WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT, THUS A HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pop it or Die: Cherry Falls (2000)

Cherry Falls (2000)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Brittany Murphy, Jay Mohr, Michael Biehn

In a small, sleepy own of Cherry Falls, a bag-haired psycho is murdering teens. And not just any teens; virgins!

When word of a virgin-slaying madman got out around the community, and more "clean" kids just happened to be killed off, most of the teen population decided to organize an orgy to ensure their survival. All save one Jody, the daughter of the town's sheriff and a local highschooler.

Looking into the murders in a more mature and productive manner, Jody goes through rocky personal relationships and friends falling victim to the killer, only to discover the town's own little skeletons that's unsettling as it is grim.

In total inversion of the typical "virgins die last" rule, Cherry Falls would have been a nasty piece of work that broke a lot of taboos and delivers a fresh take on a typical 90s slasher. Unfortunately, the censors just have to crash the party and slaughters everything to a tameness of implied orgies and offcamera killings. A bit of shame since the plot certainly is something that's worthy of mention due to its originality and ballsy theme, a first of its kin to do something as mean spirited as murdering teenagers who are just being responsible for their own good and those who're obnoxious and well deserving of death getting away Scott free.

Much of the film had its focus on the whodunit factor, which in turn answers a lot for its tame display of death and copulation. The mystery wasn't a tough one to decipher but the revelations did called for something unsettling, much of it involving the killer's motivation for their murder spree. (And a perfectly credible one, if I may add) The somber tone of these reveals helped put the movie's last third to an unexpected crazy turn, throwing out the moody aura to give way for something awfully chaotic, complete with a slasher going frenzy with the knife and half-naked teeners stampeding for their lives.

Acting from the cast also helped keep the film as interesting as possible; Brittany Murphy takes the role of our lead, with much sweetness and realism of an actual teen girl. Michael Biehn originally turned down his role as the town sheriff when he dismissed the script as that for another slasher (and it is in a way) but otherwise gave in after much coaxing and delivers a likable performance as a dad who really loves his daughter and a sheriff who loves his town.

Everybody else is weird for the sake of weird; to be frank, I understand teenagers these days are more open to their love life, but was it really appropriate to talk about spooning each other right after some of your classmates got killed off by a maniac? And given that said maniac is only targeting virgins, the best solution is to organize a fuck-fest? Okay, so you're alive today because the killer did not smell virgin from you, but what does that say about unwanted pregnancy? Or STD? Not wanting to be the sore thumb here, but I'm pretty sure most of us slasher fans would like to see some of these idiots get killed onscreen.

If they had stick with the original script, Cherry Falls would have made slasher history for the new millennium. The end results, instead, is a slasher movie that had potential but grounded to the point that it can be easily dismissed as just another dead teenager film. Well, make no mistake, Cherry Falls may not look like much from what the director originally intended, but it has enough of the first draft to make it stand out among any slashers of any generation.

What else can I say? Pop it or die!

Bodycount:
1 male stabbed to death
1 female stabbed, nailed to a tree and bled to death
1 female murdered, later seen hanging dead from a ceiling
1 male found with throat cut
1 male found murdered with words carved on her forehead
1 male axed to death
1 male axed on the head
1 male falls and get impaled on pointed fences, shot on the head
Total: 8

Love Hurts. In more ways than one: Must Love Death (2009)

Must Love Death (Germany, 2009)
rating: **
starring: Sami Loris, Manon Kahle, Jeff Burrell, Peter Farkas

What happens when a romantic comedy tangos with a hicksploited torture porn? Must Love Death happens, and it was good. To say the least.

Norman is an ordinary guy who's just out of luck when it comes to love; suicidal at best, he meets up with a group of willing participants of a suicide pact deep in the woods of nowhere, in hopes of ending his miserable, loveless life once and for all.
Or so he thought.

The group turned out to be ruthless killers who are looking for victims to torture and Norman just fell to their trap; as he struggles to outrun and outlive the bystanders victimized by the killers, he recalls his last fling with love, of how he met the girl of his dreams and how she came crashing down to his life like a speeding car. Literally.

Must Love Death is two movies struggling to connect with one another through a series of non-linear story telling; much of the horror concept is occurring in the present, while the romantic sub-parts are told via flashbacks, trailing slowly to what had lead to the predicament our main character is in. 


As much as this is a sweet idea for a rom-com-gorno, the flaw from this movie is that the execution needed a little work; the two sub-parts of this film are precisely everything you could have seen in their respective genres. The only gig is that the horror part does had its gritty and intense moments as well as  some fair display of gory goodness; sadly, the romantic comedy half is predictable in comparison and not too romantic nor comedic for my taste. 

May it be the banters or slapstick/splatstick shenanigans, the jokes didn't quite catch up too well with the shifty tone of the movie, but as a horror fan, the torture scenes did enough justice for me and made the movie bearable enough to sit through. It's nothing original, but scenes involving demented hicks videotaping their murders in a mock game show fashion are always welcome, especially if it involves forcing a man to show his foot through a screwdriver, or have a couple forced to kill one another to survive. 


The film soon ties up to an ending that was thankfully more horror inclined, though one can imagine why this film isn't too well discussed due to its cons. It did try to make something out of the ordinary, may it be a torture porn or a chick flick, but with a better acting cast and a stronger (and more imaginative) execution, Must Love Death would have been a welcome addition to romantic horror films out there such as Shaun of The Dead and Tucker and Dale vs Evil, but for its worth, I would say it'll make a good single day's rent.

bodycount:
1 female shot on the head with shotgun
1 rabbit hacked with pickaxe (snuff)
1 male shot to death with nailgun
1 female shot dead
1 male knifed on the chest
1 male shot on the chest
1 male pickaxed through the head
1 male shot death
total: 8

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lovely Stylistics: All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able

For some reason, all the boys love Mandy Lane. So much that one of them was tricked by Mandy's bestfriend Emmet into jumping off a roof and to a pool in an attempt to impress her. Things obviously didn't do so well when the jock missed that much and ended up hitting his head on the pool’s edge.

Nine months had passed, Mandy and Emmet no longer hang out, and the former got invited to a ranch party consisting of her weight-conscious friend Chloe, another girl named Marlin, and three boys, Jake, Bird, and Red.

Obviously, the boys are all lusting over Mandy Lane, including those who are already snuggling up with a girl, but to cover this motive, the teens spent their time doing the usual slasher victim fare from stealing kegs of beer to smoking weed. They also encountered the ranch’s hunky caretaker Garth, who became the apple of Mandy’s eye, much to the annoyance of the other dudes.

Unfortunately for them, Garth isn’t the only boy they had to keep an eye out for; apparently going bonkers from being de-friended by Mandy, Emmet seeks out the ranch and began offing the teens, apparently all in the name of Mandy Lane.
And it was never properly explained what do these boys see in Mandy Lane...
Shot on the main ranch house of owned by actress Hillary Duff’s family (which was reported to be haunted by a girl’s ghost), All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is an oddity for a slasher movie; working with art house cinematography with a few bonus grain and old school mellow soundtrack, it resembles an early proto-slasher that took its time to build around its characters before going for the bloodbath.

Things certainly didn't do well enough for it to earn a higher rating for my part, most of it contributed by the lack of sympathetic characters. With everyone being either nasty to one another or cheating on their girlfriends, it’s not hard to start rooting for the Emmet to start killing these nasty teens. Odd to say, the film spends a beefy 40 to 50 minutes playing drama around these bothersome teeners, acting out an attempt to push the slasher film conventions aside for a coming-of-age horror but seeing the resulting film, it’s a safe bet that they didn't know how to do just that.

The good news is, seeing it failed to outdo its slasher persona, All The Boys still delivers the grue and a good final 3rd that was well worth the wait. While it isn't as nasty as other hackathons released on the same year, the massacre rings plenty of tribute to the bygone days of early slashers, with nasty set-pieces to do away the victims with enough tension and subtle bloodletting to keep fans satisfied. A twist was also provided, but depending on how good you are in spotting curve balls in a movie, this was more or less an expected turnaround, a pretty good one to say at least.
A bad kind of blow job.
It is pretentious, maybe a feeling a bit high and mighty above its bodycounting kins, but a good exercise of style and murderous death tolling saved this otherwise hollow teen horror from obscurity. Calm and serene despite the sense of uneasiness and dread that could happen anytime, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is a recommended viewing for the patient, the appreciative, and for the curious cats.

Bodycount:
1 male jumps and hits his head on a pool's edge
1 female gets a shotgun shoved into her throat
1 male shot on the head with shotgun
1 male had his eyes slashed with bowie knife, stabbed to death
1 male shot on the back with shotgun
1 female gets a bowie knife to the gut
1 male beaten to death with a machete stuck on a cow bone
total: 7

The 23rd Day: Jeepers Creepers II (2003)

Jeepers Creepers II (2003)
Rating: ***
Starring: Jonathan Breck, Ray Wise, Nicki Aycox

Back in 2000, controversial director Victor Salva introduced one of horror's modern icons. A fresh concept of a monster simply dubbed as The Creeper, notoriously known for hunting victims to eat certain the parts that it likes from them and uses said munched parts to replace its own whenever needed.

Another discernible trait about this creature is this rule: it's only awake for every 23rd Spring, for 23 days, a rule Salva thought up to make sure his movie wouldn't get butchered for sequels.

But then, here we are; reading a review about a sequel that existed thanks to loop holes.

Days after the original movie, it is the 23rd day of the Creeper's cycle and it had chosen a busload of jocks, cheerleaders and other miscellaneous munchables as its final meal before slumbering for the next 23 years.

Trapping the youngsters at an abandoned highway by repeatedly slicing their bus' tires with home-made throwing stars (made from welded sharpened bones), the Creeper strikes at nightfall, effortlessly doing away all the adults that could defend them and taking its time to pick a prized meal.

As the teens tries their best to defend themselves, little do they and the Creeper know is that a distraught father and brother of a previous victims is not too far ahead, hellbent on taking revenge on the monster with a home-made weapon.

While the first movie started out as a typical slasher movie being venturing into a monster flick, Jeepers Creepers II molded the two sub-genres into a workable mix, with the Creeper taking a spotlight more often now than it did in its last outing, showing off how more than a simple maniac it is. And true enough, we get to see how the horrid creature operates and how skilled it is on what it does, ranging from creating weapons from human parts to an impressive demonstration of how exactly the Creeper replaces parts it lost.

Much of the story takes place inside the bus, with a claustrophobic atmosphere and much survival drama driving the film forward into an satisfyingly high-octane climax involving a harpoon and a hobbled Creeper desperate to devour some limbs. Until then, the movie hobbles in balancing scares and characterization, much of it missing than hitting as while there are some interesting scenes, there weren't that many interesting characters.

With so many victims to choose from, the Creeper only manages to kills off at least 3 to 4 on camera; hardly impressive or satisfactory seeing most of the count were offscreen "implied" murders (the worse movie type of slasher movie kill of all), the running time clocks a near two hours, and now that we know the thing can wield weapons. Those characters that were given a chance to act out more than their nameless teammates either ended up being jerks, bickering with one another, or have random visions foretelling them what they are up against, seemingly out of nowhere, making them unlikely to be all that root-worthy.

Then again, they are stuck inside disabled bus in the middle of nowhere with a hungry demon outside waiting to eat them; panic can bring out the worst of people so I am giving the unsatisfactory characterization a slide. Save the random vision. Seriously, it's like Final Destination all over again.

At least the monster effets was well worth it, especially with the amazing make-up that are a step above from the last movie, and all of those flying scenes. Cinematography is competent enough to make this movie look professional and add some interesting take on the mythos from time to time.

It may not be as creepy or scary as the first film (and I'm not saying it isn't), Jeepers Creepers II made it worthwhile being an entertaining monster-slasher hybrid. While it could had done better by adding some more action pieces or a few worthy deaths in the middle to keep the momentum strong, the fact that it had more Creeper being otherworldly and out of the shadows, it does deserves its fans and a chance to be seen for fun.

Bodycount:
1 boy killed, later seen with head wound
1 male snatched away killed
1 female snatched away, killed
1 male snatched away, killed
1 male and 1 female missing, presumably killed
1 male had his head cut off
1 male hit on the head with a throwing star
1 male snatched away, killed
1 male missing, presumably killed
1 male crushed inside a toppling car, immolated in explosion
Total: 11

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Death Goes "Duh":The Final Destination (2009)

The Final Destination (2009)
Rating: **
Starring: Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella 

Taking cue on films like Friday the 13th part 3-D and Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, the Final Destination franchise once decided to end their Goldberg-inspired mayhem by giving jumping into the 3D fad and gave the audience all the explosive and chunky deaths they could come up with.

Personally, I think they oversold the gimmick and just ruined everything.

Friends Nick, Lori, Janet and Hunt were simply spending a day in a speedway stadium when Nick suddenly gets a vision of them and a whole lot of others getting killed by flying tires, projected car engines and lots of crushing. Of course, he freaked out, started a quarrel among nearby folks, got escorted out of the danger zone with his friends and others, and before you know it, the accident came true.

Just like in the last three films.

The lucky quartet then tries to go on with their lives, only for Nick to discover that he can see random flashes of images which will turn out to be the Goldberg items for an impending death. We got one vision for each death/s, so you can say goodbye to any tension or brooding build-up, and say hello to a cavalcade of CG deaths, obviously made this way for the 3D.

So after a series of "shocking" deaths, Nick and Lori got the help of the track's security guard who they managed to save from the crash (thus in death's list), in an attempt to save others from being killed by everyday freak accidents. They failed once, and then saved Janet from an unfortunate death involving a carwash while Hunt had his insides sucked out by a pool drain. (he was never mentioned again.)

Death then wouldn't take any more lives after saving Janet, leading these kids and the guard to think they broke the cycle and now safe. This is when the film booked an unexpected second premonition, apparently to pump up the running time since, I'm betting on this, everything would have been done in a matter of an hour.

And why would I think of this? Apart from the dull deaths that you could see coming from afar thanks to the 3D visions spoiling everything, we also got zero characterization, zero sense of sympathy, and zero plot development. Script's also lackluster so it shouldn't surprise how cheesy these characters act and talk, and let's not overlook the pacing and editing, which made the entire movie looked like random death scenes glued together. (Thus, I label thy movie, "Death Porn"

The only thing that's keeping me from rating this mess any lower is that the cheesiness does have its good side if you're up for something nonsensical and utterly dumb. Few of the deaths are also fun to watch (read: Few!) and, in the shallowest of reasons, the awesome opening credits featuring all the deaths from the previous three films (plus a chunk-stained power drill) done in X-ray. To be honest, I'm trying really hard to squeeze any other positives I can generously share for you about this film but all I kept getting are tiny, bite-sized pieces of the good out of the fat folds of the bad.


As a sequel, I felt cheated out of an otherwise good entry to one of my favorite "whatdunit" slasher franchise; The Final Destination lost its story and left each character simply to die for the sake of our money and to entertain us. Blood and gore is always fun and this sequel knew that at least, but it'll take more than flying body parts to make a solid sequel.

Guess we all should be glad this wasn't THE Final Destination.

Bodycount:
47 Victims killed in speedway accident
1 driver immolated in car crash
1 female get sliced in half by a blown car hood
2 drivers immolated in car crash
1 female had her head smashed to bits by a flying car wheel
1 male blown apart by an exploding truck
1 female gets a flown rock shot through her eye
1 male gets diced through a gridded fence by a projected gas tank
1 male had his organs sucked out by a pool drain
1 male crushed by a falling metal tub
1 male ran over by an ambulance
1 female crushed under a truck wheel
1 female knocked against a metal pole, internally decapitated
1 male hit by a truck, face smashed against a wall
Total: 61

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Frank Morris Massacre: Terror on Alcatraz (1986)

Terror on Alcatraz (1986)
Rating: ***
Starring: Aldo Ray, Sandy Brooke, Verónica Porche Ali

How often do we get a slasher movie set on an Alcatraz? Apart from the underrated cheese-fest Slaughterhouse Rock and this title, not much. But what sets this title a tad more interesting is the plot itself and horror legend Aldo Ray! (of Haunts (1977), Don't Go Near the Park (1981) and Terror Night (1987), among others)

Ray here portrays a slightly unhinged Frank Morris, as in THE Frank Morris who some of you history buffs may recognize as one of the escapees of the real life event known as the June 1962 Alcatraz Escape. It's been decades since he had gotten out and money's getting a bit low on his end due to being, well, in hiding all of these years. But after recalling he had scribbled some information about a key back at his prison cell, (which in turn will open a safe with loads of money in it), Frank bolts back to San Francisco.

After killing a former guard that he had a beef with back at the prison days, Frank boards a boat to the island and joins a tour which he will then slip away from unnoticed. Unfortunately for him, five partying teens had decided that a run down prison is a great place to sneak in and party their heads off; so what will a man with an IQ of 133 do in a situation like this? Device a plan to slip away? Take their boat and drive it back to shore? Pretend to be a guy who fell asleep in the tour and ask these kids for help?

Nope. In true slasher film cliche, he decided that it's better to hack them dead with a meatcleaver and be a mindless maniac for the majority of the film.

Terror on Alcatraz is an odd duck; it's basically two plots mashed together, one focusing on Morris' plan to get rich and another is your typical slasher fare. They don't mix in too well, with the get-rich scheme being tossed aside in the middle to make room for the killings, only to be brought back in by the last third of the film, completely ignoring that he had just murdered a bunch of kids; due to this, the pacing's a tad off and the characterization of all of the characters, may it be Morris or the no-name teens he is hunting, are mishandled. 

Quite sad actually as the teens have their interesting notes but that was as far as they came for depth; one is a young cokehead lawyer, another is the rich son of a land owner, two big-titted bimbos, a know-it-all, and one sorta-crazy security guard who has some Native American blood running through his veins. The latter is the most notoriously portrayed in the film as he blames his misfortunes on the "white man", jugs a lot of alcohol and dresses his face with red war paint after he figured out that there's a maniac on the loose, but only to die quite easily moments later. Not sure what this film is implying but it just seconds my claim on how bad the scripting was for this B-flick.

Most of the personality goes to Aldo Ray's character but not in a way any proud historian would ever find appealing; Frank Morris in real life was known for many burglaries, but murder? Hard to picture. He's basically a man of plans but the movie portrayed him as a blood-thirsty thug with a sexist and sadistic streak. If anything, he is much closer to Otis B. Driftwood of both House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, with their "kill first, think later" way of carnage. The only difference was that Morris unexpectedly switches personality from time to time, wherein he can be savage killer in one moment, and then back to being just an obnoxious, money-hungry escapee in the next.

Then again, as bad slashers go, Terror on Alcatraz is stupidly fun at what it is. The gore splatters in bright red and death rattles are plenty (if not overly exaggerated), the villain has a unique motive compared to your typical slasher and, I have to admit, the overacting gave my sides something to laugh at. There's also the fact it utilizes its backdrop effectively despite the budget, but with a better script and more imagination, perhaps they could had done more than simple meat cleaver murders.

For this film, cheesiness matters and for the right audience, it should be enough. Luckily for it, I'm the kind of guy that loves a good balance of cheese in my films. I can overlook the fact that the editing and scripting sucks so long as they can show me a guy moaning to death after getting his skull split open with a cleaver. End the film with a unexpected twist and a cool gore scene, and you have me recommending this obscure slasher for viewing whenever you get a chance to see it!

Bodycount:
1 male impaled on a broken plank
1 male hacked on the face with a meat cleaver
1 female drowned in a barrel of water
1 male hacked on the head with a meat cleaver
1 male found hanged
1 male found shot on the gut with a shotgun
1 male knifed on the gut
1 female strangled to death
1 male knifed, later had his arm crushed off by a steel door and left for dead
Total: 9