Saturday, November 22, 2014

To Mock a Killing Bird: Shadows of The Mind (1980)

Shadows of the Mind (1980) (AKA "A Heritage of Blood")
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Marion Joyce, Erik Rolfe, G.E. Barrymore

As a child, Elise witnessed her father and stepmother drown while boating on a nearby lake. Feeling guilty that she couldn't save them from their fates, she's been institutionalized since until twelve years later, her doctor decided she's ready to return to the outside world. Alone and unsure of her own recovery, Elise returns to her old family estate and not too long, her estranged stepbrother stops by to check up on her, somewhat resulting to a string of various murders.

Coming from Roger Watkins, the same man who sat on the director's chair of Last House on Dead End Street (Though using the pen name Bernard Travis here to hide himself from his own shame), Shadows is a rare, out-of-print whodunit that suffered through a lot of unsatisfying production, so much that Watkins once tried making a flick showing the stress he endured for this film. True enough, for a movie with a short running time (75 minutes), it took 40 long, terribly acted and oddly edited minutes before the ball got rolling, leading to a fiery yet predictable twist ending that you may or may not had seen coming. (Depends on how well you know this sub-genre)

To be fair, least on my own experience, it wasn't all that bad; while the pacing is a problem, the latter half of the film sat fair with me. Perhaps I was patient at the time, the odd acting didn't bother me much and the gothic take on the bodycounting was an added treat. It was atmospheric for most of the time and the murders come off brutal even though they're low in count. By the time the big reveal was shown, it had this cheesy look to it that was simply okay.

I'm not gonna try hard to squeeze out reasons for anybody to sought this film, the truth is Shadows of the Mind had good reasons why it is so obscure.  It's close to being dull and uninspired but there are a lot more early 80s slashers out there that did worse than this. It's moody, considerably bloody and its rarity is a good ringer for collectors of rare and out-of-print trash. See it out of curiosity.

1 male gets a scythe through his neck
1 male stabbed on the eye with a corkscrew
1 female repeatedly knifed, set on fire
1 male and 1 female beaten with an oar, drowned
Total: 5

Boobs and Blood of the Crappy Kind: Porn Shoot Massacre (2009)

Porn Shoot Massacre (2009)
Rating: *1/2
Starring:  Shelly Martinez, Naomi Cruz, Diana Prince

For the first three to five minutes we get this:

My initial thoughts? Dayum, those are some big Danny DeVitos! But after drying up and getting ready to perform in a shooting in some place, this lady soon gets smothered to death by someone wielding a dangerous pair of pantyhose. My initial thought for that? We're in for a long night.

The plot for Porn Shoot Massacre is really what it all says in the title; we got a porn shooting lead by a director with a very fake looking mustache and beard, who in turn hired seven adult actresses to star in his masterpiece. (well, it included a little guy, I'm assuming e's aiming for a masterpiece) But unknown to them, a heavy breathing brute with what I assume is a jock strap over his face is skulking around the parts, killing off the actresses and actors. Could this be someone's idea of a single man army against perversion? Well, this is a movie titled Porn Shoot Massacre, I'm dang positive we'll get a B-grade twist along the way.

Not gonna lie, this movie had his titillating moments, but for a film titled Porn Shoot Massacre, we don't get to see a lot of the forbidden fruit here. If anything, we get a glimpse of it before the shot fades to black but for a movie about a supposedly shooting of a porno where the in-movie director claims will befit the taste of the deprived masses, this is an awfully stale porno that features nothing more than girls cuddling, sexy dancing and other softcore crud. Still, what it does for the horror part of the movie is sort of acceptable. Read, Sort of! The kills had their bright red moments and by that I meant we only get to see a moment of blood and gore before we're thrown in back to watch more horribly acted soft core, which is devastating seeing the production is as good as purchasing the world's smallest violin, thus a quality as bad as an actual porno itself.

I might be getting a big uppity myself here; after all it is, again, a movie titled Porn Shoot Massacre. I'm not gonna get anything like Life of Pi in this exploitative misogynistic garbage which I'm sure was aimed for the male percentage of slasher fanatics. It's cheesy and oddly cheerful atmosphere may be the best reason for some people to see this movie but for me, I think I'll prefer my porn and horror flicks separate. Or at least as fun as Black Devil Doll.

1  female smothered to death with stockings
1 male killed, found with throat cut
1 female hacked to death with a hatchet, beheaded
1 female pounded to death
1 female knifed on the back
1 female beaten with a sledge hammer, disemboweled with a knife
1 male mentioned murdered
1 male had is head crushed until his eye popped out
2 males had their necks broken
1 male killed, blood splash seen
1 male had his neck cut with a knife
1 male shot, beaten to death with a wooden plank
Total: 13

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Freddy Rising: A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Robert Englund, Rodney Eastman, Lisa Wilcox

Just as Dream Warriors marked the return of Freddy into his teen-hunting-in-dream-world game after his failed (yet interesting) attempt of supernatural possession of Freddy's Revenge, it also opened the door of opportunity for the burnt guy to be one of America's most sought for movie monster. Now in the franchise's height, New Lines was ready to do more nightmarish deaths (literally) with all the money Freddy was reeling in and so came into production this good yet undeniably cheesier entry to the Elm Street series.

A year (or two) had passed when the three remaining (and original) Elm Street children had defeated the dream-world bogeyman known as Freddy Krueger, living somewhat normal lives free of fear of him ever coming back. Save for one; Kristen, an Elm Street girl with the power to call in other dreaming teenagers into her own dream can't seem to budge off the feeling that the dream demon is far from gone and true enough, Freddy somehow found a way back into existing and starts to murder off the three, saving Kristen for last.

But before she meets her final demise, Kristen accidentally pulled in Alice, her daydreaming friend with some knowledge on dream logic and, in a last attempt to stop Freddy, passed her dream-reeling powers to the confused girl. This act unfortunately made it possible for Freddy to reach out to the newer generation of Elm Street children, more precisely Alice's friends and family. One by one, they fell victim to their own nightmares, forcing Alice to find a way to stop Freddy before he takes her and the rest of the town's children.

With the level of comic one-liners noticeably higher and the deaths elaborately more cartoonish, Dream Master marks the beginning of Freddy's downfall as a horror villain and rise as a global 80s pop culture icon. Take notice that the previous Elm Street entries had Freddy staying in the shadows, his jokes more sicker than laughable; here, he took a lot of actions in the light, his lines streaming across the comic and his kills lacked a decent amount of blood splash. Yes, the kills are imaginative, but they starting to get too imaginative as they're more cartoonishly outrageous than the last, a reason why many hardcore horror fans seems doubtful labeling this franchise as a slasher.

The way I see it, apart from being influenced by the MTV generation (check out the multiple TV spots within the movie), the plot is more Freddy-centered than that of the children, with only one or two teen characters focused in the entire movie. The first is Kristen, now played by a different actress (Tuesday Knight)) as the original is unavailable to fill in the role, spending a decent bulk of her screen time being Krueger-phobic which may or may not have triggered the nightmare man's return. She then bites the big one in a manner similar to Psycho's Marion Crane, dying during the progression of the film only to pass the dream killer-kicking torch to her friend Alice, an awkward goody-goody with patriarchal issues (a fact that may have helped giving this character a little more root-worthy), struggling to keep her life in check while dealing with a situation she wasn't too familiar with.

With the plot revolving more around the Springwood slasher's dream haunting and killing, even more interesting that it also resembles a sort of reboot since it now focuses on a new generation of Elm street teens, it's not too hard to have a good chunk of the film with him being outrageously evil in an inviting, near cartoon-villain manner. Whenever he is around, there's bound to be some strange crud going on until in the end, after too many of her friends have been snuffed, Alice hardens up and goes kung-fu punkette against Freddy in one of slasher history's most entertaining mano (lady-o?)-a-monster final brawl, with a gruesome (momentary) demise for Mr. Krueger himself. Now these being mentioned, it may sound like the rest of the teen casts are pretty much there just to be meat for Krueger's cutting. Well, that's a yes and a no; while only a few of them are properly developed and characterized, though some are leaning close to a parody of a character they are portraying, they are likable enough to stand out during their short screen time and you can really feel they're close.

So, Dream Master's not remotely scary, but its entertainment factor is reason enough to consider this as one of the franchise's stronger entries. With top-notch, non-CG special effects backing up the flaws and more grimly fun with our titular killer as he steps out of the shadows and into the light, the movie works for the most shallowest of reasons but still considerable with its workable story and tone, comparing it to other titles in the series, mainly Freddy's Revenge, Dream Child and, the black sheep of the family, Freddy's Dead. There are some interesting mythos thrown in here, something regarding a Negative and Positive dream gates which may attribute to Freddy and Alice's opposing sides, unfortunately this remained sidelined, seemingly forgotten in the latter sequels.

Slipping into a cheesier foray not only in terms of human-faced pizza toppings, Dream Master fairs well as a movie but as a sequel, it red lights us that our Bastard Son of a Hundred Maniacs may get sillier in his later adventures...

1 male razor gloved on the gut
1 male slashed with a razor glove, drowned in water bed
1 female thrown into a furnace, burned to death
1 female suffocates
1 male razor gloved on the gut
1 female crushed to death
Total: 6

Saturday, November 15, 2014

To Kill God: Kristy (2014)

Kristy (2014) (AKA Satanic, Random)
Rating: ***
Starring: Haley Bennett, Ashley Greene

Adding into the considerably small number of Thanksgiving-themed slashers, and seemingly running on a very simplistic formula, Kristy follows Justine, a studious college girl who decided to stay on campus while her friends and her boyfriend goes home for Thanksgiving. For the first fifteen minutes we see how alone she is and, save for a couple of guards, the whole place is pretty much her own oyster, so wasn't too long before she ran out of chores and other personal stuff to do and decided to go out and buy herself a snack or two.

Driving to a nearby convenience store, Justine encounters Violet, a hooded punkette with a knack for piercings who definitely gave her the chills, even more so when it became apparent she followed her all the way into campus. The thing is, Violet isn't alone; with her is a trio of masked and hooded men who are a part of an online Satanic cult dedicated on murdering random girls who they all nicknamed "Kristy", recording the kills and sharing it on a site as a sign of dedication on their war against God. Chased through empty hallways and libraries, and bearing witness as they murder anybody that got in the way, it soon became apparent for Justine that the only way to live through their game of Cat-and-Mouse is to fight back.

For truth's worth, Kristy isn't really all that; as mentioned above, it's a simple movie about a girl being stalked by a pack of merciless killers so it relies a lot on building tension, meaning we get a lot of scenes in the dark where a killer or two are just feet away from our lead, people calling out people in a thick fog, and all of those classic slasher cliches. It works, I'll give the movie that, but comparing this with its ilk, Kristy hadn't done much to improve, especially if the kills, though plentiful, wasn't all that inventive, and not to mention some little plot holes and inconsistencies. (How the heck can the Kristy killers text if they use cellphone jammers?)

Still, all's not lost; performances are pretty solid seeing the movie has one main character to focus on. Haley Bennett took her role as Justine with much quirk and gentleness around the first few minutes right before the attacks. Her character is relatively normal so she's not hard to relate and root for, especially once she decided to gut up and turn the tables on her attackers. And speaking of which, the murderous group did had their moments of being imposing; though they are human behind their masks and hoods, and their motives are a tad cheesy, they're organized and well-experienced enough to read their prey's move with so much animalistic instinct that it's threatening. And with the brooding direction of these attacks and the workable giallo-inspired tint-lighting, I can honestly say that Kristy is redeemed fairly with these fair production quality and talent.

The movie ends with an indication that there might be more coming from this murder-cult. Should this be a hint of a future sequel at hand or not, Kristy's simplistic campus slasher is watchable on its own, either rented for a viewing or bought for your growing collection. It may not had brought out anything out of the ordinary for our bodycounting kicks but at least it played the game right.

1 female found with throat cut
1 female gets a throat cut with a meat hook (video)
1 female murdered, method unknown (video)
1 male bludgeoned with a baseball bat
1 male found murdered
1 dog killed offcamera
1 male hanged with a garden hose
1 male stabbed on the gut with a meat hook
1 male crushed against the wall with a car
1 male drowned in a pool
1 male hit on the head with a nailed baseball bat
1 female set on fire with sodium nitrate
Total: 12
Behind Every Tree...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Under your bed: Don't Go To Sleep (1982)

Don't Go To Sleep (1982)
Rating: ****
Starring: Dennis Weaver, Valerie Harper, Robin Ignico

A family of four moved in to a sleepy little town in California in hopes of moving on from the tragic death of their eldest daughter, Jennifer. Parents Phillip and Laura try their best to maintain a picture perfect scenario but it soon crumbles down when Laura's mum decided to join in, much to the children's disapproval. Days pass by, Phillip begins drinking (again) and the kids bicker with each other more constantly, much stranger is that their little girl, Mary, starts to hear voices from under her bed and begins catching glimpses of their late eldest.
Who the heck wears a pink ribbon in their 80s?
After a blazing incident that almost burnt Mary to death one night, the family begins to suspect that their girl might be in need of professional help, believing that these incidents, as well as her visions, might indicate trauma. Of course, Mary is having none but does find someone who's willing to take her side- the ghost of Jennifer. Explaining to her young sister that the rest of the family doesn't miss her as she does, Jennifer begins hanging out with Mary, along the way plotting deadly vengeance against everybody related in blood.

When I first decided to watch Don't Go To Sleep, I never expected much from it bar a tame ghost movie with some deaths. True, it is precisely that seeing this was made for television but, much like the case of Dark Night of The Scarecrow (1980), this little screen nightmare put up the ante for creepiness and molded a pretty neat surprise in the end. A lot of this owes to the fact some of its scenes really tapped into childhood fears and anxieties; death in a family, devolution into dysfunction, and the ole-time classic "thing under the bed" are some of the dramas that may had frightened us as children, tackled here with a subtle yet brooding intensity thanks to the superb direction.
I rather have monsters under my bed, thank you!
I can definitely say Don't Go To Sleep really had it going for vintage scares, methodically and creepily switching from a supernatural family drama to a slightly disturbing semi-slasher. The kills aren't all bloody but remains shocking even for TV flick standards, some of it even memorable just for its execution, stylish camera work and the fact that it lead to an unhappy territory. Acting is quite believable for a TV movie, despite some occasional cheese and I really dig the last haunting shot before the credit rolls to an end, understanding what really went on.

The only flaw I see here is how well these scares hold on to a typical horror fan: some may find it goosebumps-inducing, others will find it outdated and barely scary. Perhaps someone with a patience for slow-burning haunting/slasher hybrid might enjoy this, but those who prefers splattery, gore-tainted bodycounters will not find a keeper here. But as far as my opinion go, I absolutely love this creep-fest, not much from the scares but more on how well executed it is. Yes, there are some slow parts and since the killings are limited to simply the family members, not a lot tends to happen in said parts save probably some bickering or casual conversations that may or may not be red herrings, but these are something that are easily overlook by the right audience.
Pizza Cutters as Slasher Weapons?
What-a next-a, America?!
I couldn't stress my respect for this movie enough so for my readers, do me a favor? If you have the time to pick a TV movie to watch in your late night viewing, I suggest giving Don't Go To Sleep a try. A little 80s chill never hurt a true horror fanatic and this title is right off the bat.

1 Female suffers a heart attack
1 Boy fell off a roof
1 Male electrocuted in a bath tub with a dropped radio
1 Girl immolated in car explosion
Total: 4

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Assly's True American Horror Presents: Sledge (2014)

 Hello Boys and Girls! Welcome to another episode of:
Today we will be covering one of Brain Damage's current slasher release, which is about a madman murdering teens in the woods with a sledgehammer, spatting out non-funny scripting with an acting resembling a wooden board. Obviously, this is gonna be hell.

Sledge (2014)
Rating: *
Starring: Dustin Bowman, Rachel Cornell, Tino Faygo

The movie is a film-within-a-film, an approach that absolutely does nothing for itself since the running is only an hour and fifteen minutes, and Sledge runs for 64. Moving pass the crappy "wraparound about a girl yakking over her phone while watching Sledge, horror shows hosted by a "werewolf" handpuppet, and a trailer for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque exploitation known as The Amish Paradise, we follow a group of teenagers going to the woods for some badly acted quality time and drama involving relationship issues, unknown to these thespians that a masked psycho is out skulking the woods to kill off some people in his make-believe video game world.

And that's sums everything up, actually. Nothing completely special but the fact that Sledge was intentionally bad, explaining the horrendous acting and characterization. Sadly, as much as I had seen plenty of titles taking this approach, Sledge lacked the charm and wit that makes the likes of, let's say, Truth or Dare: A Critical Madness or The Nailgun Massacre so bad that it's good; a simple plot is no problem, but for it to laze around on uninteresting character's shenanigans for a good bulk takes a lot of toll for it to be an entertaining mess.

Then there's the the lackluster kills; A note to the producers, just because the killer uses a sledgehammer as his murder weapon doesn't make any of his kills any more unique. To be honest, Sledgehammer (1984) and Methodic already got this with actual, workable results. Sledge's kills sadly lacked the red stuff and are too quickly executed to spark a proper amount of thrills, two things that would have saved an otherwise terrible slasher movie.

Add in an audio muffled as heck, and camera work that's just as lazy (watching teens talk from one single angle was never exciting. Never.), Sledge's flaws were overwhelming enough to ruin the whole movie, a fact that the producers may had seen coming given to the dull ending they came up. The end result is a frustrating, unfocused and misdirected dirt clod that's best forgotten to had existed. Yes, I am aware that the film only used up $800 in budget but a lot of film-makers out there did a lot better job with such an amount creativity-wise.

Seriously, Sledge shouldn't exist. It offered nothing new for the sub-genre and may had even knocked it back a few years.

1 female gets a sledgehammer to the face
1 female had her head smashed with a sledgehammer
1 male and 1 female had their heads knocked in together with a sledgehammer
1 male knifed on the gut, head smashed with sledgehammer
1 female impaled through an upright tree branch
1 male knifed on the throat, smashed with a sledgehammer
1 female knifed on the gut, mashed with a sledgehammer
1 male knifed on the back, sledgehammer to the chest
1 female killed offcamera
Total: 10

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Phantom of Texarkana Strikes Again: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson

Though I'm not a very big fan of the original Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), I do pride myself of seeing that piece of camp history well loved, if not respected, by true slasher fans. It was an odd experience, seeing it during my years when I'm (re)discovering the world of slashers for the first time, that weird mix of psycho-drama, comedic cheesiness and slasher film dread being my entertainment for that one weekend afternoon.

Almost four decades later, this name sake came along, a surprisingly well-made film that not only acts as a reboot but also a meta-sequel of its own style.

Set in 2013 in the God-fearing town of Texarkana, it appears that the Phantom has returned 65 years since his disappearance at Halloween night, once again targeting young teenagers in an elusive killing spree. With the entire town rattled, law enforcers from both sides of the state and too some religious groups try their best to prevent any more murders but with the killer as cunning as he was before, the death toll continues.

One survivor of the very first night the murders began, a young high schooler named Jami, decided to look into the murders herself seeing that the killer had chosen her over her boyfriend to survive for a purpose, terrorizing her with creepy phone calls, emails and letters. With the help of her new lover, Jami will soon find out the truth about the murders, both in the past and in the present, all the while trying to survive the Phantom's increasingly violent attacks.

First of all, this isn't a remake of the strictest sense, more of an original story that took a lot of elements from the original Town as well as using that very film as a red herring of sorts. Quite a nice craft if I say so myself even if the plot of using a movie prior to its sequel or remake as an in-world element had been done a few times before, most notable (and notorious) being the story for The Human Centipede 2 Full Sequence. What made this film's take more unique was that it perfectly balanced out the fictional setting of said in-world movie with what's best described as looser story based on the real-life historical killing spree, resulting to a film that's both respectful of the movie it was based on and an original slasher of its own. This said, much of the horror element of the new Town was closer to that of a true slasher, with the sex=death cliche taken to a literal sense with a bit of zealous and, on one kill, homophobic take, each murder cruel, bloody and incredibly intense. I also took notice of the film's tone, which is gritty in an exploitation kind of sense, all the way down to the watered-looking yellow tint picture, the town's oddly 70s inspired backdrop (from the clothes to the vehicles, despite taking place in the 2010s) and stylized retro camera shots, elements that worked quite well for a remake tributing the original.

Of course, this kinda became an issue for those who're an avid fan of the 1976 film; what made the original Town frightening was that it had a sense of realism despite some of its cheesier parts thanks to its documentary-like take as well as being made and released years closer since the original killing spree. The 2014 Town is clearly a movie made from one's imagination, made to thrill the public and entertain horror fans, relying on suspenseful stalkings and gored-up killings. Not really a bad thing since it did cater enough to stand on its own too feet without relying too much on people recognizing the movie it was remaking; in fact, since the original Town is a red herring frequently shown through out the film playing in a theater or two, it kinda advertises it and plays around with the notion of what was fictionalized and what was not. The acting delivers a lot better compared to the the original as well, which helped the film drive through parts where it needed to slow down to focus more on the investigations, both amateur and not, dwelling down to a cliched twist ending that could have been a lot longer and engaging but nonetheless satisfying.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) is a slasher that deserved to be warmly welcomed by fans of the original and those who're looking for a worthwhile remake/sequel these days. While it isn't scary, it is stylized and engaging, a combination that makes any cliched horror movie a fun ride.

1 male stabbed to death with a knife, face mutilated
1 male beheaded with a knife
1 female knifed to death
1 male shot dead (?)
1 male seen covered in stab wounds, shot on the head
1 male repeatedly stabbed with a knife-attached trombone
1 male and 1 female killed in car crash (flashback)
1 male shot on the eye
1 female knifed to death
1 male knifed into pieces
1 male shot on the head
1 female shot on the neck
1 male shot
1 male found in pieces
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot to death
Total: 17