Archive for the Ode to the Unsung Slasher Category

Black Christmas

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2011 by splatterpictures

When I talk to a certain generation, usually the 40 -60 crowds I am always, interested in asking them when movie scared them as a child. Horror has changed a lot over the years and it’s pretty clear when you look back on certain films. We’ve all had these moments. The first time I ever saw the Exorcist I remember thinking “I don’t really see what the big deal was” As I got older I started to learn how to put things in perspective. I started to understand the generations in which these movies came out in and most importantly what came before.

The movie that comes up more often than not for this particular crowd is Black Christmas. I’ve actually mentioned this film a few times on my site before and the reason for that is the historical significance of it. As funny as that sounds Black Christmas is an important movie. And best of all? It’s Canadian.

The film was released in 1974 and was directed by Bob Clark. A common bit of trivia is that Clark also directed the classic Christmas movie “A Christmas Story”. The Film stars Olivia Hussey and a very foul mouthed Margot Kidder. It also has John Saxon who seemed to make a good career out of being “the cop” in horror.

(Spoilers ahead)

The basic premise is this. A stranger stalks and kills sorority girls on Christmas Eve. That’s it. It’s so simple but these words can’t really emphasis how unnerving this movie can be if you let yourself get really in to it. For one, you never know who the killer is. Most of the shots of him are POV or you just get a glimpse of an arm or an eye. In the end he gets away leaving everyone baffled to who it could be.

Now for why this film is important. It’s widely considered to be the very first slasher movie ever made. (Beating out Texas Chainsaw Massacre by a mere 10 days) It takes a whole bunch of horror elements and mixes them together and that formula would be what every single slasher movie would copy from that point on. Or more accurately, what John Carpenter copied and created from Halloween and everyone copied from him. There was a Q&A on the Black Christmas DVD where Clark talks about a conversation he had with Carpenter who expressed being a great fan of the film, and wondered if Clark was going to do a sequel. Clark said if he ever would it would take place the following year and that it would be on Halloween. Clark was of course quick to emphasis that Carpenter didn’t rip off his movie and that Halloween is totally his own creation. Which is nice of him to say but looking at the both films it’s pretty obvious that it isn’t.

Familiar themes that would be used, like POV shots, body counts, foul language and teenagers doing what they aren’t supposed to be doing are all mixed together. The most interesting thing to me is that it never got a sequel. It stands alone as a single story about a psycho killer that is never caught or discovered. That is easily the scariest element of the entire movie. Every slasher to come after would make their killer the star and you’d see them as often as possible. The mystery as to who the killer is is usually solved by a mask. Even when they have a mask, by the end of the movie, we know who it was. Although it is a unique aspect that really sets Black Christmas apart it also hurts the movie because they don’t make up for the loss of an iconic killer with interesting victims. They are all just your typical bunch of sorority girls. Totally disposable.

I recommend anyone who’s interested, check this out. Not only is it one of the best holiday themed horror films it’s also an important film in the history of horror in general. Have a great Christmas and as always thanks for reading!

"Superman Ain't Savin' Shit"

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Christmas Evil (You’d Better Watch out!)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2011 by splatterpictures

Time to jump into the Holiday season with a properly themed horror review. Christmas has always been a fun time of year, for horror. Everyone sort of gets off on the Macabre concept of this special time of year being ruined by killer Santas or evil snowmen. A lot of the time it’s just utterly ridiculous. Sometimes though, it can be a pretty effective and chilling tale of home invasion during a time when we would hope that kind of evil would take a holiday with everyone else. Somewhere in between the super serious and utterly ridiculous there is Christmas Evil.

Christmas Evil was released in 1980, by good old Pan American Pictures, it was written directed by Lewis Jackson, it tells the story of a lonely man (Brandon Maggart) obsessed with Christmas and the concept of Santa Claus.

The movie starts off with a family watching Santa delivering presents to their home, of course this is just the father of the family pretending. It’s a cute little holiday memory that I don’t actually know for sure happens in real life. It certainly happens a lot in movies and television though.

I remember reading about this film before I saw it and it was said that the main character experiences a traumatic event as a child regarding Santa and it grows up all twisted. Well, the trauma in question is when he comes back downstairs later and sees his father (dressed as Santa) have some PG-13 sexy time with his mother. It’s honestly a pretty weird thing to be traumatized over. He runs up stars and smashes a snow globe then proceeds to cut himself deliberately with a piece of glass. That’s pretty much it.

It cuts to him as a grown man. He isn’t married and has no kids of his own; he lives in a small house by himself and works at the Jolly Dream toy factory. He gets pushed around and talked down too by his co-workers even though he technically has a higher position than they do.

It starts off quickly letting you know that Harry isn’t quite right. He watches the children in his neighbourhood and decides who is naughty and nice, he then writes it down. In books marked rather professionally as Good Boys and Girls 1980 and Bad Boys and Girls 1980. (I really want to know how he found those books or got them made.) You can see how important he considers this “work” and how frantically he makes sure it’s up to date.

As it gets closer to Christmas Harry starts making himself a Santa Suit and getting ready for something. What I like is that he never tells anyone what he’s doing and as an audience you’re not even sure yourself. I knew I was watching a horror movie but aside from a few musical cues here and there you never get a sense that Harry really wants to do anything “wrong”.

It becomes obvious that Harry really just wants to be the Santa Claus he always wished was real. He wants children to believe and know that if they are good, good things will happen to them but, if they are bad, bad things will happen. This in itself is pretty deranged and after he starts breaking into peoples houses you wonder just how far he’s going to take it.

As a horror movie some people might find this one a little slow, but I feel it’s effective.

There are great moments where you see the intensity behind Harry’s eyes and actions the character has moments where he looks like he is just about to snap, but then gets into his Santa character and seems completely harmless. These moments work fantastically because as an audience we know that these people mocking him or being greedy on Christmas are going to get it. There is one scene where he is talking to a group of kids at a Christmas party and telling them to be good. Nothing he’s saying is bad but since you know how screwed up he is, it just made my skin crawl.

I found myself rooting for Harry, I wanted him to get revenge on his bosses who were more concerned about their pockets than children in need. Or his co-worker that was trying to just take advantage of him. Even his brother who was hard on Harry because in his opinion he was a loser. In the end I wanted him to get away with it.

The deaths aren’t that numerous but they are well done with great use of the “holiday themes” A guy getting his throat sliced open with a Christmas star is just damn good film-making if you ask me. There isn’t a huge body count and it isn’t really gory but the deaths have resonance.

There is also the matter of this being considered somewhat of a comedy. I think the moments that are funny are actually some of the more realistic aspects of it. Harry isn’t a smooth, cold calculating killer who has it all worked out. He seems like a man who has been thinking about this for awhile but this is his first outing as old Saint Nick and he’s bound to make a few mistakes. A long scene of him trying to go down the chimney is a good example. As well as struggling to kill someone not realizing how difficult it might actually be. He’s defiantly doing a lot of this on the fly. He stumbles and falls and goes the wrong way, just like any killer getting his feet wet I guess.

The parts that didn’t work for me were mostly around the end, when the parents of the neighbourhood are chasing him around. They had actual torches. Really? It’s like something out of a Universal horror, which isn’t a bad thing but kinda hard to believe modern people (in this case the modern age of 1980) would actually go and cobble together torches.  The other thing that I think could have been worked out better was the reasoning for Harry’s bizarre fascination with Christmas and his desire to –be- Santa Claus. When he goes on to blame his younger brother for never believing in Santa, it seemed way too trivial to explain his mental state. Now that I am writing this though, I do admit that it goes along well with Harry’s delusions that he would take a single incident that his brother did when he was 6 as justification for robbery, breaking and entering and murder. His own brother screams about how ridiculous it is.

The ending is also a little off-beat but overall I think it was a fine farewell to one of the more complicated characters I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.

This is regarded as one of the best Christmas horror movies ever made. That is a pretty bold statement considering how varied peoples tastes are. I think this is a very good character piece that defiantly deserves to be viewed at least once. Brandon Maggart’s acting goes a long way to help this film, that otherwise might be pretty forgettable. He gives us a character that is selfish and selfless at the same time. A character who garners a lot more sympathy than the people he is killing. I say check it out!

"On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a much needed tracheotomy!"

Ode to the Unsung Slasher (Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2011 by splatterpictures

The slasher genre is what attracted me to horror in the first place. These days, that particular sub-genre of horror has gotten some nice boosts in my mind with films Like Hatchet and the Hills Run Red, but one I especially enjoyed was Laid to Rest.

 

Today I’m going to tackle Chromeskull: Laid to Rest II (I wonder if this is going to start a Rambo-esque sequel where the third film will be just called Chromeskull 3 like how the Rambo franchise dropped “First blood” from their titles by the third one).

 

Now when I say I enjoyed Laid to Rest, let me explain that the movie is not without its flaws. I challenge anyone to find me a more inept group of victims in horror. Even the survivor girl could win the friggin’ Darwin award in more than one scene. She rips the phone cord out of the wall while they’re tracing the call!? I could go on and on about how many moments made me roll my eyes hard but there was something about it. After I finished watching that movie, I sat back and said to myself, “You know what? I like this movie.” It was just a lot of fun.” Chromeskull is badass and the kills are just great. So when I heard they were making a sequel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

 

Robert Hall is back writing and directing Laid to Rest II, which is no surprise seeing as the entire thing is his baby. Thomas Dekker is back from the first movie as the raver guy, Tommy, who picks up “The Girl” from the first one. Oddly, they couldn’t get Bobbi Sue Luther back (no real loss), so they replaced her with Allison Kyler which really just amounts to an extended cameo.  Newcomers to the movie are Brian Austin Green as Preston and Mimi Michaels as Jess. The last little bit I’ll mention on cast is they nabbed scream queen Danielle Harris for a small, but interesting role. I’ll get to that in a bit.

 

 

The biggest problem I had with the first movie was how it all fell apart for me at the very end. It just seemed really dumb. In the sequel, they actually have some amount of closure to it that left me a lot less salty about the whole thing.

 

The other thing I was really curious about was how they were going to bring ChromeSkull back. I mean, I’m aware it’s a slasher film and really they could do anything, but the first one seemed pretty sequel proof considering that the killer wasn’t supernatural in any way. We’re treated to a mysterious and rockin’ surgery scene where ChromeSkull is put back together. It seems that he doesn’t work alone but has a team of loyal people working around him in something that is only referred to as “the organization.”  Preston is his number two man who quickly gets to work in tying up loose ends from his boss’ last outing.

 

Meanwhile, the police are left trying to figure out what happened and Tommy tries to go back to his life. The bodies start to pile up pretty quickly as Preston takes over the mantle of Chromeskull while the real killer recuperates.

 

The new girl, Jess, is picked up at the suggestion of Chromeskull’s assistant Spann (Harris). Once Preston finally gets his hands on Tommy and brings him back to The Organization, it’s all about Tommy and Jess trying to survive while Preston and the original Chromeskull play who’s the better killer.

 

The real star obviously is Chromeskull himself. I think one of the things I like about him in the first film is that, while he is a masked character, he isn’t really the lumbering Mongoloid type. He is faster and slicker with more intelligence, something that is much more feasible in a modern age through the use of cellphones and even a car to get around.  While expanding on him, though, I felt I was more confused than ever. In the first movie, he was just this mysterious guy with a mask. This time we’re told that he actually has a lot of employees under him that seem to do nothing but craft his weapons and otherwise provide means to be a serial killer. How does he pay for all of it?

 

The kills are good with a great blend of practical and CGI effects. Lots of gore and creative blades really went a long way to making this film have some great and gruesome moments. Even though a lot of the kills are done by Preston’s character imitating the original Chromeskull, the last half hour Chrome just goes on a friggin’ rampage and kicks all kinds of ass. One scene that was just great was when he takes out three cops at once. It was all done in one shot too.

 

The movie isn’t without its dumb moments though. The one that really sticks out in my mind is when Preston leaves Tommy and Jess alone to go and get a tattoo before he comes back and kills them. For starters, it seemed really weird that he had a tattoo artist just there in their base of operations, but also that he would just stop and say “Okay guys… I’m going to kill you… but I really need a tattoo first.” But I’m just nitpicking really.

 

Fans of the first film shouldn’t be disappointed. Chromeskull: Laid to Rest II does what it should: expand the lore and the body count. Robert Hall has gone on to say that he didn’t create Chromeskull to be the new face of horror, but rather to create something that he, as a fan, would want to see. I agree that I don’t think Laid to Rest II breaks the mould by any stretch, but it does offer a bloody and satisfying good time. Check it out and, as always, thanks for reading!

 

I feel these blood drapes really tie the room together

 

Ode to the unsung Slashers (The Hills Run Red)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Ode to the Unsung Slasher, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by splatterpictures

Over the last decade or so, the concept of a slasher movie has become pretty broken. I’ve discussed in earlier posts before that when it comes to the slasher-genre people are quick to point out its flaws.

In the 80’s there was a huge slasher boom with studios trying to cash in on the popularity of franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St. Endless sequels and knock offs followed up until the very early 90’s. Then it dried up for a few years until Wes Craven revitalized the concept with Scream. Being self aware was in vogue in horror after that point.  The slasher formula was mocked and picked apart by not only the characters in the movie but the actors and directors during the press junkets.

The problem with Hollywood is not only how stubborn they are to move outside the box but how quick they are to over saturate the market once they do. I personally never liked scream or movies like it but it seems that after we got out of the 90’s and into the mid 2000’s the self aware horror finally found it’s legs and made for some fine cinema. Not too long ago I discussed the horror Mockumentary Behind the Mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon, the film was fantastic with a wonderful blend of horror and comedy.

Today we’re going to be discussing another film that treads in the familiar waters of the self-aware-horror; The Hills Run Red.

The Hills Run Red was released straight to DVD in 2009. It stars a bunch of relatively unknowns with the exception of William Sadler who you might remember from films like The Mist. The film also stars Tad Hilgenbrink who I recognized from one of those direct to DVD American Pie movies. The whole thing was directed by Dave Parker.

The basic plot is that Tyler (Hilgenbrink) is a slick young film student that’s obsessed with this horror movies which is titled The Hills Run Red. It’s supposedly the most frightening horror movie ever made but the problem is that the only thing that anyone can find of it, is a trailer and a few screenshots. Tyler wants nothing more than to watch the movie and film a documentary about it. He finds the directors daughter who also had a role in the film. It turns out she’s a stripper now and has a pretty bad heroine problem. After a really bizarre sequence where I guess she gets off the drugs over a period of a few days she agrees to take Tyler, his girlfriend and his best friend to the locations where the movie was filmed in hopes of maybe finding a long lost copy of the original reels.

The whole movie within a movie thing works well for this flick. The Hills Run Red (the movie in the movie) is about a slasher named Babyface which is just a big Mongoloid woodsman with a doll mask on. That alone wouldn’t really be much to make me take notice. The thing that sets this killer apart from being just another Jason knockoff is that he’s an actor. See the thing you start to realize is that the reason this film was hidden and supposedly the most shocking horror ever made was because it was real. The Babyface killer is real and the deaths on camera are genuine. Of course our protagonist find this out far too late and are now dealing with a deranged director who wants to make the perfect horror film, and the ultimate method actor of Babyface.

The parts where the killer breaks character and shows signs of intelligence is pretty entertaining. One scene would have his victim facing off with him with a lit flare in either hand goading him into a hand to hand scuffle. Babyface just pulls out a gun and shots him (Indiana Jones style.)

The characters are all pretty self aware of the irony of heading out to the isolated woods in search of a horror movie and often cite things, like the use of cellphones or not bringing a weapon of any kind with them. Of course regardless of all of their planning they are stuck in the confines of a horror movie so things inevitable fail. The ending was alright, but nothing I would consider very interesting and one of my big complaints was how some of the actors hammed it up pretty bad in certain scenes which made them a lot less effective.

Despite some over the top acting The Hills Run Red is a worthy addition to the slasher genre and deserves a look from anyone interested. As always thanks for reading!

"Pleased to MEAT you!"