Posts Tagged ‘Slasher



06
Oct
08

Top 5 Halloween Flicks

Hold onto your hats, boils and ghouls, it’s time for Alex’s top 5 picks for October movie viewing.  Some are safe, comfortable picks you may see coming, and some may throw you for a major loop.  Enjoy kiddies.

In no particular order:

Classic.  Nothing like a full moon and a headless horsemen to get me in the mood.

Classic. Nothing like a full moon and a headless horsemen to get me in the mood.

Tim Burton’s legacy will always be tainted by the few stinkers he’s done, especially as of late, but I can’t hate the man because he’s having a bad streak.  Sleepy hollow is an effective little horror period piece that faithfully retells the legend, while spicing things up just enough to make it feel hip and modern.  Add some great use of clever humor, as rock solid cast, brutal and gory death scenes, and Christopher Walken as the Headless Horsemen, and you have yourselves a winner.

Look at that hard drawn cover art.  Can't beat it with a stick.

Look at that hard drawn cover art. Can't beat that with a stick.

The Witches, from the brilliant writing mind of Roald Dahl, is an often forgotten spooky movie that is intended for kids, but comes with a heaping helping of adult size fun and scares.  Incredible make up and effects litter this film, as does a cute story about a boy turned into a mouse who must stop the evil Witches from taking over the world.  A sleeper hit no doubt, and one you probably haven’t heard of or never paid much mind to, seeing as the audience it’s geared towards.  Take a chance on this one to mix things up this October.

The mask looks even better in the movie.

The mask looks even better in the movie.

Another sleeper gem that most would overlook due to an overly cheesy cover art and no real hype at it’s time of release, this fun little slasher takes place on Halloween, and has a few interesting gimmicks and noble ideas that makes things more interesting than your average slasher.  The well-placed dark humor and twisted nature of the whole tale more than make up for it’s other shortcomings.  If you think you’ve seen every Halloween based slasher flick, pick this up.  It might be more entertaining than you think, even for the diehards.

Yeah.  This still kicks so much ass its not even funny.

Yeah. This still kicks so much ass its not even funny.

Call it nostalgia.  Call it being  a Tim Burton Fan boy.  I call it a masterpiece of animated cinema, one of the best holiday themed movies ever made, and Tim Burton’s crowning achievement.  Nothing will ever eclipse this, even when people try to enhance with updated soundtracks and 3-d glasses.  I’m begging for the hate mail to come pouring in now, and I may even lose the trust of my co-writer here on Midnight Showing Ronnie, but I still feel as much love and devotion to this film as i did 15 years ago.  A masterpiece.

AS IF YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING…

All hail.

All hail.

THE Halloween movie to end all Halloween movies.  John Carpenter’s timeless classic is the epitome of how to create tension, atmosphere, and intrigue with simple pieces. Most don’t even realize that some of the movie is simply shots of interiors and exteriors of houses and neighborhoods, with just the theme laid over top of them.  That’s how genius it is.  He takes a dark stairwell and makes it terrifying.  Combine that with some shots through wide screen and other strange lenses to give it a surreal feel, the most memorable killer of all time, and the emergence of Jamie Lee Curtis as the “door next girl babysitter” and you have one for the ages.  Who would’ve thought one of the most recognized movies in the history of horror cinema would be as tame and bloodless as this flick?

We hope you enjoyed our picks for the Top 5 Halloween flicks this year, and stay tuned for more themed content coming throughout the month of October.

Sleep tight and remember, the killer about to call you is already in your house.

01
Oct
08

Drive-Thru from one of the Producers of the SAW Series.

Need i say more?

Need i say more?

And his name is Jason Constantine.  I mention him because on one of the DVD covers, it makes mention that this slasher comes to us from the producer of SAW 1 and 2.  What a hollow and shameless marketing ploy that turned out to be.  Most fans of the genre would see that, and be intrigued.  Sad for us however, that instead of even getting a passable slasher that could at least be considered a guilty pleasure, we served a hot steamy pile of poo that even the Sci-Fi channel would be embarrassed showing at 3 am on a Tuesday morning.

Even if you were stoned and drunk, hanging with your best buds and doing a bad movie marathon, you might want to overlook this.  I’m a very tolerant horror fan, and one things I’m even more lenient toward are slashers.  Why?  Because slashers are very difficult to make.  Pacing, a clever heavy (bad guy), a descent motivation for the killer, a good gimmick for your killer in the way he kills or where and how, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Then you have to make sure you have somewhat likable characters that have to face-off against your villain, and somehow mix all this up and create tension and atmosphere on top.

It’s a tall order, and that’s why we see so many fail.

But even the “bad” ones still seem to have something offer.  Exceptional special effects, gore, and innovative kills can carry an entire movie, or even a series, to becoming successful.  Sometimes a great twist about who or what the killer is can make watching 90 minutes of “bleh” cinema completely worth it.  Or having a killer that the audience roots for instead of fears to make your film rise above it’s competitors.  Drive-Thru delivers none of these characteristics, and fails at following the tried and true formula of slasher movie making in general.

The plot concerns a vengeful guy (or spirit, were never told of course) in a “Horny the Clown” costume, fully imagined with a mouthpiece that distorts his voice just like those talk boxes in old run down burger joints, running around killing the children (all teenagers, how original) of the people who wound up killing him when he was a teenager when a prank went horribly wrong 20 years ago.

On paper, this isn’t exactly crippled from the start, but you got to expect that a sense of humor would be included to make such a plot, and such a ridiculous gimmick for a killer, easily digestible.  Wrong.  Besides a few stabs at republicans, the American government, epically failed pot and pot head humor, and trying to shit on the “O.C.” California lifestyle, Drive-Thru tries to play it straight.  None of the humor comes off as genuine, original or funny, and seems to be there just to fall in line with flavor of the week politics, trends, and habits that the youth they hope will buy this piece of shit will relate with.  Its obvious their target audience was the the anti-establishment kids, the kids who are sick of the “McWorld” we live in, but instead of making astute observations about how, fast food for instance, is a microcosm of our whole country and even world today, we are instead treated to one liners like “Fast food kills, fucker.”

How incredibly enlightening.

Delivering this poignant dialogue is a cast and crew full of nobodies, with the exception of Morgan Spurlock who has that “30 Days” show on F/X and did that “I’m gonna eat McDonalds every day for a month” or whatever movie.  Either the actors are to young and talentless to handle even these see through characters, as the case is with the main friend group who is terrorized by the killer clown, or they are just “I’m here for the paycheck” older actors and actresses who you probably have never seen before, and hopefully will never see again.  Throughout the whole ordeal, either over-acting or just not giving a shit is the two varieties of acting we get.  Great.

All this is nothing compared to the directing though.  It makes rap videos look like Titanic.  Every time someone is killed, the director feels its necessary to speed up and slow down the kill, seemingly at random, and BLAST really bad hard rock/heavy metal over top of it.  This means once you hear the butt rock kick in, any suspense and tension has been removed, as the fact that someone will die in the next few seconds is announced.  Not like the director has enough skill to even TRY to create tension and atmosphere.  Nowhere in Drive-Thru is their even an attempt at a stalk and kill sequence.  Sometimes people walk into a room and Horny the Clown pops out and kills them, but that’s about it.  Awesome job.

The kills and “gore” are all very poorly done.  Good violence can help almost any movie out, and apparently that memo wasn’t passed on to these filmmakers.  The kills just make you shake your head in how they are terribly executed and how talentless you have to be to not even be able to give your audience a serviceable pay off for sitting through your dreck.  Speaking of pay offs, the ending is so mishandled, it hurts to think about it.  It makes no sense, but does…somewhat…answer the “is it a man or a spirit” question, because somehow even though Horny the Clown is killed at the end, one of our main characters takes up the reigns and continues the slashing.  How they came to this conclusion I have no idea.  Unless there’s some brilliant plot revelation they will reveal to us in the sequel.  Have no doubt folks, someone will ressurrect this, and I’ll die a little inside when they do.

I could go on for a few pages slamming this film, but I won’t.  I honestly wanted to like this movie.  I want to like pretty much everything I see.  And indeed I did actually finish watching this movie, however much I now regret that decision.  If you are the most passionate and fanatical slasher freak out there, I still don’t suggest you even download this movie for free.  It’s not even worth the look to say “Yeah, I saw that.”  Avoid it like you would avoid watching a porno with a family member in it.

As for Jason Constantine, hopefully the paycheck for this was worth it, because he’s seriously got to redeem himself after allowing his name to be put on a movie he had know was this bad.

26
Sep
08

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film

Much better than the dvd cover.  Simple and to the point. (he he)

With the horror in general seeing a major revival in the new millennium, horror fans have seen their fair share of documentaries on the subject pop up both on TV and on DVD.  Most are around to cash in on either the Halloween season, or plug their own horror related ventures by recapping all the movies and characters that came before it that it will ultimately rip ideas from.  Going to pieces isn’t some shameless ploy to get you to watch something else though.  What it is is a entertaining, informative and passionate look back at how we got to where we are in the slasher sub-category today, while simultaneously showing us a portion of the history of the horror genre as a whole as well.

It opens by introducing us to some of the humble beginnings of horror in the theater, and then rockets us to Psycho, shows us a bit from that time period (the 60’s) as a foundation for what’s to come.  It really picks up when they begin to discuss the immense success of Halloween, and really champions it as THE slasher movie to see, not only as a perfect example of everything a slasher can be, but as the ignition of societies relationship with killers in film.

The whole gangs here, from Nicotero, Savini, Carpenter, Cunningham, Craven, Winston, Rob Zombie, and more.  Familiar faces talk about their work and contributions to the genre, and talk about how and why they came upon the ideas that wound up shaping the face of horror forever.  The special effects guys run us through some of their favorite and more notable kills, and touch on why people seem to enjoy watching people getting killed in horrible ways.  Coming from the elders of not only the slasher set, but horror in general, this is somewhat of the gospel to us fan boys, and i suspect many of you out there will enjoy just hearing your heroes talk, let alone actually listening to exactly what they are saying.

They also go into the political and social controversy that plagued these films in the 80’s, and show clips of Siskel and Ebert claiming that the slasher film is anti-women, misogynistic, and so on and so forth.  Going to Pieces fights back however, standing up for our beloved serial killers by providing some nice commentary on the subject that isn’t just your typical “HEY…leave us alone” rhetoric.  It acknowledges the fact that horror films are the easiest to go after, and that many critics have made a name for themselves slamming them and standing up for morality.  Rob Zombie then chimes in with an interesting point.  If you were to show a prison full of criminals Disney movies non-stop, would they turn into good people?  I thought that was a fairly astute observation, and a convincing argument from someone very passionate about our beloved movies.

My major complaint is that in examining some better known movies, they reveal the twist endings to many of them.  So if you haven’t yet seen Prom Night, Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13th, and some others, you may want to watch these first, as the whole surprise will be ruined and you’ll never get to experience the thrill of not seeing these fantastic finishes coming.

If you love the masked murderer sub-genre, this is a must see.  Rarely do you see this much care and accuracy in a documentary, and while there are some mistakes, most notably that Halloween wasn’t truly the FIRST slasher the American audience had been subjected to as many predated it, it still comes off as an in-depth, and more importantly, highly entertaining look into what has been, what is, and what will be in one of the most extreme types of scary flicks around.

19
Sep
08

Shrooms directed by Paddy Breathnach

Great dvd art.  Too bad it doesnt come close to living up to its poster.

Great dvd art. Too bad it doesn't come close to living up to its poster.

Shrooms had a lot of promise.  Warm receptions at some film festivals, a crazy good “double-image” poster/box art, and a plot that seemed to be poised to both poke fun at the standard horror formula, and create opportunities a-plenty to “screw” with the audience.

And I came in with hope that, with all that momentum, I would find a very enjoyable experience waiting for me once I hit play.  The dangers of optimism.

The idea I found really enticing when learning of this movie was that while our characters were on Shrooms, we the audience might not be able to differentiate between what’s a horrible hallucination, and what is a terrible reality.  Unfortunately, I never felt this way, and the movie seems happy to hold my hand, blatantly pointing out what’s real and what’s not, thus removing a crucial gimmick that could of turned this into a good flick, even if the trick would only work on the first viewing.

Even without cashing in on the “head-screw” trickery, Shrooms still tries to claw it’s way out of the sub par fair we as horror fans see all too much of.  Some of the acting and the personalities were trite, but still well handled.  Jack Huston and Lindsey Haun get top billing, and for good reason.  They are easily out-performing the entire cast throughout the picture.  I’m fine with this though, having TWO descent actors surrounding by a servicable cast is what these movies are all about.  Most of the time we only get one, so i found this to be a treat.  Haun and Huston do what they can to flesh out the roles, but unfortunately, there’s just not much they can do to liven up their two-dimensional on-screen persona’s.

The pacing was truly the straw that winds up breaking the camels back though.  Inconsistency is abound as the movie rockets you through some pieces, while coming down to a snails pace at others.  Worse is when it shoots you through parts that could have been better if more attention and care had been taking, and it slowed down a little bit.  Case in point, is some of the stalk and kill bits would have been more effective, but as they stand, they feel rushed.  I’m all about getting to the payoff, but the thing about a payoff is, there’s gotta be a proper build to it to create excitement.

Speaking of the payoffs, the kills we also pretty lackluster.  I never once saw something I felt was inventive, and I feel if your not going to be inventive about your kills, then you need to execute on par, or better than your comtemparies have.  If you want to stab somebody, there’s needs to be something better or slightly different about your particular stabbing sequence in order to make it stand out and memorable.  Horror fans are good at remembering memorable sequences, especially their beloved “kills”, and if you kills fail to impress, folks are bound to take notice.

So why did this film get so much love?  Well, the way it looked was very slick, and very colorful.  I’ve mentioned before that atmosphere can be a key to success in horror, and Shrooms understood this for almost the whole film.  The production is sexy, for lack of a better term, and when things look, they can make everything else easier to digest.  After all, film truly is a visual feast, first and foremost.  Silent films work, proving that sound isn’t nearly as important as what your eyes are scanning over.

Finally, the plot was just there.  It would’ve been more forgivable is they employed the “head-screw” gimmick, but they don’t.  Its nothing we haven’t seen before, which in itself isn’t a death wish for a movie, but we’ve all seen it done better.  Just like I said earlier about being as good or better than whats come before you, the plot simply feels content to be a reason for events to happen, instead of being a fueling force driving characters, however thin, into harrowing situations, places, and events.

Shrooms just never took off for me, I felt like I was constantly waiting for things to get better, and they never did.  The acting and atmosphere all kept me interested enough to see things through to the end, but when I got there, I was upset about the fact the ride hadn’t been more enjoyable.  I can’t find myself recommending this to you, unless you really need to see every slasher out there.

Who knows, maybe I need to be tripping to full enjoy Shrooms.

17
Sep
08

Slaughter Night (SL8N8)

The American dvd release.  Atrractive chick in a dreary setting with a shotgun?  Im in.

The American dvd release. Atrractive chick in a dreary setting with a shotgun? I'm in.

Slaughter Night, or SL8N8 (In Dutch, “8” is pronounced differently, so in Dutch, pronouncing SL8N8 would sound eerily close to “Slaughter Night”) as it’s known in other countries, is a puzzling film.  Not because it’s terribly hard to follow or anything like that, but because it seems to switch, at random, from greatness, to mediocrity, to “meh”, and back again.

Why?  Fuck if I know.  Maybe it has something to do with being a foreign film.  Foreign films often have very different concepts of how movies tick.  Maybe it’s the directors. (Yup, there were two.  They were also the writers.)  Having two people at the helm of a film could get a bit confusing.  Or maybe it was a clever trick to try and emulate both the redeemable qualities and flaws of the 80’s slasher flicks Slaughter Night was so obviously inspired by.

However, whatever the problem may be, what we DO get, is a heavy-handed, sometimes sloppy, but overall EXTREMELY fun 80 minutes of horror.  We start with a flashback to what appears to be the 1800’s (?), introducing us to our killer.  This is effective and well-shot, and serves as a nice jumping off point since it’s also unexpected.  After that, Kris (our heroine, who’s attractive as the day is long.  Jesus Christ.) and her cronies are introduced to us at a techno club.  Kris then loses her dad in a car crash that same night, with her in the car when it happens.  As it turns out, pops worked in some mine in Belgium, and some of his belongings are there.  ROAD TRIP!!!!!  Kris and her posse take a little drive up there, presumably to stop by for a quick second while Kris (who seriously, is so fucking cute it’s criminal) picks up her old man’s trinkets.  They get talked into taking a tour of the mine, which turns out to be more of a “haunted” mine tour, with a past that ties into the killer we saw in the flashback that opened the film.  Things go awry with the little innocent tour, and we’re off and running into some slasher mayhem.

Yeah, it’s a lot to take in.  Personally, I like the fact that the movie tried to build up this legend of the killer, and the movie should be commended for spending a large amount of its first and second act trying to give depth and validity to both its characters and its bulky storyline.  Also, the killer isn’t what or who you think he is.  I won’t ruin the gimmick here, because I think it’s a novel and interesting idea, but it’s something I haven’t seen used quite this way before, and it’s another point in the “good” column.

So far, so good, no?  Well its not all rainbows and unicorns.  About 45-50 minutes into the dance, when the shit really begins to hit the fan, a little thing we reviewers like to call “shaky cam” rears its ugly head.  Yup, remember in the Bourne Supremacy, when every action scene was ruined because Paul Greengrass (the director) had to do super close zoom shots and shake the camera while Matt Damon was kicking the shit out of like 5 guys?  Its not that bad, but its close.  You can still see everything that’s going on, and the gore (which is spectacular by the way, no CGI here folks.  All practical, Savini-style.) and violence stay in focus well-enough, but its damn annoying.

As well as the “shaky cam” making its was into the movie, so does teleportation and incorrect uses of fades to black.  Instead of fading to black, when say, the killer is outside and needs some time to get back into the mine to chase after the remaining young and attractive people, it fades to black when someone is simply turning a corner to walk down a different hallway.  Hence, the killer, in one scene, is outside, and then magically, IN THE VERY NEXT SCENE, is inside, with no indication any time has passed.  It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it makes you scratch your head and wonder why they didn’t just use a fade to black THERE, when it would have made sense, instead of throwing them in when they are completely unneeded.

Even with it’s shortcomings though, Slaughter Night still has two things going for it more horror should strive to obtain, atmosphere and heart.  One scene in particular, when our heroine Kris (Please…please marry me) is having trouble sleeping over the loss of her father, the house seems to be playing tricks with her, and it shows that the directors (or at least one of them) knows how to construct some creepiness even in an ordinary situation like being in a house at night.  As for the heart I mentioned, this movie is a love letter to the days of horror’s past and those who wish it would return to form.  Those who will flock to it will be fans of the old-school slashers who don’t mind some errors with their bloodletting.  The gore, as i previously mentioned, is of top quality.  The kills aren’t mind-shattering in their creativity, but solid in there execution (he he) even if they are filmed with “shaky cam”, and the pacing ensures boredom never comes to those who take a chance on it.

Keep your expectations somewhere in the middle for this one, and you’ll most likely get a big kick out of Slaughter Night.

P.S.

Victoria Koblenko plays Kris in the film.  She also plays my wife in my dreams.

Turst me Victoria, youd really like America.

Turst me Victoria, you'd really like America. Really.