Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 7: Slashers!

35 comments:

  1. 'JOSE RAMON LARRAZ's NEW-TO-ME DOUBLE FEATURE'

    EDGE OF THE AXE (1989, Arrow Blu-ray).
    Also streaming on AMAZON PRIME.

    Shot in '87 but released in '89 before disappearing into a distribution black hole from which Arrow Video rescued it from in 2020 (Prime and the Arrow BD share the same excellent HD source), "Edge of the Axe" is neither slasher hidden gem nor trash. Local women start dropping dead in Northern California's Paddock County, and newcomer Gerald (Barton Faulks) and his would-be girlfriend/crush Lillian (Christina Marie Lane) try to piece together who/why. Way too much downtime between the axe murders (which start strong with a car wash slashing that the filmmakers never try to top) and way too much backstory for characters we don't care about. Did we really need the whole 'Mrs. Simmonds (Patty Shepard) is broke?' subplot? Good ending (didn't see that coming) and memorable final freeze frame, but as a whole "Edge of the Axe" will only be worth my Arrow purchase when I dig into its bounty of bonus features. :-( 3 COCA-COLA CLASSIC CANS (out of 5).

    DEADLY MANOR (1990, AMAZON PRIME).

    Lots of "Resident Evil" creepy mansion vibes (the first PS1 game, not the GameCube HD remaster) from the scheduled-for-demolition Upstate NY house that these Spaniard filmmakers used as the backdrop to stage worn-out slasher tropes. Three young couples and a hitchhiker (who looks like young James Remar) take refuge from a storm inside an abandoned mansion. It's hard to root for these kids when (a) there's a shrine to a car wreck in front of the house, (b) naked pictures of a chick plastered in every wall and (c) two caskets in the basement. Then again, the one character smart enough to NOT stay the night at the mansion is the first to die (off-camera). As with Larraz's "Edge of the Axe," way too much downtime between underwhelming kills (almost an hour between first and second) but a redeeming above-average ending that shoots for the crazy moon and almost lands. Much worse music (shitty Casio keyboard type), directing (at 68:20 you can clearly see the face of the body double for the killer! :-O) and acting than "Axe" (horrible 'final girl') makes this the lesser of the two movies, but only a little. 2.85 STACKS OF BURNING WOOD AND CONDOMS, 'EVERYTHING A 90's COUPLE NEEDS' (out of 5).

    BONUS: SORORITY ROW (2009, MAX) for the first time.

    A very loose re-imagining of 1982's "House on Sorority Row" with ZERO likable characters except for Carrie Fisher. Mrs. Crenshaw has minimal screen time, but older Leia blasting a shotgun is almost worth seeing the movie for. The filmmakers use early aughts' Platinum Dunes horror remakes as templates (stripper-like dancing, 'we're bitches and proud to be' faux female-empowerment attitude, desaturated and overexposed color palettes, etc.) as well as the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" school of dumb decisions. All that said the killings in "Sorority Row" are pretty nasty and well staged for a 14-year old slasher aimed at teens. When Margo Harshman's 'Chugs' gets her comeuppance I actually cheered. Even when the ending crosses into "Backdraft"-level fantasyland it's entertaining as 'so bad it's good' nonsense. 3 THETA PI TRAMPOLINES COVERED IN BUBBLES AND PILLOW FEATHERS (out of 5).

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    1. I watched Edge of the Axe a couple of years ago because of my enjoyment of the director's early films. Like so many European directors of from the 1960s and '70s, Larraz struggled to bring any fresh ideas to the slasher genre in the 1980s. I forgot about the film almost immediately.

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    2. I have a strange fondness for Edge of the Axe, probably because the car wash murder is so well made and the computer scenes are so implausible. It also has nearly the same ending as Night Screams.

      Also: Sorority Row was shot it Pittsburgh, not that you would ever know it.

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    3. But Chugs is the best, though!

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    4. Mac, best at what? Getting prescription meds from her tied-to-a-bed-post psychiatrist by opening up? ;-)

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  2. JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981, dir. Jeff Lieberman) – A slasher suitable for a summertime mood. When a group of young adults venture into the Oregon wilderness for a little fun, they do not bargain for the trouble they will find. This is an eerie and tense backwoods slasher that captured my attention all the way through it. The sense of menace builds up along with the desperation of the characters. The imagery is frequently very beautiful, and Brad Feidel’s whistling score fits the mood perfectly. Could easily fit hixsploitation day.

    Watched on the Code Red blu-ray. RIP Bill “Banana Man” Olson.

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  3. Urban Legend: Final Cut, John Ottoman, 2000

    This film school has the most amazing props and set department! I'm so happy I watched this Urban Legends Sequel. Considering I wanted to watxh soemthing else bit couldn't settle on anything. It's deranged, super deranged. The stakes feel weirdly low for a slasher. But there is great 1981 vibe. Well it could be because it feels like it's rifling on soemthing like Happy Birthday to Me. But I enjoyed myself.

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  4. Night Screams (1987)
    Wichita, Kansas is a crazy place.

    David (Joe Manno) has been playing football his whole life to make his father happy, finally getting scouted and getting to be a Boomer Sooner for Barry Switzer’s University of Oklahoma. But he better keep up on his pills, as his mother keeps reminding him.

    Mom and dad aren’t around tonight, though, so his friends D.B. (Ron Thomas, Bobby from The Karate Kid), Russell, Chuck, Brenda, Mason, Joni, Lisa (Janette Caldwell, who also shows up in small parts in Heart and Souls and Striking Distance), Frannie, Doug and Chris throw him a farewell party — I mean, college does not work this way, you don’t instantly leave town in the middle of the football season, which I would assume is late September — and set themselves up as sacrifices for Runner and Snake, two escaped convicts who have conveniently decided to hide in the basement of David’s house, along with a former mental patient who has ties to David.

    And boy do they die. Mason is impaled with a fireplace poker. Brenda tries to leave and someone attacks her inside her car, so she jumps out and hides under another car, which crushes her. Chris is hit in the head with an axe. Doug is killed by a light tube tossed into the hot stones of a sauna. Frank has his face grilled. Lisa is strangled. Russell is choked. Frannie is electrocuted in the hot tub. Even Russell gets killed when he starts to show some morality about the whole evening. D.B. gets stabbed in the stomach but is able to kill Snake at the last minute. I feel like I should have buried some of the lyrics from “88 Lines About 44 Women” in this paragraph to see if you were paying attention.

    David has had a hyperactivity disorder since he was a kid which causes him to lose his temper. You might start to think that he could be the killer — I mean, the cops and his parents sure do — but then you’d miss the twist.

    Director Allen Plone went on to direct Phantom of the Ritz, Sweet Justice and made a winery’s franchise video this year, so he’s still working. Writer Mitch Brian went on to write Transformations and twelve episodes of Batman the Animated Series and his co-writer Dillis L. Hart II also produced this movie.

    When this was first made, the producers felt that it wasn’t long enough, plus it was missing the critical ingredients of the slasher: sex, nudity and gore. They grafted on scenes from Graduation Day, with the kids watching that movie — and giving away the ending of that movie! — and then shooting some skin so that no one would be disappointed when they watched it. And hey! The Sweetheart Dancers show up and dance in a nightclub!

    This movie hit just right for me, thanks to a religion-obsessed killer, a hidden secret killer (double positive or negative, depending on your morals), a cop not only set on fire but shotgun blasted, the jokester character getting killed in a satisfying way, a couple that just wants to watch porn (she even complains about watching the same one all the time but man, I recognize Seka on the TV and this makes me happy and realize what a pervert I am that a brief clip of early 80s hardcore shows up and I say, “Oh yeah, that’s Seka and John Holmes” and wonder who I would have thrown on and yes, it would have either been Siobhan Hunter at the time this came out) and a synth soundtrack that pleases my ears as much at 50 as it would have at 15 when this came out.

    Someone wrote on Letterboxd “it’s hardly deserving of an individual release” and the jokes on you. It’s not just a DVD or blu ray, it’s a 4K now.

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  5. Cherry Falls (2000) dir. Geoffrey Wright

    We really didn't appreciate Brittany Murphy enough while she was alive. This is an underrated and often forgotten post Scream slasher and it's one of the better ones. Yes the kills are tame and the soundtrack is mediocre but this is a fun 90 mins that keeps ticking along without a real lull. It smartly subverts the genre by having a killer who targets virgins resulting in a head to head climax (pardon the pun) at a teen sex party.
    It's enjoyable fun with a good Brittany Murphy performance, it's a shame it's not remembered as much as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legends,

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  6. Watched Maniac Driver which claims to be a Japanese Giallo, but it didn't feel very Giallo so I'm ok with it here. Even with that being said it feels more like a pink film than a slasher, so I'll probably squeeze in a bonus viewing today.

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  7. New-to-me: ZIPPERFACE (1992)
    Here's a movie with no money, shot on ordinary home video cameras, and yet that's not stopping the creators from attempting to make a "real" horror film. The titular Zipperface is slicing and dicing his way through women in the city, and a super-feminist lady cop is tracking him down. While this has all the familiar slasher tropes, I daresay writer-director Mansour Pourmand is attempting psychological horror like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but with shot-in-a-warehouse production value. I don't know. This is a bad movie, but it's an interesting bad movie.

    Old fave: NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988)
    This is often dismissed as just another horror sequel, but I love it so much. The cast is super likable, Freddy gets a lot of great gags, and director Renny Harlin brings big rock n' roll energy to the whole thing. But yes, I'll admit my deep fondness for this one comes from nostalgia. This was the first NOES movie I ever saw, and it blew my mind at the time. And I still say the final fight scene must have been one of the early influences for THE MATRIX.

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  8. Death Nurse (1987)

    From the mind(?) of Nick Millard, the man who brought you Satan's Black Wedding and Criminally Insane/Crazy Fat Ethel, comes this hour-long SOV curio which could have been named Crazy Fat Edith, as it stars the portly Priscilla Alden in another homicidal role as the titular kooky caregiver. And hey, if you missed Criminally Insane, you can rest easy, there's plenty of dream sequences which use footage from that '75 slasher shocker.

    The title says it all, people: there's a nurse, she kills the ailing folks at the Shady Palms rehab center (aka a suburban home, I suspect director Millard's) and keeps scamming social services and insurance for the dead patients' medical payments. Stickin' it to the man has never been so psychotically fun! The Beckettt-inspired existential ending only adds to the delirium you'll experience watching this one. Nurse Edith, sponge please!

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  9. APRIL FOOL’S DAY (1986)
    dir. Fred Walton

    I can’t believe I’ve never watched this before. Deborah Foreman has such a great, weird energy and a million watt smile. Luv Chaz’s name and his shoulder-bag video cassette camcorder. It’s nice seeing a non-Biff Thomas F. Wilson. And Amy Steele is a great not so final girl.

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  10. Death Screams - 1982, dir. David Nelson

    Arrow released this odd regional slasher several months back and in the typical fashion of the boutique labels, they sold this thing like it was a lost masterpiece of 80s horror. Turns out, it’s just high mediocre and stinks of tax shelter shenanigans. The movie starts with a very dark (visually, like, hard to tell what’s going on) double kill on a lover’s lane and the two bodies are dumped in the nearby river to spend the whole movie floating downstream as this impending doom. We then spend what feels like 8min on the slowest opening credits I’ve ever seen, and the next 30min getting to know the very normal and boring folk of this sleepy Carolina burg. It’s not until 40min in before we get another kill (a seemingly tangential one at that), and then the final spree of deaths are all crammed into the last 12 or so min.

    Like all slashers, there are multiple side characters involved in order to throw the audience off the scent and in the case of this movie they’re so insanely drawn, even offensively so, which is all the more aggravating considering the killer’s identity is the most obvious goddam thing ever. Aside from pinpointing the culprit from minute one, their raison d'Γͺtre is handled in the stupidest hamclaw manner that it almost made me throw my whole-ass couch at the TV. The one moment that I genuinely lost my mind laughing - partly in frustration at the prior 85min, partly because of the laughable composition - was the killer’s almost Rasputin-esque disposal, riddled with nonsense foley and enough terrible editing that the big payoff is a split-second phantom on your retinas.

    BTW, did I mention this is directed by Ozzie and Harriet’s kid, was written by the guy who directed ‘L.A. Bounty’, and features a former Playboy centerfold? It’s a movie ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    1. I watched it a couple of scary movie months ago and I remember it being the Deep Impact to The Funhouse’s Armageddon.

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    2. That's great, I prefer "Deep Impact" to "Armageddon." :-P

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  11. Prison (1987, dir. Renny Harlin)

    Half prison movie, half horror movie, all awesome. Lane Smith is top-billed as the warden who oversees a haunted prison which contains the spirits of past inmates he has wronged and are out for vengeance. Viggo Mortensen also stars and is great as always. I've always liked Lane Smith ever since seeing his great performance in Son in Law so it was fun to see him get a lead role here. Really cool movie.

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  12. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, dir. Jim Gillespie)

    Four teens celebrating their high school graduation hit a pedestrian with their car, apparently killing him. Rather than own up to it, they decide to dump the body to hide what happened, but a year later someone who seems to know the truth starts tormenting them. I don't kmow why I bothered to write that, I'm probably the only one who hadn't seen this until now.

    More of a mystery than a slasher really, it doesn't seem as interested in the kills as it is in the plot. And sure, it's pretty unoriginal and formulaic in a post-Scream world, but it's still a solid thriller that looks pretty nice and has likeable actors (mainly JLH and SMG).

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    1. The soundtrack, filled mostly with bad covers of good 70's songs, is pretty annoying.

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    2. They heard that "Don't Fear the Reaper" cover in Scream and just went running with it.

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  13. Blood Rage a.k.a. Slasher (1987)

    It's such a drag with identical twins, isn't it? You can never be entirely sure which one you're talking to, which one actually killed the nice couple at the drive-in, which one should be sent to a mental institution, which one you've just shot dead to protect the other one. Bummer. No wonder the mother spends the 80-minute runtime slowly going crazy until she really loses it. Bonkers movie with some serious gore effects, truly dreadful writing, and zero self-awareness, which only makes it better.

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  14. STABBED IN THE FACE (2004, d. Jason Matherne)
    Rewatch on Wild Eye DVD, 3/10.
    A group of twentysomething high schoolers decide to camp at the abandoned murder house that’s rumored to be haunted on Halloween. A serial killer has recently escaped. You can guess where he’s holed up. Will the “teens” survive a night of arguing, bickering, blabbering, hoping for sex, achieving some sex, talking too much & yelling? Is there a ghost? This retro-slasher aims for homage with 1980s-ish archetypes, but none of it is enjoyable. A few nice gore gags are matched by some that are difficult to see. Some creative colored lighting contrasts some very low levels of lighting. An occasional Troma/spoof vibe is countered by some mean-spirited attacks, but the tone is too watery to really tune into. A unique underlying premise gets bogged down in tedious, endless jabbering. I suspect some love of SOV horror flicks is behind the making of this movie, but the meandering here lacks the dream-realism of oddball “classics” like BLOOD LAKE or SLEDGEHAMMER. It’s probably for someone out there, particularly if they’re a fan of The Poots.

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  16. try this again*

    Pearl( 2022 Dir Lucky McKay)
    I loved X. X was a great slasher flick. An instant horror classic. This is so much more. Just go watch it if you haven't. Hell. Even if you have why not watch it again?
    Its just so fucking good.

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  17. Sick (2023)

    A slick and inventive neo-slasher. Low om body count, high on social commentary. It has a really fun way of shifting course every 15 minutes to keep from getting stale. Every time I thought I knew where it was heading, it would throw me off. Not to dunk on other franchises, but I wish the new Screams could be more like this, and less like what they are. I really like Jon Hyams direction as well. This is his second "trapped in the woods with a killer" movie and I think it's just as effective as Alone was. Definatley worth the Peacock Premium subscription I'd you're into slashers.

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    1. Its annoying that this one is still not available to rent or buy digitally in Canada.

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  18. I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997, d. Jim Gillespie)
    Rewatch on Mill Creek DVD, 6/10.
    I think I've seen this once since I saw it on the big screen, but it's been over a decade if so. I didn't love this one when it came out, but found it perfectly entertaining. I had already dipped my toe into murkier slasher-type waters (I had already seen MANIAC & HENRY, if not a few others) but wasn't quite thrown off by the gloss. Whether this was my third time or not, it doesn't hold up as well for on a rewatch. The plot is so tightly crafted that it doesn't feel open for nasty surprises, so when we're handed a few, they don't quite fit the narrative. The film is so overdetermined that I feel like tension & being scared are signaled more than evoked. I also could really do without the melodrama. I'm not allergic to melodrama, but this stuff is too plain to be interesting. BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER has mystery, slasher-adjacency & melodrama to spare; it's like no other. BLOOD RAGE has Louise Lasser acting in a different movie for all intents & it's a selling point. I KNOW WHAT... is like melodrama for boring teens. It would be interesting to create an 85-minute cut...

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  19. Halloween II (2009)

    Listen. It's better than Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

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  20. The Case Of The Bloody Iris (1972)

    A masked killer stalks an apartment full of fashion models and exotic dancers. One woman's nightclub act consists of challenging audience members to wrestling matches. Edwige Fenech's Jennifer is successful in front of the camera and attempting to break away from a sex cult. It gets a little less exciting at some points. Some exposition is extra clunky, characters are fun if a little broad, but the shot composition is always top-tier excellent.

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  21. April Fool's Day (1986)

    Other users have already said a lot about this here, and thats why I watched it, and wow, what a twist. Thank you people who wrote about April Fool's Day

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  22. MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
    Another first time watch, and way more batshit crazy than I expected it to be. I'm excited to check it out again when Scary Movie Month rolls around

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  23. A little late posting, but I watched The Stepfather (1987, dir. Joseph Rubin) which was quite good. The father is legitimately creepy and even though we know his MO, it's not certain when he's going to finally break. Surprised this one isn't talked about more.

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