frights: Hooked Up (2013)

Hooked Up (Spain, 2013)
Rating: **
Starring: Jonah Ehrenreich, Júlia Molins, Stephen Ohl

Lo and behold! The first full length horror movie to be filmed with an iPhone! What does that mean for us?

Absolutely nothing!

Friends Peter and Tonio decided to fly all the way to Barcelona for an international one night stand in an attempt to lighten up Peter's recent break up. At first, it was all fun and kinky games as they bar hop and flirts with girls in hopes of getting it on. They eventually got what they came for when a beautiful woman invited them to her house for an evening of pleasure, only to discover that she is a deranged killer and the house somehow boarded shut, trapping them inside as they fight to survive or face a fate far worse than dying.

If there is anything this film made me realize is that horror films these days could really use some likable characters; producers need to realize that horror works best if the victims does not deserve the predicament that falls on them, thus making us feel afraid for them. Keeping this in mind, characters like Peter and Tonio pretty much ruined the majority of this movie for me as these are the kind of people you like to see die at very first minute they are introduced.

For a good dose of the first act, we see these two contrasts in personality and yet ultimately agreed to think with their dicks and probably do the most expensive one night stand planned; Tonio is this immature douchebag that was actually responsible for his friends break-up (and more at a reveal during the climax), while Peter, though slightly sympathetic at first, gradually devolves into this hate-filled psycho who's breakdown prolonged the film for an extra 18 minutes. While it is slightly fun seeing them get mentally and emotionally tormented to the point of whimpering and betrayal, it is not enough to cover the movie's flawed direction, frustrating execution, and laughable acting around the latter parts.

Now, these distractions aside, I did enjoy some of the scares and gore scenes; I like the fact that the house acts like a separate entity and the heavy implication that something supernatural is afoot, and the masked killer girl was a nice touch though I really wish we get to see more of her. Shame that these elements were wasted on disposable characters as the idea of a haunted house with a mad slasher inside sounds like a solid concept; do it wrong and they'll end up something like this disappointing wreck.

So what if it's filmed with nothing but a damn phone? Hooked Up messed up!

1 female pushed unto a statue, impaled
1 male found beheaded
1 female knifed to death
1 female ran through with a pitchfork
1 male beaten to death, tongue torn out
1 male jumped off the stairs, fell to his death
Total: 6

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Patterson-Gimlin FIlm. Slasher Style: Exists (2014)

Exists (2014)
Rating: ***
Starring: Samuel Davis, Dora Madison, Roger Edwards 

Ever since the 1980s gory cheese Night of the Demon proved to us that we can have legendary cryptid Bigfoot as a slasher villain, I took an interest in seeking out other possible Bigfoot slashers out there and, despite scarce, we did have a couple of solid attempts; the 1988 horror melting pot Demonwarp featured the big hairy guy as a heavy breathing massacring monster along with aliens and zombies, 2008's The Wildman of The Navidad took tribute to the beast in an atypical Southern style, and then there's the mean-spirited 2009 biker exploitation Dear God No! which had the monster dismembering evil bikers in an odd twist.

Joining in this rowdy little group is 2014's found footage horror Exists, which follows two brothers visiting their uncle's remote cabin in the woods with three of their friends, which was off limits to just about anyone as the old coot believes Bigfoot constantly wanders around the site.

Scoffing this as crazy talk, the gang ventures to the cabin to have a good time, only to hit something rather huge while driving there one night. From that point on, weird shadows are seen moving around and angered wailing is heard nearby; true enough, whatever they hit is terribly pissed and its hunting these kids down one by one.

There isn't really anything new that can be said about Exists as it is another found footage horror that ticks off every cliche the sub-genre is known for, the biggest one being the question why exactly the guy with the camera is recording all of this? This fact have been a stable nitpick I came to wonder from these kind of movies and while some scenes did justify the need for the camera (like that one scene where they used the device's night vision option to see what's lurking in the dark), was there a need to record someone being choked to death or see how much the car is totaled? It kills off the believability of the situation as well as any sense of dread shock that might benefit from an offscreen implication.

And yet, this is the only true flaw I can find from this movie as the rest is pretty okay for my taste; for one, we actually get to have a workable cast of characters that we can feel for. They're nothing overly developed but they are likable and somehow realistic at a level that you can tell they are real friends. None of them are that annoying or distracting, which makes the Bigfoot attacks all that scarier and intense.

And speaking of the creature, the fact that the entire film was shot as a found footage somehow gave the advantage of making Bigfoot more menacing; it's the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage only as a slasher as the hairy monster remarkably features a lot of humanoid character, from sabotaging their only escape to throwing objects that once belonged to its victim at the group as a form of foretelling their fate, the creature here could easily pass as another slasher villain with a really reasonable killing spree (All I could say without giving up the surprise is that its really personal and personally disturbing) and some mighty fine make-up effects.

The kills could had used more blood and gore, but the build-up and intensity from these scenes were viable enough to give the murders enough impact. I really dig this one scene where one of the kids hopped on a bike in an attempt to look for help, only to find himself stalked and chased by the creature. It's simply, incredibly tense, and the pay off showed the malicious side of a Bigfoot that none of these kids ever saw coming.

It's not perfect but it's far from bad, Exists is an easy film to sit through as its really no more than kids surviving attacks from an apparently very angry monster. It could have used some more gore and skin seeing how much of the build resembles our favorite hack and slash but I guess if they have little to work with or if it was approaching a certain style, we can't always get what we want from a movie. Still worth a look.

1 female had her neck snapped
1 male thrown head first to a tree
1 male and 1 female crushed inside a toppled van
1 creature seen dead
1 male killed, method unknown
Total: 6

Friday, September 18, 2015

There Goes My Baby: A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Rating: ***
Starring: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Kelly Jo Minter

How can you tell if your favorite killer may have become too big to fit his own shoes? When they stop being scary and any attempts to do so end up like A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child.

Around the late 80s, Freddy Krueger finds an audience among the growing "MTV" crowd, where teenagers matter and their generation flock the media. Due to this, his cheese factor doubled by the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Master, leaving producers wondering what they can do to continue his saga without recycling the same hash. One possible option? Why not make him scary again?

Dream Child takes place some time after the last movie, where lone survivor Alice had finally made Elm street safe from the dream-hopping psycho that is Freddy Krueger and is graduating with her boyfriend and a new set of friends.

And yet, she cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong; after dreaming of an asylum where a nun was trapped inside with hundreds of maniacs crowding over her, Alice is convinced that Freddy is trying to come back. This fear was proven true when the bastard son found a way to return from the grave and start stalking and killing teenagers again, apparently through Alice's unborn child.
This puts our heroine in a strange predicament where she is guided by the spirit of a nun, who turned out to be Freddy's mother and possibly the only one who holds the secret of saving Alice, her child and the rest of the Elm street kids from Freddy's fiendish plans.

With talks of abortion and implied rape, Dream Child is noticeably a dark turn for the Nightmare franchise for its time, attempting to capture the olden times when Freddy is still a grim and creepy movie monster that would scare the jeebus out of moviegoers. This seems like a solid idea and at times, it actually shows in the movie as there's more focus on Freddy being a haunting entity; the problem with this, however, is that the star killer grew too comical for his own good and his identity as a pop culture icon among the teenagers certainly didn't help this proposal. Because of this, the resulting product is an odd combination that looks like a live action gothic pop-up book with loads of rubbery special effects and more Freddy Kruger one-liners.

And to further exploit this story-driven approach, Dream Child even boasts the least number of kills from the entire franchise, even less than the psychological horror-focused entry, New Nightmare; with only three kills, the movie makes up for the lack of count by sugar coating these murder scenes with as much special effects as possible which is, interestingly, relatively bloodless.

Truth be told though, they can be a bit fun at times if not sounding a tad shallow; two of my favorite Nightmare kills are actually feature in this film, one involving a victim merging with a motorbike and another being turned into cardboard before being shredded to death.

With Kruger being reduced to a mere presence with only a chance to do some actual killings, this left us with more scenes with the characters that did fare better this time around in terms of development. While the franchise is known to feature some melancholic characters that have their share of sympathetic moments, Dream Child took the time to build around Alice and her new set of friends with much ordeal as possible, may it be supernatural or even in real life as even the idea of unplanned parenting is thrown into the dog pit.

Sadly, the rushed production of the movie and cheesy direction of the Freddy scenes left many of these good characters killed off unsatisfyingly and continues to ham up until the final act where a recycled subplot involving somebody's bones needed to be found was brought up, leading to a bewildering climax that further involves a mother's touch and souls being used against Krueger.

Not much of it makes sense in the end and one would even wonder how desperate this series went looking at this movie. Still, while it lacks the gore count and the true dark essence of the bastard son of a hundred maniacs, Dream Child manages quite alright and even remains entertaining as a rubbery slasher, thanks to some great performances, wildly imaginative visuals and Freddy being Freddy.

1 male merge to a motorbike, crashes to a incoming truck
1 female choked, razor gloves to the gut
1 male shredded to death
Total: 3